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

Risk assessments underway for major plants, other measures include security the trucking routes, detection sensors, more

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.
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