Securing Our Nation's Chemical Plants: What the DHS Is Doing

The Department of Homeland Security has recently published a fact sheet on what the DHS is currently doing to secure America's chemical plants. From assessment of critical infrastructure to conducting background checks on hazardous material truck drivers, to offering grants for development of new detection sensors, to revising plume modeling to study effects of accidents or attacks, the DHS is busy planning the security of the nation's chemical plants. Read the fact sheet below to hear in the DHS's own words what is being done to secure our chemical manufacturing, production, and transport infrastructure:

Fact Sheet: Protecting America's Critical Infrastructure--Chemical Security

Source: Department of Homeland Security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate is focused on securing the nation's seventeen critical infrastructure and key resource sectors. Chemical facilities are one specific sector that is of significant focus for the Department. Prior to the formation of DHS, responsibility for the nation's critical infrastructure was scattered over a patchwork of various federal agencies. With the creation of the Department and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-7, DHS is the sector specific agency responsible for coordinating the U.S. Government's efforts to protect critical infrastructure across the chemical sector. The Department develops and coordinates plans in close cooperation with its Federal, state, local, tribal and private sector partners to aggressively reduce the nation's vulnerability to acts of terrorism in the chemical sector.

Assessing Vulnerabilities

  • The Department has established a significant Federal role in the chemical sector by creating on-going cooperative relationships with chemical facility owners and operators and their related associations. The Department has completed assessments and made recommendations to all of the chemical facilities that have the potential to affect more than half a million of their local surrounding population. The facility owners and operators as well as DHS have made considerable investments to enhance physical security at each facility by adopting numerous Homeland Security recommendations that include strengthening buffer zones, improving access control, implementing detection technologies, and increasing response preparedness capabilities
  • Vulnerability assessments are underway for the nearly 300 sites that could potentially affect more than 50,000 of local surrounding populations. To date, DHS officials have engaged these sites on more than 110 occasions by conducting a variety of assessments. The Department continues to visit these facilities on a priority basis in coordination with the state Homeland Security Advisors, state and local law enforcement, and sites owners and operators.
  • Chemical sites of a lesser consequence such as an ink plant are given an opportunity to conduct a self assessment through the Department's Vulnerability Identification Self-Assessment Tool, a web-based self-assessment tool developed by DHS and provided free of charge to critical infrastructure owners and operators. The tool allows the owner/operator to compare security practices with those of other owners and operators of similar infrastructure. Senior management awareness and commitment is the first step to a Risk Management program, and the ViSAT tool is designed to assist the owner/operators of less critical infrastructure to take that first, all-important step. To date, over 80 chemical facilities have used ViSAT.
  • Prior to the formation of the Department there were limited safety inspections of chemical facilities conducted by a variety of federal infrastructure protection authorities. Today, security needs are being addressed and coordinated across the federal government by the Department through numerous Site Assistant Visits (SAVs) and the Buffer Zone Plans (BZPs) in which Homeland Security personnel assist and advise site owners, operator, and security managers in making their facilities more secure.
  • The Department has adapted EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP) database from a preparedness and safety approach to one that focuses on the impacts of terrorist attacks so that vulnerability identification efforts and protective actions can be prioritized. DHS has also conducted a risk analysis across the chemical sector to identify the most hazardous or highest-consequence sites. This analysis included:
    - Reviewing the amount and toxicity of RMP materials stored at sites;
    - Reviewing the population density in the vicinity of large amounts of toxic chemicals;
    - Evaluating possible impacts of intentional attack instead of the accidental release model used in safety programs; and
    - Conducting plume modeling for more detailed effects prediction.

Security Standards and Protective Measures

  • Protective programs that will more systematically identify and develop best practices across the entire chemical sector and beyond the fence line of a specific plant continue to be an aggressive effort to integrate community assets into the overall security posture of the chemical infrastructure. This effort includes programs such as the Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP), which includes grant funding and specific vulnerability assessments and planning.
  • In late February of this year, the Department announced $91.3 million in grant funding to protect and secure areas surrounding critical infrastructure and key resource sites such as chemical facilities across the country. The BZPP is a targeted grant program that provides funding to states to purchase equipment that will enhance security measures around facilities. To date, the Department has received 54 applications for approval of grants allowing the purchase of equipment found on the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness' Approved Equipment List and identified in a facility's Buffer Zone Plan (BZP).
  • Site visits are also conducted by Federal, state and local officials to address vulnerabilities with chemical facilities owners and operators as part of the BZPP. Buffer Zone Protection planning contributes to reducing specific vulnerabilities by developing protective measures that extend from the critical infrastructure site to the surrounding community to deny terrorists an operational environment. The Department works in collaboration with state, local, and tribal entities by providing training workshops, seminars, technical assistance and a common template to standardize the BZP development process. To date, 113 plans developed for chemical facilities have been submitted to the Department via state Homeland Security Advisors.
  • As part of the protective buffer zone effort, web-based cameras are being installed at the potentially highest-risk chemical facilities. The web cams aid facility personnel and local law enforcement officials in detecting and deterring surveillance and other terrorist activities. Each facility and local law enforcement operations centers will have access to the web cams. Additionally, the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) at the Department's headquarters will also have access in order to create a real-time picture of the operating environment.
  • The Department has recently awarded five contracts for the development of next generation chemical sensors for both indoor and outdoor use. These sensors will be used in part to give immediate warning to areas surrounding chemical facilities in the event of an incident, whether intentional or accidental.
  • The Department works in close coordination with such organizations as the American Chemistry Council and others to develop security-oriented screening tools, assessment tools, best practices, and other processes to improve our understanding both of risk and vulnerability, and to improve our security on a site by site and infrastructure-wide basis. All 2,040 member companies of the American Chemistry Council, as well as the entire membership of the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturer's Association, and several other chemical industry trade associations, were required to implement strict voluntary security measures by the end of 2004. Outreach programs, information sharing, best practices and Site Assistance Visits have all encouraged owner/operators to reinforce employee screening, and these programs have become the norm throughout the industry, especially among Responsible Care ' companies. These Responsible Care ' companies have made great strides in improving security throughout the industry and up and down the value chain.

Sharing Information

  • DHS is enhancing sector-specific information sharing and coordinating mechanisms for all of the 17 critical infrastructure sectors, incorporating both Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) and Sector Coordinating Councils (SCCs). These entities have dual roles in that they serve as central points of information sharing within each of the sectors and also act as the liaison to the federal government. One of the primary functions is to funnel threat information to facilities and receive and collect information from facilities. The Chemical Sector ISAC has supported Homeland Security's information sharing efforts since the Department's inception and includes over 600 individuals representing more than 430 different chemical companies.
  • The Chemical Sector ISAC uses CHEMTREC, the chemical industry's 24-hour emergency communication center as the communication link between the Department and ISAC participants. When CHEMTREC receives information from DHS, that information is immediately transmitted, on an around-the-clock basis, to Chemical Sector ISAC participants utilizing electronic mail and a secure website.
  • The Homeland Security Information Network ' Critical Infrastructure (HSIN-CI) pilot Program is an unclassified network that immediately provides the Department's Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) with one-stop, 24/7 access to a broad spectrum of industries, agencies and critical infrastructure across both the public and private sectors, including chemical facilities. This conduit for two-way information sharing provides the Department with an expanding base of locally knowledgeable experts and delivers real-time access to critical information. The HSIN-CI initiative was expanded to include critical infrastructure owners and operators and the private sector in all 50 states centered regionally around the cities of Dallas, Seattle, Indianapolis and Atlanta regions. To date, HSIN-CI communicates with nearly 40,000 members.

Educating a Work Force

  • Information derived from Site Assistance Visits (SAVs) are used to create three series of sector specific reports that are disseminated to owners, operators, security planners and local law enforcement officials to integrate into their respective risk management processes. The Common Characteristics and Vulnerabilities reports highlight common issues across chemical facilities so that relevant stakeholders can address possible vulnerabilities and improve overall site security. Potential Indicators of Terrorist Attack reports give further insight to owners, operators, and law enforcement officials on how to better protect chemical facilities and, in turn, thousands of Americans in the surrounding communities. Protective Measure reports further identify categories of generally applicable protective measures, discuss implementation of select protective measures, and recommend protective measures for implementation based on the Homeland Security Advisory System threat level.
  • DHS has provided Buffer Zone Plan workshops to state and local law enforcement officials in many cities that have chemical plants in their areas.

Transportation of Hazardous Materials

  • The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) of 2002 was signed by President Bush to reduce the risk of a maritime security incident that could result in the loss of life, significant environmental damage, or economic disruption. Many chemical facilities are located near the water and many chemicals are transported via America's waterways; MTSA requires a series of plans at the national, port, and individual vessel and facility levels to improve security for both facilities and vessels. Vessels and facilities that load or carry dangerous cargoes like hazardous chemicals must have individual security plans that address fundamental security measures such as access controls, communications, restricted areas, cargo-handling and monitoring, training, and incident reporting.
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP) are working closely with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to address security risks for the nation's freight railroads which are used to transport Toxic Inhalant chemical shipments. TSA, IP and DOT's Research and Special Projects Administration and Federal Rail Administration have completed vulnerability assessment studies in two major metropolitan rail corridors and are developing BZPPs for those areas, which can be applied in other major metropolitan centers throughout the United States. Furthermore, the railroad industry has developed security protocols for hazardous materials that address those products in transit as well as shipments on hand in stockyards and on sidings. Class I railroads employ their own private professional police officers that serve as an integral part of the rail industry's security posture.
  • TSA will soon begin a Hazardous Materials Initiative pilot program that will identify possibilities for real time tracking of selected hazardous materials in a particular railroad supply chain, which will allow the Department and DOT to obtain a clear view of risks and vulnerabilities of that supply chain.
  • The Department has also completed terrorist name checks on all 2.7 million Hazardous Materials truck drivers. No clear terrorist nexus has been established with any of those drivers, and further investigation is being done on the nearly 30 potential matches that were found to determine whether those drivers' Hazardous Materials endorsements will be revoked.

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