It's All About CFATS

Terrorism is a potent threat, especially at petrochemical facilities

Without a doubt, the threat of terrorism, both foreign and domestic, has been the biggest game changer in how we look at and implement physical and logical security. Nowhere is that change being more acutely felt now than in the petrochemical industry. The need to secure plants and facilities that produce, process and transport potentially volatile substances is paramount.

Congress and the Department of Homeland Security require these facilities to undergo a series of assessments and implement security measures based on the type of chemicals produced, their quantity and their proximity to population centers.

Setting the Standard
According to DHS, the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standard was created in 2006 to establish security standards for high-risk facilities.

This not only includes petrochemical plants -- it encompasses any industry or manufacturing facility using these chemicals, including chemical manufacturing, storage and distribution, energy and utilities, agriculture and food, paints and coatings, explosives, mining, electronics, plastics and healthcare.

The risk for each facility is based on a list of more than 300 chemicals of interest. Facilities were asked to submit information to DHS on their use and storage of COIs. Based on this information, DHS identified more than 6,000 facilities and ranked them on a scale of one through four, with those falling in the first tier considered to be the most dangerous.

All Tier One and some Tier Two facilities have been notified of their ranking. The rest of Tier Two, Three and Four will be receiving notification over the coming months. Once a facility has been notified of its ranking, it has 120 days to submit a site-security plan. The letter sent to each facility by DHS also will outline specific issues that must be covered in the SSP. The guide for developing a plan is covered in a set of 18 published risk-based performance standards.

RBPSs cover a variety of areas, including perimeter security, securing set assets, screening, access control and monitoring. Every facility must submit an SSP online and describe how it will meet the requirement of each RBPS, including a description of equipment, processes and procedures.

An SSP requires that all facilities carefully consider their needs and vulnerabilities. Fortunately, security technology has seen advancements that can help facilities become safer and more secure. Petrochemical plants and other facilities using COIs must carefully select security partners to help them implement their SSP.

While there are severe fines for not participating or meeting DHS requirements, the benefits of quality security go beyond avoiding financial consequences.

Quality security systems and plans can improve many aspects of a business or industry, including everything from employee morale to bottom line profitability, by creating better business processes and improved operations.

A security integrator or partner needs to be aware of the latest technologies available to meet the specific security needs of chemical plants. There are a number of areas that need to be integrated into the overall security plan for these types of facilities.

Perimeter Security
Restricting area perimeter, the first RBPS, is one of the most important elements in petrochemical facility security. It is the first line of defense, and fortunately there are a lot of new and evolving technologies available.

Fencing is a logical first step in securing a perimeter, and there are options for each situation and level of security needed. Fenced perimeters have even gone high tech, using fiber optics to detect and locate potential intruders. Fiber optics can be buried in the ground, creating an invisible perimeter, or can be attached to conventional or high-security fencing.

For more critical areas, there are high-security steel fences that are rated to stop a 15,000-pound truck traveling up to 50 miles per hour.

These fences hold a K-rating, which is a measurement of how much kinetic energy or speed plus weight they can resist.

Video also is an essential tool in perimeter detection and security. Video analytics can detect certain movement or behaviors and send an alarm. For example, if an object crosses a predefined perimeter, it will send an alarm notification and record the event. In most cases, these systems are sophisticated enough to distinguish between a person, a vehicle and an animal.

Thermal video also is becoming more affordable. Thermal imaging, coupled with effective analytics software, can accomplish nighttime detection while saving money by not requiring traditional lighting. In some cases, a facility may require maritime and ground radar that detect all moving objects within a large targeted area. These solutions also have saved customers money compared to other technologies.

Access Control
In addition to locking down the perimeter, critical access points at a chemical facility need to be carefully secured and controlled. This can be accomplished with integrated security systems that include concrete and K-rated barriers in combination with access cards and readers, and vendor and visitor verification systems. Temporary badging systems screen visitors prior to entry and correctly identify them as they move throughout a facility. There also is technology available that can screen each new badge holder for a criminal background and citizenship before the card is activated.

Integrators need to have a solid background with the latest access cards, readers and biometrics. High-security areas should use a combination of access technologies. Fingerprint and hand geometry or retinal scans can be used to effectively limit access to areas that need the highest levels of security.

Safety
The security system should provide a level of safety not only for the surrounding community but also for the employees and staff at the facility. Making sure that all employees are safe in an emergency is essential. Muster station technology works hand-in-hand with access control and badging. In the event of an emergency, these systems help account for everyone in the facility. Mass notification or warning systems can give clear instructions on the nature of the emergency, how to safely exit the facility and where to meet so no one is left behind.

There also are interactive notification systems that allow a company to know in real time where their employees are and verify that they have reached a safe zone. These interactive systems work with cell phones, e-mail and text messaging. Emergency notification systems also can alert the surrounding community of first responders.

Integrated Central Command Center
All of the elements of the security system for a chemical facility or plant need to be integrated and centralized in one location. A security integrator needs to know how to bring all of the pieces together and make them work as one system. Each component provides vital information and, in combination, they help to effectively manage and secure a facility on a day-to-day basis. The command center should be the heart of the security and safety operation and should provide a central location for monitoring all of the video, sensors, card readers and analytic data collected by the system.

For an integrator, putting together this type of center means working with facility management to develop a customized layout that fits the location and its functions. It takes experience and knowledge of the technology, software and equipment available.

Meeting Goals
Look for a security integrator who will examine a facility’s security goals and challenges and offer cost-effective solutions based on his or her knowledge and background in security and, specifically, chemical facility security. A design-build approach gives the integrator the freedom to put together the best and most efficient system possible, which usually saves the end user money and time.

A chemical facility’s security plan will be reviewed by DHS and may be given a deadline for completion. The department will monitor CFATS facilities and conduct regular on-site inspections to ensure approved plans are implemented.

The original legislation gave DHS three years to develop and implement the program for high-risk chemical facilities. CFATS was set to expire in October. Congress has extended the standard for one year, giving it time to work through specifics on a permanent bill.

It also has been speculated that the large number of coastal petrochemical facilities now covered by the Maritime Transportation Security Act, which is overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard, will be placed under CFATS in the year to come. Municipal water and water-treatment facilities also would fall under CFATS in the version of the bill that was recently passed in the House and has now been sent to the Senate.

The new standards will take time to implement and maintain, but they will give the industries involved a solid set of guidelines to follow to make sure they are as safe as possible and the surrounding public is better protected against possible terrorist attacks and other events.

The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard (CFATS) is intended to establish a baseline level of security for facilities considered to pose high risk to the general population in the event of a terrorist attack.

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