Saturday, May 31, 2008

DHS FAQ Page Update – 5-30-08

An interesting new question was added to the DHS FAQ page on Friday. It deals with SVAs and Buffer Zone Protection Plan (BZPP). The BZPP is not administered under the CFATS regulations. The question is:

    • "My facility completed a Buffer Zone Protection Plan (BZPP) in conjunction with DHS. Does my facility get credit for the security measures I implemented as a result of that BZPP?"

The DHS answer notes that participation in the BZPP does not exempt facilities from the requirement to complete an SVA. Measures undertaken as part of the BZPP can be reported in the SVA.

I have not reviewed or reported on the details of the BZPP program. The program is run out of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate and does not directly interface with CFATS.

Chemical Incident Review – 5-31-08

Once again, since there have been no reported terrorist incidents at chemical facilities reported in the press, we will look at chemical accidents and incidents that have been reported. It has been a busy couple of weeks according to news reports, so we have lots to choose from. Remember, this is not being done to review safety, but rather to look at such incidents to see what they can teach us about security and mitigation.

Reaction Products; Richmond, CA

Thirty-six hundred gallons of toluene were released from a storage tank when thieves stole the brass valves holding the chemical in the tank. The thieves apparently thought the storage tank was empty. A small amount of the solvent reached the San Francisco Bay and 1500 homes received a shelter-in-place order.

This incident points out an alternative reason for increasing the security at chemical facilities; preventing chemical releases due to theft. Metal fixture theft and chemical thefts would be prevented by the same security measures put into place to protect against terrorist attacks.

Marriott Marquis Hotel; Atlanta, GA

A fire in a storage area resulted in a chlorine leak in the hotel. The fire, smoke, and toxic chemical resulted in the evacuation of 700 guests. No injuries were reported. According to the news report the chlorine was used in the air-conditioning system, probably as a disinfectant in the cooling tower.

One does not normally think of hotels as chemical facilities. The use of chlorine and anhydrous ammonia in cooling systems and chlorine as a pool disinfectant provide multiple chemical sources for a terrorist attack on a high value target.

Surgichrome; Clackamas, OR

A toxic chemical release was averted during a recent industrial fire. Management had notified the local fire department not to use water to fight fires in their facility. The electroplating facility has open vats of chromic acid on site. Large volumes of water sprayed onto the fire could overflow the vat, resulting in a toxic chemical release similar to the one seen recently in a fire at a Ft Smith, AR plating company.

Proper advanced coordination with emergency responders is an important part of any emergency response plan. This is of critical importance for chemical facilities. Too many chemicals react with water which increases the risks associated with the incident.

Ballistic Attacks on Hazmat Shipping

In yesterday’s blog (see: "Ballistic Protection for Railcars") I mentioned a news report about a 13-mile long chemical spill in Lyman, SC and used it to lead to a discussion about ballistic attacks on railcars. Today there is additional news about that spill which will lead into a discussion about ballistic attacks on hazmat shipments in general.

13-Mile Spill News

First the news; it should surprise no one that the chemical from that spill is still on the road; three days later. As you can imagine, cleaning up a liquid spill that is 13 miles long is quite an undertaking. An environmental firm has been hired to conduct ‘clean-up activities’ but rains are expected to wash the material off the roads and into drainage ditches. A heavy-enough or long-enough rain will make the problem ‘disappear’.

The solution containing metal wastes from an electroplating facility has dried leaving a film on the road. Authorities are cautioning people not to come in physical contact with the chemicals and to keep kids and animals away from the area. Such solutions are typically corrosive and can cause chemical burns. The EPA has set up a car wash to wash the chemicals off cars so that the waste water can be ‘properly’ disposed of.

The material has been identified as a hazardous waste from an unnamed electroplating facility. A couple has been charged with intentionally dumping this waste material on the road way. No details about their motive have yet been made public.

Ballistic Attacks on Hazmat Tank Trucks

If ballistic attacks are possible against TIH Rail Cars, they can certainly be made against tank trucks carrying hazardous materials. The tanks are of much lighter construction and are almost certainly susceptible to penetration by large caliber handgun rounds at typical pistol ranges. Most rifle cartridges provide enough power to allow through and through penetration at reasonable engagement ranges.

For pressurized cargos like the TIH chemicals discussed in yesterday’s blog the same issues discussed in that blog apply to an attack on a tank truck. There would be a relatively low volume stream of the chemical being sprayed out of the tank as the truck drove down the road. Casualties might be higher because of the closer proximity of people to such vehicles. On the other hand identification of the source of the contamination would be quicker and it would be easier to stop the tank truck.

Attacks on Non-Pressurized Hazmat Trucks

Most of the hazardous chemicals transported by trucks are not transported in pressurized containers. This makes the profile of an attack on this type of cargo completely different. The liquid will not spray out of the tank. Depending on the caliber of the weapon (the diameter of the hole) and the viscosity of the liquid there will be an initial stream of liquid coming out of the hole; much like you would see coming out of a garden hose.

As the level in the tank started to drop there would be a partial vacuum starting to form in the headspace of the tank. At some point that vacuum would be sufficient to prevent the flow of liquid out of the vehicle. A small amount of air would be sucked into the tank, allowing the flow to resume for a very short period of time. The vacuum would again build and the flow would stop. This would continue, allowing the tank to empty over an extended period of time. In short, you would have a ‘13-mile chemical spill’ all over again.

For most hazardous chemicals you would have a similar situation to the one seen in Lyman, SC. People would be cautioned to avoid the spill and a clean-up would be attempted. There would be some injuries, few if any deaths, and probably very little panic. The more likely emotional result would be anger at the attacker; counterproductive from a terrorist’s perspective.

There are some chemicals that react with water to for TIH chemicals. An attack of this type in a rainstorm would produce a trail of chemical reactions that would produce toxic chemicals. Fortunately, the volume produced would be quite small, producing much less of a risk for casualties than an attack on at TIH tank truck.

Optimizing an Attack on a Tank Truck

The problem of vacuum restricted flow is something that the chemical industry has had to deal with. The simple solution is to install a ‘vacuum breaker’ device. This introduces a controlled flow of a gas into the headspace that stops the vacuum from developing. The simplest such device is an open valve to the atmosphere.

Actually a simpler device would be a hole in the top of the tank about the same diameter as the hole being used to drain the tank. A through and through shot through the tank in a nearly vertical line would achieve this effect. A shot from ground level could achieve this, but would be rather obvious and the initial discharge would be very close to the shooter. A shot from above would achieve the same thing and protect the shooter.

The flow rate from such an attack would be faster and more constant. It would still not be sufficient to be a significant threat to the health and welfare of a significant portion of the ‘exposed’ population.


In short, while a ballistic attack would probably be one of the easiest attacks to complete against a chemical target, it is not an attack that would provide much in the way of casualties. An effective propaganda effort associated with the attack might be able to increase the ‘terror’ effect, but resentment rather than fear is more likely to be the result. That would be a counterproductive result from the view point of a terrorist.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ballistic Protection for Railcars

In an blog earlier this week (see: "Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-23-08") I noted that the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors comments about ballistic protection for PIH Railcars deserved a separate blog entry. Then I read the news report out of Lyman, SC about a 13-mile long hazmat spill. I knew that the time was right for this entry.

The Board of Supervisor’s comment on the PIH Tank Car Proposed Rule stated that:

  • "The new steel should also be more resistant to ballistic penetration, not just to collision-type damage. We hope this will be the case. If ballistics have not been included in the technology of the new steel, we request this be added as a requirement."

The current rule is more of a safety rule than an anti-terrorism rule. It looks to prevent the catastrophic release of TIH chemicals in a derailment type situation. While it is certainly possible for a terrorist attack to be initiated with an attack on the rail line itself, there are many other modes of attack that allow more control to a terrorist; bombs attached to the target rail car or ballistic attack are the simplest.

Ballistic Attack on TIH Railcars

A ballistic attack is the use of a projectile weapon to pierce the shell of the rail car, allowing a non-catastrophic release of the chemicals within. It would be a non-catastrophic release because the chemical would be ‘leaking’ from the penetration hole over a relatively long period of time. Technically this could be done by a weapon ranging from a handgun to tank main gun round.

I have not seen any published studies on what weapons would be able to penetrate the shell of a PIH tank car. I think that we can safely rule out most handguns as lacking the combination of bullet weight and speed at more than point-blank range to penetrate that shell. There is, however, a wide range of rifles that could be expected to provide that capability at a tactically reasonable standoff range, especially if military grade armor piercing ammunition was used.

There are also a large number of old-style, crew-served anti-tank rifles of such a large caliber that they could undoubtedly penetrate the PIH tank car shell. Most of these ballistic weapons dating back to the early 1940s should be able to penetrate that shell on both entry and exit. These weapons are widely available on the international arms market. Their use in the United States is less likely because of the need to smuggle those weapons into this country and the attention they would cause during set-up and use.

Ballistic Attack Scenario

A terrorist executing this type of attack would probably select a position overlooking a rail line entering a major urban center. A room within a couple of hundred yards of the rail line with an unobstructed views of few hundred yards of that line. A two man team, the spotter and the shooter, would be set up in that room.

As a freight train approached the spotter would watch for the hazmat placards on the tank cars indicating that the car contained a TIH chemical. As the identified railcar entered the kill zone, the shooter would attempt to place a round into the front half of the car; a shot nearly perpendicular to the shell would have the highest probability of penetrating the shell. Depending on the weapon used two shots might be fired at that rail car. If there were multiple cars closely spaced on the same train, the team might risk capture by firing on multiple cars.

The crew in the locomotive pulling the train would be totally unaware of a successful attack. The train would continue through the urban area leaking a pressurized stream of toxic chemicals. Deaths would be relatively rare. There would certainly be injuries related to exposure and the side effects of that exposure (automotive and industrial accidents). The train may be able to transit even a large urban area before authorities are able to analyze the various reports and determine that they are all related to a passing freight train. Just look at the news story mentioned in my opening paragraph.

The terror effect of such an attack would be based on the fear of chemicals and the ease with which the attack could be repeated across the country. No urban area would be seen as safe and people would start to avoid areas associated with passing freight trains.

Ballistic Protection of TIH Railcars

The proposal to include ballistic protection requested by Contra Costa Board of Supervisors might limit the number of weapons that would be capable of a successful attack. Tank cars would never be able to be armored enough to prevent such an attack. The military and their supporting arms makers have had a number of years to develop the anti-armor capability of a wide range of rifles.

The proposed heavier bodied railcars would almost certainly provide more ballistic protection than the current cars. It is unclear if the increase protection would significantly reduce the number of weapons that could be used in a successful attack. Testing could be done, but the resulting data should be closely held. There is no need to provide potential terrorists with the information necessary to choose an effective weapon.

Alternative Protective Measures

Attacks of this sort are so easy to execute that it may not be possible to completely protect against them. There are a number of things that could be done to prevent or mitigate the effects of such an attack. The seemingly the easiest thing to do would be to route these cars around urban areas, removing the target; this is currently under vigorous debate (see: "Blog Comment – Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule").

Removing the identifying placards would make it harder to select the appropriate target. Emergency responders resist this because they rely on those placards to appraise them of the hazards they are dealing with. Without these placards on rail tank cars, first responders would not be able to approach freight train derailments and accidents without first communicating with the appropriate railroad officials and getting a detail cargo list for all tank cars. This would take time and cost money and potentially lives.

Putting leak detection devices on these rail cars could alert the crews to this type of attack, but what would they do with this type of information? Stopping the train would allow emergency responders to plug the leak and issue evacuation or shelter in place warnings for a limited area. Selecting the proper stopping point could be critical. A leaking chlorine car passing a hospital would provide little real risk to the patients; stopping one next to the same hospital would greatly increase the risk. Safe haven stopping areas would have to be clearly identified to train crews.


The comments from the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors have opened up an interesting area for discussion. DHS and local first responders need tobegin to consider the implications of such an attack.

Commercial Comments

I had a reader comment posted on my latest security equipment review blog. The post from Cpotenzone, who is apparently associated with Uniloc, thanked me for the "coverage of Uniloc's StrongPoint device release" and provided a web link for additional information ( I would like to think that he was a regular reader, but he is probably a marketing guy that has a good search engine watching for his company’s name and products. In any case I do appreciate the acknowledgement.

This comment does bring up an interesting dilemma that I had not thought about much before; the issue of commercial comments and the associated viral advertising that might result. Some bloggers avoid such comments, wanting their opinions to remain uncontaminated by the possible appearance of being ‘bought out’. Other bloggers go to the other extreme and actively solicit blatant commercial advertisements masquerading as comments.

I can hardly go to the first extreme; I started the whole thing with my brief, non-endorsing, reviews of commercial devices and services. I do not, however, want to go to the other extreme, and have this blog become nothing more than a series of advertisements. As I do in so many things in my life, I will strive for moderation.

Commercial Ground Rules

I will continue to accept commercial comments on things covered in this blog. AOL limits comments to 250 words so any commercials start with that limitation as well as the standard AOL posting rules. I do ask that commercial comments abide by the common law rules of truth-in-advertising; no blatant lies or outrageous exaggerations. I also request that posters provide a brief description of their relationship to the product/company being advocated/promoted; an email address would be appreciated.

No fees will be requested or accepted for allowing these posts to remain on the site and no implied endorsement is provided by allowing the comments to remain on the site. I retain the sole right to remove posts that are offensive to me, or offensive to other readers that can convince me I should be offended.


Finally, I reserve the right to change my mind and these rules at anytime, for any reason; it is my blog.

Guest Postings

I am willing to provide a forum for other people to make posts to this blog to discuss chemical facility security issues. Such posts do not have to agree with the opinions that I have expressed, or may express at some future date. They do have to be germane to the subject, respectful of different opinions, and hopefully provide a unique insight into a chemical security issue.

I will require that anyone wishing to post to this blog will have to allow me to pre-screen at least their initial post. I maintain that requirement to protect myself and my blog. Pre-screening requirements for additional blog postings are open to negotiation. Contact me for additional details.

I am a Freelance Writer

This blog is not currently paying any bills. I make my living as a Free Lance Writer. As such I do writing projects for a variety of customers. To date I have not written anything for pay for anyone in the security arena. That will almost certainly change at some point in time. When it does, I will disclose any potential conflict of interest in any blog that remotely impinges on that commercial relationship. I owe that to the readers of this blog and to my self-esteem.

Anyone interested in discussing a writing job can contact me at or propose a writing project via (PJCoyle), a freelance clearing house on the web. I am currently involved in a long term project that takes up much of my time, but I would certainly consider smaller projects on a case by case basis.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

HR 5577 Status Update – 5-29-08

During my daily check of Thomas.Loc.Gov, the Library of Congress site for checking up on legislative related matters, I found out two interesting things today, first the LOC has a time machine and second the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008 is laying on its death bed, waiting for friends and family to make their last visit.

The Time Machine

On the status page for HR 5577 it gives the following information:


  • "5/30/2008 1:02pm:
    • "House Committee on Energy and Commerce Granted an extension for further consideration ending not later than July 11, 2008. "

    Given the fact that I am writing this at 1:16pm EDT, they either have a time machine that lets them see one day in the future or I am stuck in some sort of time warp. Either that or they were told by the House leadership that since the current extension given to the Energy and Commerce Committee expired on 5-30-08 that that should be the official date that they were given their third extension of time to review this bill.

    HR 5577 on Its Deathbed

    This is the third extension given to this committee to allow them time to review this bill. Seeing as the committee has not held a single hearing, it does not take any great political prowess to see that the Democratic leadership in the House has no real interest in bringing this bill to the floor for a vote this session. With the political conventions taking up the member’s time this summer and campaigning starting in the fall, this bill is essentially dead. This is especially true since there is no companion bill wending its way through the Senate.

    That is a shame. While this bill is not perfect, it is a politically crafted bill that expands and extends the current CFATS regulations past their current expiration date of October 2009. The Homeland Security Committee did a lot of hard work putting this bill together. Hopefully Chairman Thompson will re-introduce this bill in its current form next January so that it has some small chance of passage before current regulations expire like the pumpkin carriage in the fairy tale.

    Ethanol Producers as Chemical Facilities

    I ran into an interesting article over on from the April 2008 issue of the magazine. It looks at how the CFATS program will/does affect ethanol producers. Written by a couple of lawyers (apparently environmental law), the review looks mainly at the legal side of the CFATS requirements rather than the security side. It is a pretty good three page review of the regulations, no mean feat.

    Late for Top Screens?

    What is interesting in the article is that it was printed three months after the initial Top Screens were required to be submitted. While it is always hard to tell when magazine articles are actually written, given the vagaries of the publishing process, it is clear that this was written well after January 21st. The last paragraph is the ‘tell’;

    • "For now, existing ethanol production facilities may already be storing quantities of anhydrous ammonia and other chemicals in quantities that trigger the Top-Screen process. Those facilities must submit Top-Screens as soon as possible. If they haven’t already, they must also prepare to explain to DHS why their submissions are late."

    I noted in an earlier blog (see: "Ethanol Producers and CSAT") that I thought that many ethanol producers would fall under the CFATS Top Screen requirements because of their use of anhydrous ammonia. In the last paragraph of my blog I noted that;

    • "I think it would behoove DHS to check and see if all of the ethanol production facilities in the United States have completed a Top Screen. Any facility that failed to do so should be directed to complete a Top Screen. This would be an industry that should be very easy to check up on the compliance rate. There are a relatively small number of facilities (certainly a smaller number than say the food processing industry) and most of them are well known to the federal government since they are receiving federal subsidies."

    I am sure that DHS would not start assessing large fines for late filing of Top Screens if the facility were to initiate the process without being contacted by DHS. This would be especially true with facilities, like ethanol producers, that might not normally be associated with traditional chemical companies. I even suspect that DHS would be slow to mandate significant fines if facilities responded promptly to a contact from DHS.

    Gasoline as a Raw Material

    There is another interesting complication to assessing the risk at an ethanol production facility. These facilities use gasoline as a raw material rather than as a fuel. They blend gasoline with the finished ethanol to ‘denature’ their product to make their product unusable as an alcoholic beverage.

    Gasoline is not a COI listed in Appendix A, but many of the component chemicals are. These chemicals are not normally considered in Top Screen reporting since DHS has provisions for reporting ‘Fuels’, including gasoline. I do not think that that convention is appropriate to the situation found at ethanol production facilities since the gasoline is not being used as a fuel. In this situation it would appear that the normal blend rules should apply.

    Probably the best way to handle this would be to post a notice in the Federal Register to the effect that facilities that use gasoline as a raw material are required to treat it as a flammable blend rather than as a fuel. This would require the reporting of the quantity of gasoline as the largest component COI.

    Ethanol as a Fuel

    Having argued to have gasoline considered as a chemical rather than a fuel, I find myself taking the opposite tact with the ethanol produced by these facilities. Ethanol should be treated as a fuel and thus exempt from the flammable blend rules. Unfortunately, none of the Top Screen fuel categories are appropriate.

    This should probably be changed in any case. Most of the ethanol is shipped as denatured ethanol and blended into fuels ranging from E85 (85% Ethanol) to E10 at a wide variety of fuel blending facilities. Adding a ‘Fuel Ethanol’ reporting category will allow DHS to capture the volumes of this material found at other chemical facilities.

    Ethanol Producers as Targets

    Ethanol producers may be targets for a variety of different terrorists. Muslim Radicals may find the ethanol industry an economic threat to the ‘supremacy’ of the oil cartel. Environmental Radicals may find ethanol production facilities to be ‘damaging to the environment’. Any number of nationalist radical groups might blame ethanol producers for the high price of grain and food that leads to starvation in their home country. Any of these groups could find a doctrinal justification for attacking one of these facilities.

    These facilities are frequently found on the outskirts of small cities and large agricultural towns. They are located adjacent to rail lines. Many facilities are being constructed near feedlots to make their byproduct ‘distiller’s grain’ easier to sell without drying. In short there could be a wide variety of collateral damage from a successful terrorist attack. This collateral damage would certainly attract national news attention.

    The smaller police forces in these areas would not have the manpower or monetary resources to conduct the preemptive investigations that have done so much to disrupt potential terrorist attacks. This could make these facilities appear to be easier targets for successful terrorist attacks.

    All in all I think that it is time that DHS brings these facilities into the CFATS process. An outreach program could be as simple as posting a requirement for ethanol production facilities to complete a Top Screen. A more effective program would include follow-up articles in magazines such as Ethanol Producer and presentations at industry conferences. What ever the method, DHS needs to reach out and touch this industry.

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-23-08

    There are currently three rules recently published in the Federal Register dealing with the security and safety of rail transportation of various hazardous chemicals. All three rules are in the comment period. Generally speaking the comments made on each of these rules are posted on the web site. The last review was posted on 5-19-08 (see: "Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-16-08").

    PIH Tank Car Rule

    Comments are to be submitted by June 2, 2008. Comments were received from:

    US Magnesium

      • Noted that their Rowley, UT plant produced chlorine as a byproduct of the manufacture of magnesium; the only US magnesium production facility.
      • Note that current research by the Next Generation Rail Car Coordination Panel supports a 25 mph puncture resistance standard within the next three years, but no research currently supports the 30 mph standard.
      • Does not believe that it will be possible to replace the 3600 non-normalized steel cars currently in service on the timetable provided in the rule.
      • Believes that the rule should require retrofitting the mandated thermal protection system on existing cars.
      • Disagrees with the financial impact expected for implementing the rule. They claim that all chlorine railcars will have to be replaced at an estimated cost of $1.2 Billion not the $350 Million shown for all PIH railcars.

    Congressman Pete Sessions (D, TX)

      • Notes that the industry already has a safer (than railcars currently in service) PIH railcar design available (CPC-1187). The current rule making effectively stops the production of this safer car while the rule making process continues. Urges that this car design be allowed as an interim measure while the rule making progresses and the required development of a new cars takes place.

    Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, CA

      • Noted that heavier railcars would do more damage to other railcars and surrounding structures in the event of a collision or derailment.
      • Noted that the newly designed cars should provide ballistic protection as well as collision protection

    Route Security Analysis Rule

    Comments were to be submitted by May 16, 2008. A significant number of comments were added after that date. Comments were received from:

    Norfolk Southern Corporation

    • Supports the rule’s assignment of responsibility for route determination to the railroads.
    • Supports the rule’s preemption provisions.
    • Proposes that the rule require that each State provide a single point of contact for providing the information required in the rule. Lacking that, the rule should allow for a web site based system where the individual state and local agencies could provide the required information.
    • Proposes that the railroads should have the final say on their use of their property to storage of hazmat chemicals enroute and not have to consult with shippers and consignors.

    Association of American Railroads

    • Recommend that a 15 shipment threshold be set for routes requiring analysis.
    • Recommend that PHMSA consider rulemaking for requiring that ‘essentially all’ TIH chemicals are removed from railcars prior to return shipment.
    • Disagrees with the special route analysis deadline for the first year. The early deadline does not make sense since this initial analysis will be the most difficult.
    • Notes that DHS has yet to notify any railroad of the existence of high-consequence targets near any railroad, despite numerous requests from AAR. This needs to be rectified before the requirements in this rule can be met.
    • Notes that it is not practical to determine what agencies might be contacted for security information along all 140,000 miles of railroad right-of-way. Suggests that a State agency be used for all contacts within that State.
    • Request that PHMSA defines ‘subpopulations’ that railroads are supposed ‘consider’ in their risk analysis.
    • AAR already recommends to its member railroads that they share security information with ‘bona fide emergency response agencies’ providing, at a minimum, "the top 25 hazardous commodities transported through the community in rank order".
    • AAR would like the SSI information classification provisions specified in the regulation to also specifically include provisions to prohibit disclosure by government agencies and contractors.


    • AAR would like provisions pertaining to consultation with ‘offerors and consignees’ about enroute storage to be revised to allow railroads to minimize storage on railroad property by making prompt deliveries in consultation with consignees, but not allowing a consignee veto over delivery times.

    PPG Industries

    • PPG would like to see more cooperation between rail carriers required in the regulation to select the safest, most secure route regardless of carrier boundaries.
    • PPG wants assurances that the requirements for conducting a route analysis cannot be used by railroads to avoid their common carrier responsibilities in providing shipments to new customers or producers outside of existing routes.

    BNSF Railway Company

    • BNSF suggests that the PHMSA should have responsibility for directing approved routings for Hazmat shipments, or lacking that, PHMSA should be responsible for reviewing and approving railroad proposed routes.
    • BNSF wants PHMSA to provide better explanations and details concerning the ’27 Factors’ that should be taken into account when analyzing routes for hazmat shipments. That specifically includes weighting factors.


    It is interesting to read the three new comments on the PIH Tank Car standard; a chlorine producer, a congressman, and a local government legislative body; this provides a wide range of outlooks on this important rule. The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors brings out an important point with regards to ballistic protection for a PIH Tank Car. This is the first time that I have heard this point mentioned. It deserves a separate blog in the near future.

    The comments from Congressman Sessions and US Magnesium make it look like this rule may be premature. The rule makes it seem that the railcar design specified is nearly ready for production; just lacking the approval of this rule to move forward. These two comments make it seem like that production is years away, at a minimum. This would appear to require some interim arrangement to keep relatively safe railcars carrying PIH and getting the older cars off the lines.

    The range of Commenters providing ‘late’ comments on the route analysis rule is not quite as wide as seen in the PIH Tank Car rule comments. Three railroad representatives and a supplier would not seem to be much of a range of comments. Reading the comments shows that there is an unexpected divergence of recommendations.

    The comments from BNSF Railway Company suggesting that the Federal Government should be the responsible entity in selecting/approving rail routes seems to be surprising. It certainly runs counter to the official line from the Association of American Railroads. A little more thought applied to the problem, though, indicates that this may be a more reasonable position for the railroads to take.

    Currently railroads are required to accept all ‘properly packaged’ hazmat shipments as part of their ‘common carrier’ responsibilities. Historically, the railroads have born the lions share of the liability for accidental release/discharge of those chemicals enroute. This can be a very costly liability. If route selection responsibility rests with the FRA or PHMSA some of that liability is transferred to that responsible agency.

    Security Equipment Review 5-28-08

    Once again it is time to look at some new technology and gadgets that are being developed that could be used in protecting a chemical facility from a potential terrorist attack. Warning: I have not laid a hand on any of these gadgets so all of this information is from the web sites indicated; appearance on this page is not an endorsement of any product or technology.

    Strong Point Limits Access To SCADA Systems

    One of the problems inherent in the electronic control systems used to control processes at chemical facilities is that unauthorized access to the system could allow a terrorist to use those controls to effect a successful attack. While passwords or biometric access controls can help to limit access, the Strong Point system developed by Uniloc controls access by limiting what computers can talk to the system.

    The system develops a digital fingerprint for each computer allowed access to the system. This limits, rather than restricts, access to the system. This would be useful for facilities that need to have remote access to the SCADA system. Passwords should probably still be used to restrict individual access.

    Cello Track Provides GPS Tracking

    Facilities that ship Theft/Diversion chemicals of interest may have an interest in tracking the location of those chemicals in transit. For those facilities Cello Track, by Pointer Telocation, provides a GPS based tracking system for containers, trailers, or railcars.

    Cisco Designs for Safety and Security

    As safety and security systems get more complex and more types of sensors are tied into the systems there is a need for computers and servers designed for this type of operation. Cisco has recently introduced the Cisco Open Platform for Safety and Security. This system incorporates different Cisco technologies, including Cisco Unified Communications, Cisco Video Surveillance Manager (VSM), Cisco's IP Interoperability and Collaboration System.

    Additionally, Cisco has worked with industry developers to support sensor integration and management, video analytics, geographic information system (GIS) framework for common operating picture, enterprise mass emergency notification, and physical access control.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Another DHS FAQ Update for 5-23-08

    Either I missed it or this FAQ question was not there when I checked on Friday (see: "Another DHS FAQ update – 5-23-08"); let’s just assume that it was posted after my daily check. In any case one more new question on the DHS FAQ page:

      • 1416 If I've already submitted my Top-Screen for a release-toxic or release-flammable COI and it is stored underground, do I have to resubmit with the new questions regarding underground storage?

    Actually this is another pretty good question. The Help Desk Answer is ‘No, not unless you want to.’

    The more detailed answer includes the first reference that I have seen to the requirement that I have mentioned a couple of time; periodic updates. The answer ends with:

      • "(Please note that covered, high-risk, facilities are required to submit revised Top Screens periodically, and after material modifications to the operations or site, in accordance with 6 CFR § 27.210(b) and (d).)"

    Reader Question 5-24-08

    Fmillar1 noted that the links on my May 19th Blog (see: "Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-16-08") did not work. I went back and checked and he was obvious correct. I did a little more digging and have corrected the problem. The blog post has been corrected on AOL and here are the correct links.




    The problem was that I saved the links from the actual pages that I downloaded, but for some reason those links do not work. You have to copy the short cut links from the search result pages instead of using the document links. Oh well, you learn something new every day. Thanks Fred.

    Now I have to go back and re-do the links for the update message I was going to post today. It probably won’t get posted until tomorrow.

    Industrial Chemicals as Weapons of Mass Destruction

    While there has been some attention (the CFATS process is underway) directed at terrorist attacks against fixed site chemical facilities, there has been less attention paid to the use of industrial chemicals as WMD in directed attacks. A recent article on briefly looks at some work being done in South Africa in the lead up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup to be held there. According to the article, those efforts are focusing on detection equipment.

    The detection of industrial chemicals in the atmosphere is a generally straightforward proposition, especially if you are looking at chemicals with a high degree of toxicity, like chlorine or anhydrous ammonia. Commercial detectors are readily available and it would take relatively little effort to link a series of such detectors into a system to protect the perimeter of even a large sporting or political event. The effectiveness of such a system lies in the response plan.

    Response to a Large Scale Chlorine Attack at a Sports Stadium

    To achieve a mass casualty effect at such a venue a large amount of chlorine would be required, like a tank truck or rail car’s worth. Leaving aside for the moment the difficulty in getting such a large amount of chlorine close to a high-risk venue like a World Cup Soccer match, lets assume the worst case:

      • A tank truck (40,000 lbs) of chlorine is driven to the upwind side of a packed sports stadium. The contents are released by the placement of an explosive device at the bottom center of the tank. The cloud of chlorine gas drifts toward the stadium.

    The security force’s attention is directed to the tanker by the explosion and the potential problem is quickly confirmed by the chemical agent detection system around the security perimeter. Announcements are made to evacuate the stadium and panic insues. Some people are killed or injured by the chlorine gas, but fights or being trampled in the efforts to evacuate causes most of the casualties. Most of the chemical casualties would be outside of the stadium, closer to the site of the actual attack.

    There are only three effective means of dealing with a chemical attack once it has started, evacuation, neutralization or personal protective equipment. Providing enough PPE for a large venue like a sports stadium is not practical; forget the training requirements for proper use. Evacuation is not much more effective once the attack has begun. Neutralization is the only remaining option.

    Fortunately, there is one neutralization procedure that is somewhat effective for most TIH industrial chemicals; water fogs. While not actually a neutralization technique, it acts to wash the chemical out of the air. The runoff is still toxic, but the effects on the people in the stadium would be greatly reduced. The authorities would only have to deal with the panic effects of such an attack; still a large problem.

    The only effective way of dealing with such an attack is to prevent the chemical agent from getting close enough to be a problem. Fortunately, tank wagons and railcars are fairly easy to detect and the size of the perimeter is easily calculable. It is a relatively easy task for security forces to clear the danger area before the event and to prevent these mobile weapons from entering the perimeter during the event.

    Response to a Medium Scale Chlorine Attack at a Sports Stadium

    If the terrorist is not looking to cause a mass casualty event, but rather wants to just cause panic, a large volume of toxic gas is not required. A smaller portable tank would provide enough of a chlorine cloud to set off detectors around the security perimeter and cause panic during the resulting evacuation. Again, let’s look at the scenario:

      • In the weeks leading up to the event a one-ton chlorine cylinder is moved into a garage or warehouse upwind of the event site. It is place near an exterior wall. An explosive device is set to blowout the wall and opens the cylinder in a single operation. The resulting cloud drifts towards the stadium.

    Once again the explosion and chemical alarms alert the security personnel. The water fog is more effective in this case, due to the smaller amount of the chemical involved. This means that the evacuation of the stadium is less urgent and less prone to panic. Again, there would be some chemical casualties in the general vicinity of the tank detonation. The event is disrupted and this would still be a successful terrorist attack.

    Again, prevention is the best defense. A one-ton chlorine cylinder is more difficult to detect than a tank wagon or rail car, but it is still something that a security sweep should be able to detect in the days leading up to an event. The size of the area of the sweep is smaller due to the reduced volume of the chemical involved.

    Response to a Small Scale Chlorine Attack at a Sports Stadium

    A much easier chemical attack to carry out would be one that did not attempt to cause a mass casualty event, but had panic and event disruption as the modus operandi. Such an attack would use small amounts of chlorine gas set to trigger the chemical alarm system. Again, let’s look at the scenario:

      • A number of small-pressurized containers of chlorine are pre-positioned around the event site perimeter. The size of the containers would be determined by how close they could be placed to the chemical detectors; closer means smaller containers. The largest containers would be 150-lb cylinders. Each container would be equipped with an automated valve to release the contents, either on command or at a pre-set time. The valves would operate silently and release small clouds of chlorine gas that would drift towards the detection system.

    The first notice of an attack would be the chemical alarms going off. Depending on the sophistication of the detection system, the security forces may be able to tell that the cloud is essentially harmless. The fogging system would effectively eliminate any chemical risk. An evacuation would probably still be ordered, as a precaution, but the chances for an orderly evacuation would be increased. A less sophisticated detection system would not allow for the orderly evacuation of the venue. There would be a small number of chemical casualties outside the venue in the immediate vicinity of the larger containers. The event is disrupted and this would still be a successful terrorist attack.

    Prevention would have to rely on infiltration of the terrorist group and breaking up the plot before it was put into operation. There would not any way to detect all of the smaller containers before the valves were opened.


    A successful terrorist chemical attack against a large venue such as a sports or political event would not require large amounts of industrial chemicals. If the terrorists knew that the authorities were using chemical agent detection systems and appropriate chemical defenses, an attack aimed at spoofing the detection system could be adequate to cause panic and disruption. This would have the added benefit of making the authorities look foolish and ineffective. Certainly this would have to be considered an effective terrorist attack.

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    Canadians Notice Farm Bill Chemical Security Grants

    Not long after posting today’s first blog entry on the Farm Bill officially becoming law I ran into an interesting article over at Is seems that the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers is already complaining about the unfair advantage American agriculture now has since the new Farm bill "includes tax credits and grants to enhance security of crop nutrients, herbicides and pesticides".

    Two Canadian organizations, the retailers and the Grain Growers of Canada, are trying to get the Canadian government to come across with similar grants or tax credits to level the playing field. They are afraid that they will be faced with the problem of paying for increased chemical security out-of-pocket and not being able to pass those costs on to their customers. After all, those customers could go to American suppliers.

    This brings up an interesting possibility; Canadian agricultural chemical suppliers could ask NAFTA to throw out those grants and tax credits as an unfair government subsidy of agricultural production. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    Here we thought the Farm Bill fight was over until the 2012 reauthorization rolls around.

    Chemical Terrorism Insurance?

    I ran into an interesting piece over on It is a very brief blog about a note from the insurance company. It said: "We have added an endorsement to your policy to exclude farming and business-related liability arising out of any biological or chemical terrorism".

    The blogger notes:

      • The politicians and the pundits can deny and obfuscate all they like but at the end of the day, the folks who put their money on the line selling insurance against risks might be our best canarys-in-the-mine indicators of where the real risks lay.

    I wonder how many chemical facilities have similar limitations in their liability policies? It would certainly make sense for insurance companies to raise rates on high-risk chemical facilities. I wonder how many insurance companies have asked if a facility has been designated a high-risk facility? An interesting question for facility management to look into.

    Public Law 110-234

    Well, it is now official (it was published in the Federal Register), HR 2419 is now Public Law 110-234 with a publication date of May 22, 2008. The 30 day clock (see: "Farm Bill Passes Over Bush Veto – Maybe") on the DHS outreach program to agricultural users of Propane is ticking away.

    If anyone has any question about the strength of the Agriculture Lobby all they have to do is look at this massive bill. Forget the crop subsidies and price support measures; Agriculture is now one of the largest recipients of chemical security grants (see: "Farm Bill Contains Chemical Security Provisions") in the country. In fact, they are the only ones getting such grants (see: "Infrastructure Protection Activities Grants Awarded"). I guess the old saying about the squeeky wheel gets the grease is still true. No one has fought the CFATS regulations harder than Agriculture.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Another DHS FAQ update – 5-23-08

    The DHS helpdesk people have been busy this week. This is three days running that they have added another entry to their FAQ page. The latest entry is:

      • 1406. If have already submitted a Top Screen and later determine that I need to re-submit, what do I do?

    This is an interesting question and one that DHS has not addressed previously. It is certainly not covered in either of their Top Screen manuals (see: "Updates of CSAT Top Screen Manuals").

    Reasons for Submitting Updated Top Screen

    As I have mentioned in other blogs, facilities that have successfully submitted a Top Screen are not necessarily done with that tool in CSAT. There are a couple of reasons that a new Top Screen might be required:

      • Addition of a new chemical to the facility that is on the COI list., or
      • Increased maximum inventory of a COI previously reported, or
      • Significant decrease in maximum inventory of a COI previously reported.

    There may be additional reasons that are out of the ordinary. The general rule of thumb is that any change at the facility (or in its surroundings) that might impact it rating (or lack thereof) as a high-risk facility could require a re-submission of the Top Screen.

    Re-submitting Top Screen

    The procedures for re-submitting the Top Screen are provided in the answer to the new FAQ. They are:

      • "Log in to CSAT at and click on the "CSAT Application" link. You will now see a list of your facilities and their survey status. Facilities with a submitted Top Screen survey will have a button titled "Replace Top-Screen" to the right of the submitted survey. Click on this button and you will be asked to input your name and the reason for the new submission. After entering this information click on "Create Additional Top Screen" and your new Top Screen survey will be created."

    All of the standard procedures for completing a Top Screen apply. The Preparer may fill out the form on-line, but the Submitter is the only one that can actually push the button to send it to DHS. Print a copy of the completed Top Screen before pushing the submit button.

    There are quite a few new questions and some other changes that will make the process look different than when Top Screens were submittedin January. You will certainly want to down load the two new manuals before starting the re-submission process.

    Farm Bill Passes Over Bush Veto – Maybe

    The Democratic leadership added a new target for the Republicans to shoot at between now and November when they sent an ‘incomplete’ Farm Bill to President Bush for a promised (and delivered) veto. Thirty four pages were missing in the document that went to the White House. Both the House and the Senate voted to overturn that veto and then the mistake was discovered. The House re-voted and the Senate will have their chance after a one week recess.

    According to various constitutional scholars the bill is probably as good as law now, but it will certainly be so after the Memorial Day Recess. Lawyers and scholars will have fun debating which date actually counts as the date the bill was past, but for most provisions it will be just an academic debate.

    There is one chemical security provision that this debate may effect and that is the 30 day provision for initiating an outreach program to agricultural users of propane (see: "Farm Bill Contains Chemical Security Provisions"). As I mentioned in another blog, I don’t think that this provision is germane any more. The Top Screens that would require that outreach have already been done.

    Agricultural Exemption

    There was an Agricultural Exemption letter that ‘temporarily’ excused agricultural facilities from having to complete a Top Screen. A close reading of the provisions shown below would seem to indicate that Propane was not included in that exemption.

    • "Until further notice, or unless otherwise specifically notified in writing by DHS, the Top Screens will not be required for any facility that is required to submit a Top-Screen solely because it possesses any Chemical of Interest, at or above the applicable screening threshold quantity, for use—
      • "in preparation for the treatment of crops, feed, land, livestock (including poultry) or other areas of an agricultural production facility; or
      • "during application to or treatment of crops, feed, land, livestock (including poultry) or other areas of an agricultural production facility".

    That is not to say that there are not probably a number of agricultural facilities that interpreted those provisions so as to include propane in the exemption. Even if that broader interpretation is correct (and it would probably take at least a couple of court reviews to settle the question) the out reach would not be necessary until DHS decides to take on the agriculture lobby. After President Bush’s resounding defeat on the Farm Bill, I don’t expect DHS to try to get agricultural Top Screens done during this administration.

    The Law Requires DHS Outreach

    Regardless of whether I think that the provision is germane, it is part of the law. That means that DHS will have 30 days to start this ‘outreach’ program. It will be very interesting to see what kind of program that DHS can put together in 30 days. If I were the Secretary, I would not start the 30 day clock until the Senate completes their second vote, but the work would start today. The Department is going to need every day they can get.

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    DHS FAQ Update – 5-22-08

    Two more FAQ page additions have been made by DHS. Both of them address rather intersting questions. The questions are:

    • 1262: How do I offer the services of my company to provide security inspections in line with the CSAT process?
    • 1407: I recently received an e-mail from DHS informing me that my Top-Screen appears to be inactive because it was begun over 60 days ago and has still not been submitted. What should I do?

    I’m not sure that the answer to the first question was really what the submitter was looking for. The reply tells how to submit unsolicited business proposals to DHS. While this may be valuable knowledge for a number of people, the question sounds to me to be about providing inspection services to high-risk chemical facilities. If this question came into the help desk by phone, the DHS response is probably the correct one.

    The response to the second question notes that there are two possible reasons that this email was received. The first would be that the facility determined mid-Top Screen that they were not required to submit and never did. No problem, according to DHS; 30 days after the email was sent DHS will remove the incomplete Top Screen from the system. The second case would be that the facility never pushed the send button on the Top Screen and needs to go back into the system and do so.

    Teaching Chemical Facility Security

    I had mentioned in an earlier blog that "chemical engineering curriculums at most universities do not include any classes in facility security" (see: "Reader Questions 5-20-08"). Maybe it is time to consider changing that situation. Chemical companies and chemical facility management might be better able to do security management if they were better trained about security matters.

    The Role of Consultants

    Most chemical facilities are going to be using security consultants to help them to prepare their security vulnerability analysis (SVA) and site security plans. Many facilities will attempt to do this without outside assistance, but because of the specialized knowledge needed to complete these properly, most will end up hiring consultants.

    The chemical industry is well acquainted with the use of consultants. The field of chemical engineering includes a wide variety of disciplines and specialties. No chemical facility has one of each on hand. When they need access to specialized information on a temporary basis, they rent consultants. When they need permanent access they hire a specialist.

    The big difference between hiring chemical engineering consultants and security consultants is that all chemical engineers, regardless of discipline or specialty, share a common core of engineering knowledge. They speak the same language. The same is not true for chemical engineers and security consultants. Their backgrounds, their language, and their very mindset are completely different.

    Introduction to Chemical Security 101

    Plant managers are almost always chemical engineers. They have the schooling and operational experience in the various unit operations at their facility to be able to understand and manage the problems that arise on a day to day basis. One area where they do not have either the training nor experience (in most cases) is security operations.

    This is where the chemical engineering schools can help out future facility managers. As part of their core curriculum they can add a survey course of facility security, Introduction to Chemical Security 101. The course would not make every engineer a security expert, but it would provide them with the core knowledge necessary to communicate with security professionals.

    This course would look at things like:

    • Legal aspects of security
    • Perimeter security technology
    • Principals ofCyber Security
    • Personnel surety programs
    • Counter surveillance operations

    Master’s Degree of Chemical Facility Security Management

    What the industry really needs is a core of engineers that are as proficient in security management as they are in understanding chemical processes. This is going to require a lot more than a survey course in security. A master’s level program in security management would be a good career progression move for someone wanting to move into facility management.

    Unfortunately, such a course does not yet exist. If it did, it would include courses such as:

    • Introduction to modern terrorism.
    • Introduction to intelligence analysis.
    • Vulnerability analysis
    • Site security planning.
    • Coordination planning with first responders.

    It is time that the chemical engineering schools in this country start to consider adding chemical facility security courses to their curriculum. Their graduates would be better prepared to operate in the modern chemical-manufacturing environment.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    DHS FAQ Page Update – 5-20-08

    Yesterday DHS added two new questions/answers to it’s FAQ page. Both questions dealt with underground storage tanks. Those questions were:

    • 1167: What is the definition of an "underground storage facility" as it related to CFATS?
    • 1408: Which facilities should answer the Top-Screen questions on underground storage of a COI?

    Both of these questions relate back to recent changes in the Top Screen that I discussed in an earlier blog (see: "Updates of CSAT Top Screen Manuals"). There is no new information included in the answers to these questions.

    Hazmat Rail Routes and the Mayo Clinic

    According to a press release there is an interesting new look at routing of hazardous material railroad shipments being undertaken by an unusual organization, the Mayo Clinic. Actually it appears that the Mayo Clinic is the lead organization of a group known as the Rochester Coalition. They are opposing the acquisition of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) because the CPR plans on running hazardous material railcars past their clinic in Rochester, MN.

    "Opposing the DM&E acquisition" is not really an appropriate description of the actions of the Rochester Coalition. What they want the Surface Transportation Board to do is to approve the acquisition with some unusual conditions:

    • Consultation on how best to minimize project-related impacts to Mayo Clinic, including limited transportation of hazardous materials through Rochester.
    • Negotiate voluntary contractual limitations on the total number of through-traffic trains moving through Rochester with Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester.
    • Regulatory/contractual speed limits on local hazardous materials traffic.
    • Multiple grade separations for specific in-city road crossings. These grade separated crossings should be designed and located to facilitate the movement of emergency vehicles to and from medical facilities providing emergency services in Rochester, including Saint Marys Hospital and Rochester Methodist Hospital, which are both Mayo Clinic hospitals.
    • Increased inspection and installation of wayside detectors, such as hot box/loose wheel detectors, to the west and east of Rochester to provide timely warning of potential problems prior to entering Rochester city limits.
    • Pre-notification for Rochester emergency services of hazmat cargo.
    • Whistle-free crossings for non-grade separated road crossings.

    The interesting thing with this hazmat routing issue is the hazardous materials that the coalition is opposing. Not toxic by inhalation chemicals or nuclear waste, as is most often the case; the Mayo Clinic group is upset because of a "substantial increase in the projected number of carloads of ethanol" and "34 high-speed, coal-unit-trains" going through Rochester every day.

    There are no indications in the Coalition’s press release of how likely it is that theSTB will apply their recommendations to the approval of the acquisition. Just based on the president that such an agreement would set, especially with the new routing regulation in the works, I would bet that the STB will not apply the recommended limitations. Having said that, you never can tell; the Mayo Clinic does carry some significant political weight.

    In any case, this does bring an entirely new dimension to the discussion about routing hazardous rail shipments.

    Reader Questions 5-20-08

    I got an email from a reader yesterday who had some questions about Chemical Facility Security. Since they were not posted to the blog, I will not reveal much information about the reader except that he is in the security industry and is looking to expand his product line sales into the chemical facility market. Two of his questions deserve a more general discussion than I gave him in my email reply.

    • Do you see the chemical industry increasing its investment in perimeter security in response to CFATA? The requirements of the act seem very vague.
    • What's the best way to reach the people in charge of security in this industry?

    Perimeter Security Investment

    As I told the reader in my email, most chemical facilities have a 6’ chain-link fence for perimeter security; some topped with an 18" barbed wire outrigger. Few of those fences are patrolled or observed. In short, they are more in the way of perimeter markers than perimeter security. The sad thing is that most facility managers honestly think that these fences provide adequate security. I’m not faulting them; chemical engineering curriculums at most universities do not include any classes in facility security.

    When site security plans are submitted, I’m sure that DHS will find fault with perimeter security measures {6 CFR Section 27.230(a)(1)} that do not keep the perimeter fence under constant surveillance. Obvious observation of the perimeter is a key part of deterring an attack; constant observation is the key to detecting an attack.

    There are a wide variety of techniques for keeping the perimeter under observation. Old fashioned guard patrols are low on capitol costs, but they certainly drive up the payroll, especially if there are enough personnel to keep the fence under constant observation. Closed circuit television systems are getting to be relatively inexpensive, but the monitors require observation. There are a wide range of motion detector systems that provide an intrusion alarm, but they require a response team to check out the inevitable false alarms.

    It takes someone with security training to analyze the particular situation at a facility and to then recommend an appropriate combination of technology and personnel that will provide an optimum security solution. The one thing that is certain is that an unwatched fence line will not be adequate perimeter security for a high-risk chemical facility. So yes, for the industry, there will be an increase in spending on perimeter security.

    People in Charge of Security

    As I told my reader in my reply email, only the largest chemical companies have trained security professionals on staff. For the vast majority of facilities the security management job at the facility level has been given to someone as an additional job. Most often this is given to the EH&S Manager; that is the person with the most experience in dealing with government regulations.

    As we get deeper into the CFATS process, it is going to be painfully obvious to most facility managers that the lack of formal security training on the plant staff is going to make compliance very complicated. More and more facilities are going to have to resort to using consultants for advice in how to proceed with Security Vulnerability Assessments and developing Site Security Plans.

    Security equipment suppliers are going to have to decide how they want their advertising dollars spent. Will they target the people writing the checks or will they target the people making the recommendations? Most will target both sides of the deal.

    Limits to Spending

    One thing that is going to make corporate decision makers slow to make any decisions on capital or personnel expenditures on facility security is the uncertain regulatory situation. CFATS is the current regulation that everyone is attempting to deal with. Unfortunately, that expires in less than 18 months. The way that the implementation of that regulation is preceding no one will be paying any fines for failing to comply with those regulations. They will expire first.

    The comprehensive legislation that will replace CFATS, Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008, has yet to have had any hearings in the second committee given responsibility for review in the House of Representatives. The bill that would give continuing authority for CFATS is waiting for a sub-committee chairman to be appointed before it can start to be reviewed (see: "Alternative to HR 5577").

    In short, why should any chemical facility spend any serious money on additional security measures when the regulatory landscape is so flaky? Most facilities will continue with their current security plans until Congress gets its collective act together and gives industry some solid regulations to implement.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Possible Chemical Attack Averted

    I ran into a perversely interesting article over on ThreatsWatch.Org about a Texas man that was trying to sell about 100 lbs of cyanide to the Aryan Brotherhood. I say ‘perversely interesting’ because it illustrates the point that there are potential terrorists out there that have no relation with Islamic radicalism while at the same time pointing out that most criminals are stupid. He was caught when the intermediary in the sale turned out, once again, to be working for the FBI.

    To make matters worse, this ‘stupid criminal’ had 100 lbs of cyanide. All that was necessary to make a really nasty chemical weapon was a couple hundred pounds of acid. No report yet about where the cyanide came from.

    Oops, one other stupid thing; the stupid criminal originally intended to trade the 100 lbs of cyanide for 1 pound of methamphetamines. Fortunately, that deal fell through, so he had to find an FBI informant to contact a buyer for his chemical weapon. How many more times will we be so lucky?

    Sooner or later the stupid criminals and ‘wanna be’ terrorists are going to run out of FBI informants. Then we will get to see what the terrorist can do with the weapon. Somebody had better increase the FBI budget for paying informants.

    Infrastructure Protection Activities Grants Awarded

    Last week DHS announced the latest awards of Infrastructure Protection Activities Grants, awards totaling over $800 Million. Some of those grants will be going to protecting chemical facilities or deliveries of hazardous chemicals.

    The amount going to chemical facility protection will be quite small. Only a small portion of the $48.5 Million going to the Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP) will be going to cities to help them protect access to chemical facilities. A wide variety of Tier I and Tier II sites will be protected using money from these grants.

    The Freight Rail Security Grant Program, at $4.9 Million, will provide some increased protection for the shipment of security-sensitive materials through high-density population areas. The grants will be made available to railroad operators to provide for security training (Class I Carriers), conducting vulnerability assessments and preparing security plans (Class II and III Carriers).

    Other areas will be receiving much more money under these programs. Port Security will receive almost half of the total grant money under this program. The Transit Security Grant Program comes in a close second with more than $300 Million.

    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Ammonia Safety Information

    As part of my daily internet review I check a number of sites for news reports about chemical incidents. Readers of this blog will realize that I do this looking for information that could provide lessons to security planners for high-risk chemical facilities. A recent news report led me to an unusual location for safety information about Anhydrous Ammonia; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union web site.

    Given the fact that many of their members work at sites that use Anhydrous Ammonia in refrigeration and cooling systems, it is entirely appropriate that their web site provides information about the hazards associated with this beneficial but hazardous chemical. Facility management has a legal responsibility under OSHA regulations to provide such information to workers that handle hazardous chemicals, but it is good to see other organizations taking a serious interest in safety communications.

    What makes this document so interesting is that it provides information about the necessary monitoring for concentrations in the air during and after a leak. Some employers would criticize the instructions to contact emergency personnel or medical personnel without going through the facility management, but time is frequently important in these situations.

    In general these instructions are well written and are not inflammatory or ‘anti-ammonia’ in any way. The UFCW is to be commended on their contribution to their member’s safety.

    Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-16-08

    There are currently three rules recently published in the Federal Register dealing with the security and safety of rail transportation of various hazardous chemicals. All three rules are in the comment period. Generally speaking the comments made on each of these rules are posted on the web site. The last review was posted on 5-12-08 (see: "Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 5-9-08").

    PIH Tank Car Rule

    Comments are to be submitted by June 2, 2008. There were no new comments on this docket.

    Route Security Analysis Rule

    Comments were to be submitted by May 16, 2008. A significant number of comments were added on that date. Comments were received from:

    The Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa County, CA

    • The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors objected to the railroads being given too much leeway to "reject alternative routes for economic reasons". They suggested that economic factors should be added to the evaluations only after all other factors are considered.
    • The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors wanted more consultation with local government agencies required rather that requiring the railroads to request information from those agencies. They felt that this should consultation should also extend to sharing the final analysis with the affected jurisdictions and an appeals process for those agencies if they disagreed with the analysis.

    Dow Chemical Company

    • Dow Chemical disagreed with the annual route analysis review, noting that the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 specified a review interval of three years.
    • Dow Chemical suggested that the rule should exempt essentially empty railcars containing only residue of PIH chemicals from the requirements of this regulation. They noted that the hazards associated with these cars was substantially reduced and thus did not make them terrorist targets.
    • Dow Chemical suggested that the FRA should use its statutory authority under49 U.S.C. § 333 to convene meetings with railroads and their customers to work out agreements for alternative routes across different railroad lines. The current rule requires that railroads consider the use of interchange agreements to effect a more secure alternative route.

    California Public Utilities Commission

    • The California Public Utilities Commission wants all hazardous materials listed in 49 CFR Section 172.101. They suggest that all of these chemicals present a potential terrorist target when transported by rail.
    • The California Public Utilities Commission wants the economic assessment of routes to include the economic consequences of a release. The point in particular to the target potential of spills into critical waterways in California that could deny drinking water to large portions of the state.

    Friends of the Earth

    • The Friends of the Earth 19 page comment document can be summarized as expressing the belief that the rule does nothing to require re-routing, does nothing to protect urban populations (particularly those in High Threat Urban Areas), and is nothing more than a good-old-boy-network agreement to protect railroads from having to deal with re-routing legislation and regulations of various cities counties and states.

    Appeal of Adverse Rail Routing Decisions Rule

    Comments are to be submitted by June 16, 2008. No comments have been posted since the proposed rule was published.


    The issue of routing of railcars transporting highly hazardous chemicals, especially Toxic Inhalation Hazard (TIH) chemicals is a very emotional, highly charged political issue in many areas. The use of a rail car of chlorine or anhydrous ammonia as a large chemical munition in a terrorist attack on an urban area is a nightmare scenario for many security planners.

    While there are many chemical facilities that are much more of a potential target, most local governments are willing to live with that risk since they derive benefits from those facilities; taxes and jobs provide a good economic incentive to work with those facilities. Railroads on the other hand pay relatively few taxes to local governments and are directly responsible for veryfew jobs.

    Add to that the fact that most of these railcars are transiting the local area and may not provide any direct benefit to the local economy, and it is little wonder that local governments want little to do with having to perhaps respond to these railcars as weapons of mass destruction. It should be of no surprise that many jurisdictions are trying to get railroads to route these chemicals around their citizens.

    Economic chaos would result if any legal jurisdiction could dictate what cargos could be carried through their boundaries. This is a clear case where the "promote interstate commerce" clause of the constitution should be brought to bear. A clear rule specifying how rail routing decisions should be made with respect to these highly hazardous chemicals is certainly required. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be that rule.

    The rule as published requires nothing more than a paperwork drill. The fact that the railroads do not have to get their analysis approved or even verified by the regulatory agency insures that this is a paper tiger. The promised review by visiting inspectors is of little consequence.

    I’ll be overly generous and grant that the railroads will attempt to complete the required analysis. The problem is that there are no real tools provided for accomplishing this gargantuan task. Even if only the 27 listed factors are taken into consideration, this is not an analysis that can be done on paper for routes of more than a couple of miles in length.

    The only way that a route analysis could be used as a tool to compare the safety and security of alternative routes would be if there were numerical values assigned to the risk factors at various locations along the route. This can realistically only be done by using a sophisticated computer model. Until the federal government, and the FRA in particular, develop such a model any route analysis that is being done will be just a paperwork exercise required to placate courts along those routes.

    Saturday, May 17, 2008

    National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center

    I ran across a brief article on about the establishment of Regional Incident Survey Teams. According to the article the International Association of Fire Chiefs is looking for people to apply to be on one of the five survey teams that will provide field support for the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center.

    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> 

    The fusion center under development is a cooperative effort of the IAFC and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the U.S. DOT. Its purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse for information for first responders about Hazmat incidents. As such it will collect information on hazmat incidents, provide analysis of that information and disseminate the information and analysis to the hazmat responder community.


    With PHMSA being the lead federal agency (though certainly not the only federal agency involved), it would seem inevitable that the primary focus will be on hazmat incidents in transportation. This focus would seem reasonable with so many hazmat response incidents involving transportation issues. Having said that I am hoping that incidents at fixed sites receive appropriate attention.


    Hazmat Responders in Incident Response Planning


    This would seem to be an appropriate place to remind chemical facility planners to remember that part of any site security plan should be the Incident Response Plan. While the main focus of the site security plan is rightfully the prevention of a hazmat release due to a successful terrorist attack, any realistic plan should include provisions for dealing with the consequences of a successful attack.


    Since local hazmat teams are going to be involved in any such response, they should be intimately involved in the process of developing the Incident Response Plan. The NHMFC should help to develop protocols for developing such plans. Such standards would be a great assistance to high-risk chemical facilities and their local hazmat teams across the country.


    Chemical Vulnerability Information Requirements


    If hazmat teams are going to be involved in the development of Incident Response Plans for high-risk chemical facilities, they need to be cleared for access to Chemical Vulnerability Information (CVI). This is not an onerous requirement. The on-line training is readily available and it does not take long to complete.


    Hazmat teams do need to be made aware of the need to complete the training and obtaining the associated DHS certification. This is another area that the NHMFC can take the lead. Encouraging local hazmat teams to complete this training is a first step to making these teams an integral part of the incident response planning process.

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    To Stop an Attack, Spot the Surveillance

    There is an interesting article over on about some high level assassinations in Mexico’s internal war with drug lords. While the article is not really about chemical facility security, the authors, Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, make a couple of very good points that anyone involved in security at any level should constantly reminded of; any target can be successfully attacked. All it takes to make a successful attack against even the hardest target is enough firepower.

    Conflict Between Offense and Defense

    The better defended the target the greater the firepower required to conduct a successful attack. From the attacker’s point of view, better planning can reduce the amount of firepower required. Planning relies on detailed analysis of the target and that requires surveillance. The better the defenses, the more extensive the surveillance must be.

    Military personnel understand this well since they are trained to both attack and defend. When given the mission to defend they do their best to disguise and camouflage their preparations. More importantly they keep an active eye out for the enemies approaching surveillance teams. They know that the early identification of that surveillance gives advanced warning of an impending attack.

    Differences Between Security and Defense

    The main difference between Security and military defense is philosophical; defense strives to stop the enemy attack from taking the facility while Security strives to prevent the attack. This security orientation is clearly spelled out in the CFATS regulations {Section 27.230(a)(4)}; "Deter, detect, and delay an attack, creating sufficient time between detection of an attack and the point at which the attack becomes successful" to allow for an appropriate response.

    One of the best ways to deter an attack is to have such formidable appearing defenses that the terrorist decides that he has a chance of success only by attacking some other facility. This means that a significant portion of the security measures should be clearly visible to outsiders in order to act as a deterrent.

    Unfortunately, that means that those visible security measures can be dealt with as part of a planned and well executed terrorist attack on the facility. Additional layers of defenses will be needed to delay the successful attack long enough for an off-site response from security forces or for local law enforcement to arrive on the scene.

    The Successful Terrorist Attack Requires Surveillance

    The intelligent (and thus potentially more successful) terrorist realizes that the readily visible security measures are only the first line of protection for the high-risk chemical facility, designed to be visible to deter an attack. To locate the second and third layers of protection that are designed to delay the successful attack, the intelligent terrorist will have to conduct a surveillance operation.

    The well executed surveillance operation will use multiple methods to collect the necessary information. Those methods fall into three general categories:

    • Insider Information
    • Remote Observation
    • Covert Inspection

    Insider Information

    Insider information is obtained from personnel working within the facility perimeter. This can come from employees, contractors or vendors. It can be provided by sympathizers to the terrorist cause, personnel with grudges or just people seeking easy money. Extortion and even friendly conversation may provide the terrorist with elements of insider information. Even partial information is valuable in that it can inform the planning for additional surveillance.

    The loss of insider information can be stemmed by a comprehensive personnel surety program and a personal understanding of the people working on the site by all levels of management and supervision. A proactive concern about all on-site personnel as people will go a long way to prevent the cooperative provision of insider information.

    Remote Observation

    When most people think of surveillance they think of someone watching a facility from a parked vehicle or hiding in the bushes, using a camera or binoculars to make detailed observations of the target over a period of time. This off-site surveillance is remote observation. While this is certainly an effective way of conducting remote observation, a large number of technologies now available greatly expands the number of available options for this form of surveillance.

    Small video cameras can be placed around the perimeter of the facility to collect a large amount of information without attracting much attention. Radio frequencies can be monitored to collect procedural information from employee conversations over handheld radios. Internet based video surveillance systems that form part of the facility security system can be hacked to provide information. Even commercial satellite photography can be used.

    Covert Inspection

    Covert inspection requires a member (or members) of the terrorist organization to enter the facility to gather on-site information. This can take the form of surreptitious penetration of the facility perimeter through a variety of standard commando techniques. It can also call for impersonation of a person that has some level of access to the facility like a truck driver or delivery person.

    In either case the purpose of the covert inspection is to obtain as much detailed information about the layout and security details of the facility as is possible. The information will include details about the types and models of security devices, layout of the facility and locations of key chemical storage areas, control systems, and power distribution equipment. Measurements will be made or photographs taken to allow for derivation of the required measurements.

    Counter-Surveillance Operations

    A critical part of any security plan is the plan for counter-surveillance operations. The purpose of counter-surveillance is two fold: 1) the early detection of surveillance operations, and 2) preventing the surveillance operation from gathering adequate intelligence for planning and executing a successful terrorist attack. The successful completion of the first goal can allow government counter-terrorism personnel to round up the attackers before the attack is initiated.

    Security personnel require special training to be effective at counter-surveillance operations. They have to be aggressive in looking for remote observation; checking parked vehicles near the facility perimeter; communicating information about repetitive vehicle or personnel sightings; and investigating unusual equipment and trash outside the perimeter.

    Non-security facility personnel also need to be trained to look for the signs of covert inspection and personal approaches designed to obtain insider information. Personnel need to have a method of communicating information about suspicious activity to security personnel so that it can be included in the data analysis portion of the counter-surveillance plan. No such information should be belittled or ignored; there is no telling what piece of information will provide the final indicator of terrorist surveillance.

    Security planners at high-risk chemical facilities must remember that they cannot possibly provide absolute protection of the facility against a successful attack; any defense or security system can be overcome with adequate firepower. A good security plan, however, will decrease the probability of a successful terrorist attack by having a good counter-surveillance plan in place, designed to detect the terrorists before the successful attack has even been planned.

    /* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */