A Chemical Reaction

Chemical storage facilities make move to Internet-based applications

Over the past several years, changes in EPA regulations have made it more difficult for manufacturing companies to stock large amounts of raw material for production, leading to the use of chemical storage facilities. These facilities have the same standard security requirements as many other large commercial and industrial businesses: to control the access that unauthorized people and authorized personnel have at the facility, as well as to protect equipment from theft and damage. The difference is that in working with chemicals, storage facilities typically host a number of more specialized visitors, such as contract maintenance professionals, janitorial services, auditors from both suppliers and insurance companies, and regulatory agencies.

These facilities have the same standard security requirements as many other large commercial and industrial businesses: to control the access that unauthorized people and authorized personnel have at the facility, as well as to protect equipment from theft and damage.

The high concentration of chemicals housed in storage buildings necessitates a comprehensive security system and, especially, a high level of access control. Some of the chemicals are stored at such a high potency that full-face shields, aprons, respirators and gloves are required when handling them. If chemicals of this concentration level are mishandled or obtained by people who intended to harm others, the damage that can be done, and the ensuing liability, can have serious repercussions on the storage facility, as well as on the industry and those to which it distributes.

Enter New Technologies
A typical security system at a chemical storage facility will encompass several different security components. Fire monitoring, access control, intrusion detection, industrial process monitoring, including product tank level and air quality sensors and CCTV equipment are all used to provide high levels of security within a facility. However, there is little demand for the industry to incorporate newer security technologies as they become available.

"Unless a system has been damaged or poses a continual service problem, security and access control equipment generally is not changed for technology's sake," said Tom Lemley, president of Able Alarm & Electronic Protection Inc. "However, most of our clients have established an installation and equipment standard to be used when equipment is changed."

New Albany, Ind.-based Able Alarm is a full-service electronic security and life safety organization that designs and installs security systems for several different types of facilities, including residential, commercial and industrial, with a specialization in chemical storage facilities.

"As for networking in security applications, which is a hot button in many industries right now, it's not a major concern for chemical storage facilities because there is typically only one location to monitor," Lemley said. "However, we're seeing a progression toward Internet-based applications that can monitor who is accessing what via a Web browser. These Internet applications also enable users to drop one of their local telephone lines to save costs. One of our current beta projects incorporates Internet access. The security and life safety department wants greater control over its Internet access. So there is definitely a growing trend towards incorporating newer technologies."

Mapping Out a System
Access control at each facility tends to vary with each owner or plant manager. Systems range from simple, mechanical, keyless door entry locks without memory capabilities, to card access systems that can connect to the network for off-site data logging. Some sites incorporate video motion detection for open storage yards and gate access, and larger sites may use off-site video analysis to supplement onsite guard tours.

One of the biggest changes in access control has been the move towards using individual alarm codes with onsite panel storage. If a person in management wishes to know who has entered or left the facility, then the information on the panel can simply be downloaded, an extremely cost-effective procedure.

When choosing security equipment for chemical storage facilities, it is important to watch for control equipment designed and listed for multiple uses, such as fire, intrusion and access control, as well as components with a data connection to the CCTV equipment to ensure a more versatile and user-friendly system. Factory Mutual(FM) approval also is an important criteria, since much of the industrial and manufacturing world follows FM rules, not UL.

In addition, making sure key users provide input on all aspects of a facility's security needs upfront is one of the best ways to ensure the use of the proper security technologies.

Access Control Advancements
Security system manufacturers are constantly striving to incorporate features that may have initially been developed for a specific industry, but that can now be applied to the security needs of other applications. There are recent access control advancements in other industries that are being applied to chemical storage facilities.

Forced path. This forces specific individuals to present a badge at different predetermined locations before being allowed to enter their final destination.

Fit to work. This is an integration feature to human resources. An algorithm randomly selects personnel for drug and alcohol testing.

Maximum number of people allowed. This is used to limit the maximum number of people allowed in a specific area.

Active-video verification. The operator grants access after a badge is swiped, as if it were a two-card swipe.

All of these features are designed with workplace security and high-risk environments in mind. The ability of the features to seamlessly integrate with process control systems allows for the successful expansion of the security system into these areas, as well.

The Benefits of Integration
A building integration system, such as the one available from Bosch Security Systems, can help aid facilities, like chemical plants, that require a higher degree of integration within their security technologies. These integrated systems allow for additional functionality by enabling existing systems to work together -- energy management, human resources, HVAC, mechanical, process control and security.

This elevated level of integration enables the exchange of real-time data and allows for the automatic determination of a specific course of action. The final goal is to obtain an easy-to-use, single, graphical user interface, so that an operator can see what is happening inside and around the plant at all times.

Knowing if a security technology can fully integrate -- not only with the other security elements, but also with a facility's entire operating and monitoring systems -- is an important consideration as technologies continue to converge.


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