This is part of a series of blogs looking at the question of arming security forces at high-risk chemical facilities. DHS is working on guidelines for their Risk Based Performance Standards that must be addressed as part of the Site Security Plan for those facilities. This series of blogs, along with reader responses, is my contribution to the discussion about the use of weapons in defending high-risk chemical facilities against terrorist attack. Previous blogs in the series include:
- Security Forces at Chemical Facilities – Mission Definition
- Security Forces at Chemical Facilities – Mission Requirements
- Security Forces at Chemical Facilities – Weapons Limitations
- Security Forces at Chemical Facilities – Non-traditional Weapons
Before a final decision can be made on arming the facility security force, one final area must be considered; the source of the security force protecting the facility. There are three general options:
- The facility hires and maintains the security force as facility employees,
- The facility contracts with a security company to provide the security force, or
- A large portion of the security force is provided by the local police force.
Security Forces as Facility Employees
While the HR department might have a different opinion, having the security forces on the facility payroll may be the easiest solution to a complicated problem. With the security force working directly for the facility security manager, the facility has the sole responsibility for, and control of:
- Personnel selection and vetting. The facility will have full control of employment standards, background checks, and training standards.
- Training integration. Ensuring that security personnel receive all training required of chemical facility personnel along with their security specific training.
- Security personnel turnover. Low turnover rates mean that security personnel have a chance to become very familiar with facility layout and operation.
- Personnel integration. Security personnel become part of the facility society.
- Potential weapon selection. The greater control over training and increased facility familiarization of employees will allow for the potential use of a wider array of weapons.
As with any potential solution to a complex problem having security personnel employed by the facility has its fair share of drawbacks that have to be considered. These include:
- Higher personnel costs. The facility assumes responsibility for all payroll costs. These costs can be significant.
- Headcount restrictions. Once a facility security force size is established it is difficult to justify the expansion of the headcount when the security situation changes.
- Capital costs for a security building on site to house weapon storage, training facilities, and 24-hour housing for response team (response team would work shifts similar to those worked by fire personnel).
Contract Security Forces
The most common security team in use at chemical facilities in the United States is undoubtedly is the contract team. The facility defines their security force needs and contracts with a local, regional or national security firm to provide that force. The security provider takes care of all of the personnel actions for the force. There are obvious advantages to this option:
- Reduced personnel costs. The facility assumes none of the long-term personnel costs associated with full-time employees.
- Headcount flexibility. The security contract can call for changes in force size depending on the changing threat situation.
- Multiple-Facility Reaction Teams. A security company can use the same reaction force for multiple facilities in a limited geographical area. This can greatly reduce the facility costs for a response team.
- Additional security advice. The larger security companies can include the services of a wide variety of security consultants that can provide an integrated security package.
Most of the drawbacks to using a contract security force deal with lack-of-control issues. They would include:
- Personnel surety. Facility management surrenders much of its control of personnel surety issues to the contractor. The ultimate responsibility for those issues still resides with the facility management.
- Personnel turnover. Many contract guard services have a high personnel turnover rate. This reduces the overall level of facility familiarity. This is a problem in a high-hazard environment.
- Personnel training. While facility management must assume that the security firm can provide adequate security training, the same assumption cannot be made for standard chemical facility hazard and safety training.
- Weapon selection. With the security firm being responsible for training and equipping their force, they will retain a large measure of control over the weapons used by that force.
Police as Security Personnel
Historically this has been the default security plan for almost all facilities in the United States. With limited security personnel on site (either employee or contract) most sites have relied on local police to respond to intrusion investigation and security response calls. The advantages are easy to identify:
- Very low cost.
- No training responsibility.
- No headcount issues.
The very real drawbacks to using on-duty police as security personnel have been generally ignored because of the ‘that’s what we’ve always done’ blinders that management has been wearing. These draw backs include a complete surrendering of control over:
- Training for operations in a chemical facility.
- Rules of engagement (levels of force and types of force to be employed).
- Response development; once police are involved they assume control of the situation.
- Weapon selection. Police forces usually have a limited selection of weapons available and they are not normally subject to facility management control.
Real world site security plans will probably result in some sort of blend of these three options. The individual facility risk level and threat environment will play a major part in determining the proper blend. A low-risk, low-threat situation will probably rely on the classical blend of contract gate guards and police response. A high-risk, high-threat environment may call for employee guards and response personnel with on-call use of contract forces for counter-force operations.
The many risk-threat combinations between those two extremes will call for a variety of combinations of security forces. In most situations security plans will have to allow for changes in the risk-threat matrix over time. Security operations are one area that calls for large amounts of flexibility. The site security plan needs to take that into account.