“From now until December 31, 2008, IP Video Market Info is offering free product recommendations. Simply send an email to email@example.com with your request (looking for cameras, DVRs, video analytics, etc., describe any special needs or constraints). I will review the request, probably send you a follow up email or two and then provide a one page private report recommending products and explaining my rationale.”Please read the book before you request this free recommendation. This way you will understand that even with this recommendation in hand you will not be ready to install and integrate a video surveillance system. This is still something that is better left to the experts. Recommendation I think John has greatly improved an already good book and I recommend that everyone working with security at high-risk chemical facilities should read this book. If you have read the first edition, throw it out and get the 2nd. Remember, sometime early next year site security plans will have to be submitted and a video surveillance system will be an integral part of most of those security systems.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A. Registration Applications. B. Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) Checks. C. Registration Numbers.Category 2: Point-of-Sale (POS) Activities
A. Seller Verification of Purchaser's Registration and Identity. B. Recordkeeping.Category 3: Additional Regulatory Activities/Requirements
A. Reporting Theft or Loss of AN. B. Inspections and Audits. C. Guidance Materials and PostersCategory 4: Administrative Activities
A. Appeals and Penalties. B. Establishing Threshold Level of AN in a SubstanceComments Requested The ANPRM provides a list of thirteen areas that DHS would like to have addressed by the soon-to-be-regulated community. These comment areas range from data about the computer skills employees working in the various parts of the AN industry (to evaluate the potential use of computers instead of paper for record keeping) to the potential economic impact of these regulations. The area of economic impact, both to various levels of government and the regulated community, is one of apparent special interest to DHS. They provide some of the highest level of detail in describing the type of data they are looking for. There are separate descriptions of governmental and civilian data requests. DHS explains the civilian data request this way:
“Comments on the monetary and other costs anticipated to be incurred by U.S. citizens and others as a result of the new compliance requirements, such as the costs in time and money that an individual may incur to obtain an AN registration. These costs may or may not be quantifiable and may include actual monetary outlays, transitional costs incurred to obtain alternative documents, and the costs that will be incurred in connection with potential delays at the point of sale.”Late Rule Making Progress The legislation sets out a fairly aggressive schedule for developing and adopting the regulations to support this requirement. The following schedule was provided:
90 Days (3-25-08) Establish threshold concentration of AN in solution 6 Months (6-26-08) Publish Proposed Rule 12 Months (12-26-08) Publish Final RuleDHS could justifiably claim that the 90 day requirement was achieved before this legislation was passed last December. Appendix A to 6 CFR part 27 provides concentrations for both explosive AN (any commercial grade) and fertilizer AN (33% solid AN). DHS does not take that position in this ANPRM. One of the comment areas in the ANPRM deals with the “detonability of AN at certain concentrations”. DHS has missed the Proposed Rule deadline by five months already. By the time the current comment period is closed eleven months will have already passed since the legislation was passed; it is unlikely that even the proposed rule will be completed in the time remaining for the Final Rule Deadline. Reasons for Delay There are a number of probable reasons for the delay. The first would be the matter of priorities; CFATS implementation has obviously been given a higher administrative priority. When this legislation was passed, the DHS chemical security people were deep into receiving Top Screen submissions. In fact, the Section 563 requirement complicated the already difficult agricultural submissions and was partially responsible for Agriculture Top Screen Extension (see: “Update on Agriculture Top Screen Extension”) The Top Screen was followed by preparing the SVA program for implementation. This included writing two new manuals. Additionally, the two Top Screen manuals were revised to reflect the lessons leaned in the first mass Top Screen submission. Once the SVA submissions started (with the attendant problems that have not been made public) the rewrite of the two CVI manuals was the next big role-out followed quickly by the publication of the draft RBPS Guidance document. The chemical security writers and reviewers have been busy campers. Another possible reason for the delay can be found in a presidential directive not to publish last minute rules in the closing months of the current administration. Apparently President Bush remembered well the flurry of rule making that marked the waning days of the Clinton Administration. He expressed a desire not to inflict the same burden on the next administration. Additionally, there appears to be at least some Congressional complicity in the delay of the development of these regulations. We can deduce this using the Sherlock Holmes technique of noticing what the dog did not do; there has been no vocal outcry from Chairman Thompson about the delay. Chairman Thompson has never been known to shy away from taking the Secretary to task for programmatic delays, but we have seen no such public pillaring over this issue. This probably indicates that the Chairman is looking forward to an Obama administration developing these rules. Finally the power of the agriculture lobby can not be discounted as a contributing factor in the delay in developing this rule. There has not been the same public level of opposition to this rule as we saw last year in the great propane fight, but there was undoubtedly pressure brought to bear to delay this rule. In any case, the next administration will have the opportunity to publish the Proposed Rule for the regulation of Ammonium Nitrate sales and transfers.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Detonator assemblies, non electric for blasting (UN 0361, UN 0500) Detonators, electric, for blasting (UN 0255, UN 0456) Detonators, non-electric, for blasting (UN 0267, UN 0455) Cord, detonating, mild effect (UN 0289) Cord, detonating, mild effect, metal clad (UN 104) Charges, shaped, flexible, linear (UN 0237) Charges, shaped, without detonator (UN 0440, UN 04410)Hi-Tech Fx Comments Brian Panther, the President of Hi-Tech Fx LLC, notes that his special effects company frequently uses UN 0361, Detonators- Non electric, UN0456, Detonators-Electric for Blasting, UN0289 Cord, Detonating Flexible, and ‘flash paper’ (a division 4.1 desensitized explosive shipped wet with water). He states that the shipments that he receives are typically less than 1 Kg in weight. He expresses his concern that requiring security plans for these shipments will cause carriers to either increase shipping surcharges to the extent that he could no longer afford to use these devices, or simply refuse to carry the materials in question. Since his company frequently uses these materials at remote locations with rapidly changing requirements this would put an undue financial burden on his company. Peter Albiez Comments Mr. Albiez has been working in the special effects industry for 40 years and is licensed by both the State of California and the BATF to handle division 1.4 and 4.1 explosives. He makes many of the same points made by the previous commenters. He proposes that PHMSA adopts the recommendations made in public hearing comments (11-30-06) made by the Institute of the Makers of Explosives. They proposed that only placarded amounts (1001 lbs) of division 1.4 explosives and desensitized explosives (class 3 and division 4.1) be required to have a shipment security plan. J&M Special Effects Comments Mr Bohdan Bushell, Planning & Administrative Officer for J&M Special Effects objects to the changing of the amounts of Division 1.4 explosives and desensitized explosives. He feels that changing the amount to ‘any amount’ for the level requiring shipment security plans will effectively make these materials un-shippable in the small quantities used by the special effects industry. My Comments on Comments It is always interesting to see an industry respond to new regulations. This may or may not be an organized campaign. If it is, the commenters are doing a better job of writing individualized comments than is normally seen. It will be interesting to see how many more comments are received from this industry between now and November 10th when the comment period ends.
Lack of a Reliable Supply of Bleach
The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District has been working on this switch over since 2000 and the work was speeded up after the 2001 terrorist attacks made clear to management that the potential risks of handling the two PIH chemicals were too high. Even so there are still rail cars of sulfur dioxide and chlorine sitting behind fences and armed guards while the agency continues to try to certify its new process. That process is handling most of the waste treating work at the facility.
The problem stopping the complete switch to the bleach/bisulfite process, according to the director of operations and maintenance, is the lack of a “dependable, long-term supply of sodium hypochlorite”. Industrial strength bleach (sodium hypochlorite) degrades over time and the degradation is accelerated by heat. This means that the long distance transportation of bleach is not practical, especially by rail. Even if the facility must maintain a supply of chlorine and sulfur dioxide as a backup treatment option, the volume on hand will be greatly reduced, as will the number of railcars of these TIH chemicals shipped into the facility.
Cost of Replacement
The new storage and handling equipment for the bleach and bisulfite process cost the facility $11 Million. Increased operating costs are projected at about $1 Million per year. Even so the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District management feels that that increased cost is “offset by the benefits in improved site safety”.
Moving the Hazard The one point that this article, and many discussions of replacing chlorine treatment with bleach treatment, fail to address is the fact that chlorine is still the actual disinfection agent. The two processes use roughly equal amounts of chlorine. The bleach is just easier and safer to transport and handle. Most commercial production of bleach uses chlorine as a raw material.
The chlorine is shipped to the bleach production facility by rail car. So switching water treatment and waste water treatment facilities to bleach does little to reduce the number of rail shipments of chlorine. If the bleach production facility is located further from areas of large populations than is the treatment plant, there is a net gain in safety and security. If the rail routing to the bleach production facility avoids more urban areas than the routing for the treatment facility there is a net gain in safety and security. If the opposite is true in either case the result may be an overall decrease in safety and security.
IST Benefit Calculations
Inherently safer technology is not necessarily easy to identify. Switching from chlorine to bleach could result in less safety and security, not more. It all depends on the circumstances. If there is no net gain in safety or security, the added costs do not produce any benefit to society.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
“In fact, Congress has expressly prohibited DHS from disapproving a Site Security Plan based on the presence or absence of a particular security measure. Accordingly, the measures and activities listed in each chapter and in Appendix C are neither mandatory nor necessarily the “preferred solution.” Nor are they the complete list of potential activities from which a high-risk facility must choose to meet each RBPS. Rather, they are some example measures that a facility may choose to implement as part of its overall strategy to address the RBPSs. Facility owners/operators may consider other solutions based on the facility, its security risks, and its security program, so long as the suite of measures implemented achieve the targeted level of performance” (emphasis added).Metrics that Do Not Measure Unfortunately, earlier in the How to Use This Guidance Document (page 13) section of the document, DHS makes this comment in the discussion of the metrics that are provided in the discussion of the individual RBPS:
“Note that the metrics included within the RBPS guidance document are for exemplary purposes only, and a facility need not necessarily meet any or all of the individual metrics to be in compliance with CFATS. Rather, the summary and individual metrics are meant to help a facility identify gaps in its own security posture and potentially mitigating activities by understanding the levels of performance that a compliant facility typically will be able to demonstrate. While a facility meeting all of the metrics is likely to be in compliance with the CFATS RBPS, the failure to meet any particular metric or summary level – or the substitution of alternative measures – does not automatically mean that a facility will not be in compliance with CFATS.”While that sounds like it is in keeping with the Congressional restrictions provided in Section 550 of the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007 (P.L. 109-295) one just has to look at the metrics provided in the Guidance document to see how unnecessary that waffling is. For example, here is the Tier 1 summary metric for RBPS #1, Restrict Area Perimeter:
“The facility has an extremely vigorous perimeter security and monitoring system that enables the facility to thwart most adversary penetrations and channel personnel and vehicles to access control points; including a perimeter intrusion detection and reporting system with multiple additive detection techniques that can demonstrate an extremely low probability that perimeter penetration would be undetected.”There is clearly no requirement for specific security measures in that metric. Loop Hole Makes CFATS Unenforceable While the vast majority of the 7,000+ high-risk chemical facilities will use this Guidance document the way that it was intended, there will certainly be a significant number of facilities that will use the evasiveness of this document to deter DHS enforcement activities and delay implementing serious security measures. There will be much back-and-forth consultation until a harried DHS inspector is not careful in the wording used to ‘suggest’ an adequate security remedy. As soon as that is done the facilities lawyers will head to court to claim violation of Federal Law and Congressional Intent. And most of those claims will be upheld. In the event that DHS does levy sanctions on non-complying facilities there will be a bevy of lawyers available to argue that the vagueness of the standards makes them unenforceable. Claims will be made of inequitable enforcement and allowing too much leeway for inspector opinions. Correcting the Problem DHS needs to de-emphasize the repetitive disclaimers. The single disclaimer at the front of the document should be legally sufficient, especially since DHS uses standard type sizes and color-highlights the text box in which the disclaimer is printed. The needless repetition of the disclaimer language in the body of the Guidance document is unnecessary and should be removed. Finally, the disclaimer about the metrics found on page 13 is completely unnecessary and not required by the §550 language as long as the summary metrics do not specify security measures.
Monday, October 27, 2008
1601: I completed the DHS CVI training to become a CVI Authorized User prior to September 22, 2008, and was required to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) with DHS. I understand that a revised CVI Procedural Manual and updated CVI Authorized User training were made available on September 22, and that DHS no longer requires an NDA as part of the training to become an Authorized User. Is my CVI NDA still binding? 1604: Do I need to keep a record and/or printout of my survery before transmitting it to DHS? 1605: I am already a CVI Authorized User. Do I need to take the CVI training again to maintain my CVI Authorized User status?
Stop the ‘Deadly Gas’
The term eco-terrorist covers a lot of ground. This does not look or sound like one of the better known groups like the Animal Liberation Front or the Earth Liberation Front. The letters sent to local newspapers before the first bombing did not name any group. Instead the letters just attacked the energy companies for their ‘deadly’ gas wells in the area and called those energy companies ‘terrorists’. And, it warned them to shut down their gas wells and get out of town.
The ‘deadly gas’ is natural gas being pumped out of the ground. It is called ‘sour gas’ because it is contaminated with relatively small amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Well, ‘relatively small amounts of hydrogen sulfide’ is misleading. With concentrations of about 0.07% in the gas, it does lend some toxicity concerns to significant releases of this material. Presumably this is why the letter writer complained that “as you keep on endangering our families with crazy expansion of deadly gas wells in our homelands” according to the local paper.
This could very easily be a single person rather than an organization conducting this ‘terror campaign’. This would not be unusual for a so-called eco-terrorist attack. They tend to be executed by small groups and individuals outside of the control of any easily tracked group. This makes these groups harder to pre-empt since they are so difficult to detect and penetrate. The other characteristic of a eco-terrorist attack is that these bombings were conducted in remote areas were there was little possibility of collateral damage.
There was also a certain level of escalation in the two attacks, with the second attack being slightly more ‘effective’ in that the gas line was actually damaged slightly. Further escalation can probably be expected if there is no ‘appropriate’ response from the gas companies.
Energy Infrastructure Attacks
This is the second time in a year and a half that there have been energy infrastructure attacks by terrorists in the Americas. Last year there were the very successful attacks on oil pipelines in Mexico by native separatists. Now this eco-terrorist attack on gas pipelines in Canada.
We have not yet seen state sponsored groups or al Qaeda resort to such attacks in the Americas. However, the recent plunge in the price of crude is certainly going to hurt some countries (Iran or Venezuela for instance) that are known to have associations with a variety of terrorist groups. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that groups sponsored by these countries could try to destabilize the oil markets (and raise crude prices) by attacking oil infrastructure in this country.
Energy Infrastructure Vulnerability
These attacks point out the vulnerability of energy infrastructure, it is widely distributed and thus vulnerable to attack. A successful attack can be visually impressive and have wide spread impact away from the attack site.
Pipelines are especially vulnerable to these attacks because they are hard to defend, as are remote pump sites. Storage sites may be less vulnerable, but promise much more impressive ‘results’ from a successful attack.
Ethanol transportation links are equally vulnerable. Railcars in transit or sitting at transloading stations are just as vulnerable as pipelines. And ethanol has a wide variety of social, economic and environmental detractors. It is not hard to imagine that this legitimate opposition could spawn individuals or small groups that would resort to violence to stop the spread of ethanol use.
To date there have not been any successful terrorist attacks on energy infrastructure in the United States. In today’s world that is not necessarily a predictor of continued safety.
Friday, October 24, 2008
“To assist high-risk facilities in selecting and implementing appropriate protective measures and practices and to assist DHS personnel in consistently evaluating those measures and practices for purposes of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), 6 CFR Part 27”.RBPS Guidance Document Disclaimer At the top of the Overview page and the beginning page of the discussion for each performance standard DHS has included a text box that contains an official disclaimer. While the disclaimer is rather extensive the important parts are covered in just two sentences:
“This guidance reflects DHS’s current views on certain aspects of the Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPSs) and does not establish legally enforceable requirements for facilities subject to CFATS or impose any burdens on the covered facilities. Further, the specific security measures and practices discussed in this document are neither mandatory nor necessarily the 'preferred solution' for complying with the RBPSs.”It is obvious that DHS takes the Congressional mandate requiring RBPS very seriously. Wording similar to these two sentences from the disclaimer shows up repeatedly throughout the text. DHS wants to make sure that no one mistakes the RBPS guidance for a prescriptive, command-type regulatory document. General Guidance While the Guidance document provides detailed discussions about how to select appropriate security measures for each of the 18 performance standards, the introductory portion provides some general guidelines or ‘considerations’ that facilities should take into account when selecting and developing their security procedures. Briefly stated those considerations (pages 15 – 19) are:
“The Non-Prescriptive Nature of Risk-Based Performance Standards. “The Impact of the Nature of the Security Issue Underlying the Facility’s Risk Determination. “The Impact of the Type of Facility and Its Physical and Operating Environments. “An Individual Measure May Support Achievement of Multiple Risk-Based Performance Standards. “Layered Security/Combining Barriers and Monitoring to Increase Delay. “Asset-Specific vs. Facility-Wide Measures.”These considerations (to be discussed in more depth in later blogs in this series) reflect the varied nature of the different high-risk chemical facilities covered by the CFATS regulations. They also go a long way toward explaining why the RBPS are so critical to the CFATS process; it is highly unlikely that any specific security procedure would support these considerations for a significant number of high-risk facilities. COI and RBPS Requirements The various types of security problems that a high-risk chemical facility will have to deal with in their SSP will vary with the COI that are stored or used on site. The guidance document provides some examples of how this might work. For instance, “if a facility has no dangerous chemicals for which theft or diversion is a security issue, then it does not need to implement any additional measures to comply with RBPS 6 – Theft and Diversion” (page 11). This does not mean that a facility can ignore any of the 18 RBPS listed in 6 CFR § 27.230. They must all be addressed in the SSP. However, when “a facility believes it can satisfy a RBPS without the implementation of any specific security measures or practices, the basis for this belief should be clearly articulated in the facility’s Site Security Plan”. Tier Level Affects RBPS Requirements The other major factor that will affect a high-risk chemical facilities selection of security measures is the level of risk found at that facility. This risk level is reflected in the Tier level to which the company was assigned after their SVA submission. This reflects the intent of Congress to insure that the facilities that presented the highest risk to the public would have to take the most precautions to protect the public. Some of the RBPS are less affected by facility tier level than others. The response to the ‘Restrict Area Perimeter’ (RBPS #1) standard will certainly be more robust for Tier 1 facilities. The facility SSP provisions for the ‘Reporting of Significant Security Incidents’ (RBPS #15) will be less dependant on the facility tier status. This will be reflected in the discussion for each RBPS. Future Blogs In future blogs I will take a more detailed look how this Guide is organized and at the individual RBPS. When this document becomes publicly available I will certainly note that and provide information on where to download this lengthy (178 pages) document. In the next week or so we can expect to see this published in the Federal Register along with notification of how the public and industry can provide their comments on the document.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
“To assist high-risk facilities in selecting and implementing appropriate protective measures and practices and to assist DHS personnel in consistently evaluating those measures and practices for purposes of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), 6 CFR Part 27, DHS’s Infrastructure Security Compliance Division has developed this Risk-Based Performance Standards Guidance Document.”Once that description is completed the disclaimer gets very legalistic. It claims that the document “reflects DHS’s current views” on RBPS, but is very quick to note that these do not “not establish legally enforceable requirements”. The document provides a series of examples of how to meet the RBPS, but “specific security measures and practices discussed in this document are neither mandatory nor necessarily the “preferred solution” for complying with the RBPSs”. The bottom line is described in the last line of the disclaimer:
“High-risk facility owners/operators have the ability to choose and implement other measures to meet the RBPSs based on the facility’s circumstances, including its tier level, security issues and risks, physical and operating environments, and other appropriate factors, so long as DHS determines that the suite of measures implemented achieves the levels of performance established by the CFATS RBPSs.”Future Blogs Needless to say, I’ll be taking a long hard look at this document. There will be a number of blogs, mine and probably others, which will delve into the details of this document. I’ll also be watching the comments filed with DHS when this gets released in the Federal Register. There won’t be any shortage of topics to write about for a while.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
“TSA has awarded a contract worth more than $600,000 to Railinc Corp., a subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, to provide it with a continuous data feed about rail car movements and bulk shipments of sensitive cargo, such as explosives, toxic inhalation hazardous materials and radioactive materials.”Tank Car Tracking Project Last year in the Freight Rail Modal Annex to Transportation Sector-Specific Plan TSA described a tank car tracking project (page 12). It would gather data using “wayside detectors and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags” that the railroads were using to track rail cars. A pilot project was started with TSA, the FRA and Railinc. It would “provide the government with timely car location reports on all TIH and other selected HAZMAT car”. It is not clear from the present article if the contract is part of that pilot project or an out growth from a successful conclusion of that project. In any case, the contract size is much too small to be able to provide a comprehensive reporting capability to allow local community first responders access to real time data about HAZMAT shipments through their community. Growing a HAZMAT Tracking System The data being gathered in the pilot project and presumably in this contract could provide a basis for constructing such a notification procedure. This information would have to be analyzed by a GIS based system to determine where the reported locations were in relation to communities desiring the information. There would have to be a communication protocol that would provide the appropriate information to the local responder. Finally, there would have to be a software package at the local responder level that would allow real time access to the data to provide hazard information in the event of a transportation incident. Additionally, local responders and emergency planners would need to have access to periodic summary data to see what types and quantities of HAZMAT were transiting the community. This data would allow them to prioritize the purchase of response equipment and supplies. It would also allow them to select the appropriate training for the local first responder population. Watching the Way Forward It will be interesting to see if the TSA does grow this contract into a process that allows first responders access to information about HAZMAT shipments moving through their community.
Last week DHS made an easily missed change to the Chemical Security web page; they added a link to “Request a CFATS Presentation”. The link provides a ‘mailto’ address, allowing a person to email a request to receive the presentation. No further information is provided on the web site. Even I might have missed the new link if it were not for the email I received from DHS notifying me of the change (anyone can sign up for this notification, just click on the “Get e-mail updates when this information changes” link on the top of the page). On Saturday I sent off the email to DHS. Since I wasn’t sure how they would send the presentation I provided both my email and snail mail address. Yesterday morning I received the email with the CFATS_Sept_2008.pdf file attached. No problem receiving this document at an AOL address. Obviously, the snail mail address was not required. CFATS Presentation The 15-page document provides a good overview of the CFATS program. Each page briefly covers a separate topic. Those topics include:
Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards (CFATS): Overview Threat to the Homeland Chemical Security Assessment Tool (CSAT) Chemicals of Interest: Appendix A Facilities Identification and Tiering Process Risk Based Performance Standards (RBPS) Chemical-terrorism Vulnerability Information (CVI) Regional Approach to Enforcement Preliminary Tiering Results Program Milestones and Schedule Program Status and Outreach Efforts CSAT Help Desk Contact Information
Enforcement Regions The brochure provides some information about the organization of the enforcement offices that has not been generally available. There is a map that shows the ten regions that those offices will cover. The brochure notes that these regions have been aligned with other federal regions. Site Security Plans The brochure provides some new information about the next phase of the CFATS implementation, the submission of site security plans (SSP). First the brochure notes that “DHS has established a government-industry working group to assist in development and execution of the CSAT SSP.” It then reports that the “CSAT SSP will be operational in early 2009”. Get Your Copy The information provided in this brochure will not make anyone a CFATS expert. It does provide a general background on the program and could serve as a handout for CFATS general awareness training program. Anyone that is involved in chemical facility security or reporting on chemical facility security should get a copy of this presentation.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
The proposed upgrades to the 80 year old plant are quite extensive and amount to a significant expansion of the facility. According to the article the changes are “are necessary to deal with low overhead space and poor lighting at the current location, and to handle a chemical switchover from chlorine gas to liquid bleach”. It is not clear if the chemical change led to the planned physical plant changes.
There is one local resident that is complaining about the threat of potential from leaks from bleach delivery trucks. The upgraded facility will result in delivery trucks using a shared driveway. This brings a larger volume of a less dangerous chemical closer to his house. He claims the change will cause his drive to “become the toxic highway of Greenwich”. It is hard to convince this resident that he is safer even though he acknowledges that the community safety level is almost certainly increased.
This particular project is a long way from approval, much less completion. This is the first in a series of public hearings before a variety of regulatory boards. This $23 million upgrade to the water facility will serve about 52,000 customers or about $442 per customer. This IST project certainly seems to be cost effective. We will just have to wait and see what happens in the local regulatory bodies.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tracking Chemical Plumes
One of the major problems that site managers and emergency responders have when dealing with chemical incidents is determining the extent of the contamination. This is especially true when dealing with a toxic gas or low vapor-pressure liquid. Even releases with visible vapor clouds can present hazardous concentrations beyond the visible boundary of the cloud. Current technology consists of placing appropriate chemical detectors down-wind of the release to detect the approaching cloud. While the cost of detectors is coming down, their cost still limits the supply.
This requires incident commanders to make complex decisions about where to place the available detectors. Place them too close together and significant portions of the cloud may bypass the detection array. Place them too far apart and the problem becomes cloud infiltration between the sensors. In either case, inadequate definition of the hazard area may lead to wrong decisions about areas to evacuate or shelter-in-place.
This, of course, assumes that the incident commander has the appropriate chemical detectors available. Where there is a fixed chemical facility with a limited variety of chemicals on site, having the appropriate detectors on hand is more often a budgetary decision. For Hazmat teams responding to transportation incidents, it may be budgetary, but it is more likely to be the luck of the draw.
The ‘battery-free, multi-detection radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensing platform’ being developed by GE will radically change this playing field. First, the ‘battery-free’ aspect of the device will make it cheaper to produce; that’s cheaper than current RFID sensors. Remember current ‘expensive’ RFID sensors are still cheaper that current chemical detectors.
Second the ‘multi-detection’ portion of the description means that one type ChemDetect RFID (you saw that name here first) will report the presence of multiple chemicals. This will make it easier for hazmat responders to have an appropriate sensor on hand, even for transportation incidents.
Finally, the small size of the RFID, smaller than a dime, will make them easy to store and transport. This is always an important consideration for hazmat teams. There is only so much room in their vehicles, no matter how large those vehicle continue to get, and there is always more equipment that could be crammed into one, just-in-case.
Chemical facilities that have toxic chemicals on site could pre-deploy these devices in layers around storage areas and areas where those chemicals are routinely used. They could be automatically queried on a routine schedule, once every minute for example. When a tag reported detecting the toxic chemical an alarm would sound and query schedule would be increased and more remote tags would be included in the schedule.
The results of the scans would be displayed on a facility map using a GIS based program. This would help facility management to quickly define the scope of the release. A slowly spreading cloud is a smaller leak than a quickly spreading cloud. If the detection array was dense enough, it should even be possible to calculate the leak rate.
Visual and auditory warning devices could be deployed around the plant, especially along traffic and escape routes. If the toxic cloud were in or near those routes the GIS system could activate those devices and allow evacuating employees to avoid the chemical hazards. For facilities with the potential for off-site effects from a toxic release the array could be extended to off-site locations. Special emphasis would be placed on large population densities, special needs populations, and schools.
The detection tags would be placed between these areas and the chemical facility, at the boundaries of those areas and within those areas. The local emergency management authorities could be given access to the GIS reports from the detection management system. This would allow them to make informed decisions about issuing shelter-in-place or evacuation orders.
Emergency Response Deployment
It is not unusual for law enforcement to be the first on scene for a transportation related hazmat incident. Arriving on the scene of an accident involving a placarded truck or railcar, they could deploy a small array of these tags around the vehicle to allow for warning of a developing leak. They would select the appropriate small box of tags from a larger box based on the placards on the vehicle.
Subsequent responders; law enforcement, fire, hazmat, what ever; could expand that initial array with tags that they carry. This would allow them to protect themselves from unhealthy exposure while allowing the incident commander to better define the extent of the problem.
DHS S&T Involvement
GE is developing the basic technology for these tags. Nothing in the two articles that I have seen says anything about developing the GIS based detection management system (DMS) that I have described. This would be something that DHS S&T should get involved in. It would be important to have a standard system that multiple jurisdictions could use. That way all of the devices deployed by law enforcement (local, state and federal), fire and hazmat personnel could all be queried and reported by all of the DMS controllers on the scene.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
A reader provided me with a copy of an interesting document last week and asked me to comment on it. It was produced by the TWIC/MTSA Policy Advisory Council and it concerned how the MTSA rules affected the TWIC requirements for railroad employees. Now I haven’t used those acronyms in this blog before because they refer to two things about which I knew little. But, after some studying this weekend I found that the document raises some interesting questions for high-risk chemical facilities. Explaining Acronyms For those of you who, like me, do not keep up with every arcane acronym that comes out of the Federal bureaucracy let me explain the two acronyms from the first paragraph: TWIC and MTSA. Both are related to security at maritime facilities. TWIC is the transportation workers identification card. MTSA is the Maritime Transportation Security Act. A simplistic explanation of MTSA is that it is to facilities in and adjacent to our nation’s ports as CFATS is to high-risk chemical facilities, only it is administered by the Coast Guard. TWIC and MTSA Anyone that has seen (in person or on TV) operations at any of our major ports knows that there are a large number of truck drivers that pick-up and deliver cargo to these ports every day. Security planners quickly realized that these truck drivers, with identification from 50 different states and three different countries (remember NAFTA) were a huge potential security problem at these ports. To help control this problem the TSA came up with the TWIC. This provided a single document that ‘proved’ the holder had been checked and approved as not being a known terrorist. According to the MTSA regulations (33 CFR 101.514):
“All persons requiring unescorted access to secure areas of vessels, facilities, and OCS facilities regulated by parts 104, 105 or 106 of this subchapter must possess a TWIC before such access is granted, except as otherwise noted in this section. A TWIC must be obtained via the procedures established by TSA in 49 CFR part 1572.”
Anyone without a TWIC still had to provide identification, but they have to be ‘escorted’ when in one of those security areas. It was a simple enough plan; which meant that there were certainly problems with it. Railroads and Unaccompanied Access Almost as ubiquitous as trucks at these ports are rail lines; rail lines that go into or through security areas at those ports; rail lines that carry trains and personnel on those trains. That presents some potential problems. First, how do you stop a train to check IDs when they frequently enter at unmanned gates? Second, how do you ‘escort’ a member of a train crew when the railroad will not let untrained personnel on their trains? For facilities where a track transits the secured area, how do you check the IDs on the crew when the train does not stop? The Coast Guard came up with some basic answers. First it recommended that all train crews servicing MTSA facilities obtain TWICs. Then it said that the Captain of the Port (COTP) would accept advance notification from the railroad to the facility as an acceptable alternative to stopping the train to check TWIC as part of the facility’s security plan (FSP) as long as there were periodic spot checks of TWIC on site. Finally, COTPs were instructed to accept creative methods of ‘escorting’ train crew without TWIC credentials as long as they provided ‘equivalent security’. Affect on CFATS Currently there is no requirement for use of a TWIC for unaccompanied access to secure areas of high-risk chemical facilities. In fact, DHS is prohibited by the authorizing legislation for CFATS from requiring any specific security program like the use of TWIC. So what does this MTSA guidance document have to do with high-risk chemical facilities? What this does is to identify a problem, how to properly identify railroad crew members entering the facility. A large number of the facilities identified as high-risk by DHS have railroad delivery of raw materials and also ship by rail. At most of these facilities, railroad crews unlock the plant gate across the rail line and announce their presence once they get well into the core of the facility. Train crews are unsupervised in their work around hazmat railcars. Allowing truck drivers to do this would never be allowed by site security plans. The problems seen at port facilities are magnified at CFATS facilities by the fact that there is no easy way for facilities to vet the train crews. No CFATS facility will have the political pull to require railroads to have all of their crews obtain TWIC. Some crews will already have TWIC, because they routinely service MTSA facilities, but most crews away from the ports will not. The largest chemical facilities will have pull with local short lines, but no single chemical facility could bring sufficient force to bear on the major long-line railroads. Lacking Congressional action to require all train crews to have TWIC, chemical facilities will have to come up with some way of checking rail crews. The good news for the bulk of the facilities is that they are typically served by a limited number of local crews. This limits the number of people being covered. But, some method of identifying train crews operating on high-risk chemical facility sites will have to be worked out. Few sites are large enough to have their own yard crews. All other facilities will have to work with the railroads. What is really needed is Congressional action, something almost as difficult to get as cooperation with the railroad.
Monday, October 13, 2008
This was a slow week on the DHS CSAT FAQ page. There were only two new revisions/reviews posted. Both were posted under the ‘Web Portal Troubleshooting’ heading and neither provided any new information. The questions were: When I try to access the CSAT User Registration web site, I get an error message stating, "There is a problem with this website's security certificate."
I have reached a page on the CSAT User Registration web site that states, "To continue, please enter the letters that are in the image below:". I cannot read the letters in the image and am unable to continue.