Chemical Security Through Streamlined System Communication

Since 2007, chemical facilities across the country have been regulated by federal rules developed by the Department of Homeland Security. Although the value of these regulations is debated (there are rumors of the regulations changing when the new Congress convenes in January), the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this year unanimously approved bipartisan legislation offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that government officials say is critical to securing chemical facilities across the country.

The move displayed a vote of confidence in DHS's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. America's chemistry sector is an essential part of the nation's critical infrastructure and, therefore, is a national asset that needs to be protected from risks both manmade and natural. CFATS requires high-risk chemical facilities to perform security vulnerability assessments and develop and implement site security plans that meet 18 risk-based performance standards established by DHS. It is estimated that 4,700 facilities must submit an initial site security plan to determine their risk level.

Playing a Critical Role
Technology plays a critical role in helping security professionals at chemical facilities secure their infrastructure to the best of their abilities. Chemical facilities are often geographically dispersed sites comprised of a variety of infrastructures such as office buildings, manufacturing areas and warehouses. Many incorporate multiple facilities across county and state lines that equate to upward of 100 locations. More often than not there is a variety of separate security subsystems in place to manage specific access points or captured video footage. Unfortunately, there is no inherent way for these proprietary systems to communicate or share data. Therefore, any reporting on trends or data correlation must be completed manually.

The true value of any security system depends on getting the right information to the right people in time to prevent an incident from occurring. As the industry moves away from traditional analog infrastructures to networked IP infrastructures, the process of transmitting data to the appropriate parties, such as operators or guards, becomes easier and faster.

Coordinating Subsystems
In an ideal world, a level of coordination between separate security subsystems, such as video management, access control, video analytics and intrusion detection, is the solution to increasing situational awareness. The advent of networked-based devices makes this a reality. Unfortunately, there are challenges. One manufacturer's IP products may not work with those of another manufacturer. Therefore, these systems are piecemealed together using open interfaces and custom integration that are both a time-consuming and costly process.

There is value in integrating these subsystems from the point of manufacture to enable them to communicate and share information as quickly and efficiently as possible. These solutions minimize issues with integration and leverage the power of a facility's existing network backbone to provide security personnel with all the pertinent alert- and alarm-based information they need to make informed and timely decisions. The combination of these subsystems into a single device combines the performance, sophistication and functionality that all enterprise-class security systems must deliver but in a single integrated platform that is flexible, scalable and, above all, cost effective.

By leveraging the power of IP-based security platforms, chemical facilities can also integrate security technologies with other systems that reside on the network such as HVAC, fire alarms and lighting controls. This capability provides further value by helping to solve traditional business problems. When the networked system is integrated to building management, it can reduce energy costs. Furthermore, linking Human Resources with an integrated networked platform ensures that access to company facilities is synchronized with personnel moves, without manual intervention.

Security management systems that network together traditionally separate subsystems and correlate information from these systems allows chemical facilities to be more proactive and aware during emergencies when time and speed of a reaction is of the essence. Chemical facilities are a critical part of the nation's infrastructure, therefore their security must be taken seriously. Unified, networked platforms enable security leaders at enterprise-class facilities to be more proactive, better prepared and informed of the risk scenario.

About the Author

Peter Jankowski is the CEO of Next Level Security Systems.

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