As the anthrax attacks of 2001 evidenced, a building?s air handling system can be an effective way of exposing large numbers of people to biological or chemical agents. Eliminating security gaps in these systems can prevent the health consequences of potential terrorist attacks, accidental introduction of hazards, and vandalism.
The Rhode Island Department of Health has released a Building Vulnerability Assessment Tool (http://www.health.ri.gov/environment/bvat.pdf)to help building owners/managers identify air-handling system vulnerabilities. Experts designed this tool so that building owners with a functional knowledge of the air-handling system can perform the assessment quickly and easily. It can be used with office buildings, hospitals, schools, apartment complexes, hotels, shopping malls, and other places of assembly.
The Building Vulnerability Assessment Tool will also help building owners/managers improve the overall quality of the air inside the facility and reduce occupants' exposure to commonplace air contaminants. Improving the quality of everyday indoor air often results in fewer occupant complaints, reduced employee lost time, and increased employee comfort and productivity. Using the assessment tool may also improve the efficiency of the air-handling system and save money.
"Using the Building Vulnerability Assessment Tool is a "triple win" for building owners, office workers and the general public," said Patricia A. Nolan, MD, MPH, Director of the RI Department of Health. "Not only is it easy to use, but it helps to keep Rhode Islanders safe and healthy--especially during the influenza season, when improved air quality can reduce exposure to viruses and other causes of illness."
The Building Vulnerability Assessment Tool provides a comprehensive evaluation in an easy-to-use, checklist/fill-in format that will identify potential weaknesses in a building's air handling system. In addition, the form contains useful resource information on how to eliminate or correct vulnerabilities.
Expert staff from the RI Department of Health will be available to provide technical assistance and guidance to building owners/managers wishing to perform a building assessment and implementing corrective measures.