Technology's Role in Achieving Chemical Security Standards

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security developed the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), a comprehensive set of security regulations governing chemical facilities, to ensure companies that manufacture, store and transport chemicals are properly secured.

While various technologies can play a role to protect chemical facilities, CFATS does not specify which should be used or how. Instead, CFATS specifies 18 Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPS) to guide chemical facilities in selecting and implementing appropriate protective measures to reduce vulnerability and manage risk.

Providing cost-effective systems that meet CFATS performance requirements is a core challenge for technology providers to the chemical security sector. It is also an opportunity. The first step in seizing this opportunity is to educate end-users on the effective use of technology to satisfy CFATS expectations.

My participation as chairman of the Security Industry Association's CFATS Working Group has provided first-hand insight into the emergence of best practices in the chemical industry, including selection and implementation of appropriate technologies to defend against unauthorized release, theft or sabotage of the “chemicals of interest” specified in CFATS.

Ongoing Protection Challenges
Long-term reauthorization of CFATS has been slow to make its way through Congress, but the political details of pending legislation do not change the continuing need to protect chemical facilities from possible terrorist activity.

The scope of facilities that require protection is vast. As of August 2011, CFATS covered 4,569 chemical facilities across all 50 states, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the facilities have been assigned to a risk-based tier, ranging from high risk (Tier One) to low risk (Tier Four). Although chemical companies might own facilities that fall in any of the four tiers, they would most likely seek to standardize their security processes to be uniform across all their facilities on a national level. Fortunately, the best practices used to protect higher-risk (Tiers One and Two) facilities can also provide good strategies at lower-risk facilities.

Finding Real-World Solutions
The key to effective implementation of CFATS is to identify real-world solutions that enable chemical facilities to achieve the 18 risk-based standards. This is a challenge for end-users tasked with meeting the standards, for integrators who will likely specify and install the technology to achieve the standards, and for supplier companies who develop the various systems and components.

Although technology is only one aspect of CFATS compliance, it is an important one. In addition to enabling compliance, technology can also help to drive down the cost of meeting CFATS standards. For example, video systems can play an important role to enhance perimeter protection capabilities for outdoor facilities in general, and for chemical facilities in particular. The CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards require chemical facilities to detect intrusions at the perimeter and internally around chemicals of interest. This helps to avert internal and external theft or sabotage, as per Risk-Based Performance Standards 1, 2, 4 and 10. Let's take a look at how one technology -- intelligent outdoor video systems -- contributes to chemical facility security and CFATS compliance.

A number of automated detection technologies including coax and fiber fence sensors, microwave, seismic sensors and radar can provide some level of perimeter detection. However, intelligent video systems with advanced analytics provide substantial advantages over these alternatives. One advantage is speed, which is paramount when thwarting an intruder. The CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards specifically call for creating sufficient time between detection of an attack and potential danger to site assets. When speed is critical, intelligent video systems can provide an intrusion alert along with immediate information about the size, location and nature of an event as it unfolds.

Use of cameras that have substantially more on-board image processing enables intelligent video systems to accurately detect the presence of unauthorized persons anywhere across site perimeters and outdoor areas, while filtering the effects of environmental elements. Smart cameras with sufficient processing can provide accurate detection over large areas, regardless of wind, weather or the movement of small animals, trees or blowing trash. Achieving security awareness also depends on knowing the precise location and nature of an intrusion. To meet this objective, some intelligent video cameras employ GPS-based analytics that determine the size, speed and bearing of detected objects according to their precise location, and can project the location of security events onto a site map of the facility for quick response.

Intelligent video cameras are also an economical solution. Image processing gives smart cameras extended range: Some cameras can automatically detect human-sized objects at distances that exceed 600 meters. Detection at greater distances makes it easier to cover more ground with less infrastructure (poles, communications and power), which translates to lower overall costs.

In addition to perimeter security, intelligent video surveillance of outdoor areas is a valuable tool related to other CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards. These include securing and monitoring restricted areas where chemicals of interest are manufactured, stored or used; deterring insider sabotage; and dealing with specific threats, vulnerabilities or risks. For example, intelligent video can protect internal assets, which often do not have the same types of physical or man-made boundaries found at the perimeter.

Security operations require accurate information in order to mount an appropriate response. Intelligent video yields the necessary security awareness around the perimeter and around internal site assets to meet CFATS requirements.

The intent of CFATS to regulate “results” rather than “methods” leaves the end-user's options open to embrace best-in-class technologies to provide the necessary levels of security. Intelligent video used at a facility's perimeter -- and to monitor outdoor areas inside a facility -- is one example of how technology can deliver superior and cost-effective results for CFATS compliance.

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