Monday, May 5, 2008

Cloned Vehicles

There is an interesting article on HSToday.US about the security problems with cloned vehicles. A ‘cloned vehicle’ is any vehicle that has been given markings, paintjobs, or signs to make it look like a trusted vehicle. The in-depth article looks at a wide variety of government and service company vehicles that have been cloned over the last couple of years.

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The article relies heavily on a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, The Road Map to Cloned Vehicles. The study looks at 15 incidents of cloned government and private sector vehicles during the period of 2005 to 2007. The article quotes the restricted access (“law enforcement sensitive”) study as warning:


·         "... the use of government vehicles with official markings, especially those associated with friendly military, government and public safety entities, could be a means of delivering a vehicle-borne explosive device to a target site. This method could allow terrorists to bypass established security protocols and strike hardened, high-value targets."


Vehicle Borne Explosives


One of the biggest potential problems that chemical facilities with large storage tanks of highly toxic, flammable, or explosive chemicals has to deal in their site security plans is the protection of those tanks from vehicle borne explosives. This is probably the least complicated method of causing a catastrophic release at such a facility. A relatively small vehicle borne bomb would probably cause multiple tank failures, complicating response and mitigation efforts.


The first line of defense of any vehicle-borne explosive protective plan is the front gate. Chemical facilities must allow many vehicles to enter every day. Many of the delivery vehicles entering these facilities carry containers that are impractical to search. Tank trucks in particular may be impossible to search at the gate due to the hazardous nature of their contents.


Tank trucks may be the biggest potential problem. Not just because of their size (though a 5,000 gallon ammonium nitrate bomb is impressive), but because they typically are spotted near the bulk storage tanks that would be their ultimate targets. This gives them the best chance to be near enough to allow the catastrophic release of multiple chemicals.


Trusted Vehicles


Most bulk chemical deliveries are fairly routine matters. The same trucking company delivers the same chemical on a routine basis. Security guards at the delivery gate get used to seeing these vehicles. As long as the delivery is scheduled to arrive on that day, these vehicles rarely get more than a cursory inspection. The appropriately marked truck and tank wagon is, in effect, a trusted vehicle.


With a little insider information from the facility, the supplier, or even the trucking company, it would not be hard to determine when the delivery is scheduled. This would make it fairly easy to hijack the delivery truck and substitute a vehicle-borne bomb. Not only would this allow for a successful attack on the facility, but also the hazardous chemical laden truck would not be noticed as missing for a day or two at least. This chemical could then be used in a separate attack.


Layered Security Procedures


First one must understand that, as with most security situations, no single procedure will be adequate protection. Layered security procedures provide for multiple attempts to deter, detect and delay an attack. No security procedure will provide absolute protection from a determined, well-planned attack.


The first layer is the realizing that the people in your facility that order and schedule the delivery of chemicals have access to restricted information on a daily basis. These clerks and supply specialists have to be included in the personnel surety program for the facility. They should undergo the same background checks as the chemical operators.


The second layer is working with the supplier and their trucking company to provide multiple methods of verifying that a delivery vehicle is actually carrying the intended chemicals. Have the supplier fax or email copies of the paperwork to the facility shortly before the delivery is scheduled to arrive. That paperwork should include a copy of the driver’s identification. A copy of this paperwork should be given to both the gate security guard and the bulk unloader.


The third layer is delivery verification. This is done twice. First the guard at the gate verifies that the paperwork the driver carries is a duplicate of the paperwork provided by the supplier. The vehicle is then allowed inside the gate, but directed to a secure area away from the critical areas of the facility. There the bulk unloader independently verifies that the driver’s paperwork is the same as provided by the supplier.


The fourth layer is product verification. The bulk unloader obtains a sample of the material from the tank wagon and takes it to the Quality Assurance Lab to verify that it is the correct raw material. This makes it harder to substitute vehicles and helps to prevent contamination with a chemical that could cause a catastrophic reaction in the storage tank (see: “Chemical Incident Review – 4-21-08”).


The final layer is physical separation, keeping the potential vehicle-borne bomb separated from the targeted storage tanks. The easiest way to do this is to physically separate the bulk-unloading station from the storage tanks, connecting them by piping. If there is not enough room at the facility to do this, and many older facilities are land limited, then a blast wall can be placed between the bulk-unloading station and the tank farm.

Cost of Security


This example shows that security procedures do not always have to be costly. The only significant cost to the procedures outlined above is found in the final layer, the physical separation of the bulk-unloading facility and the tank farm. Depending on the level of risk at the facility, that final layer might not be required.


A properly designed layered defense will help to prevent the use of cloned vehicles in a terrorist attack. As with any defense depending on the actions of people, routine periodic verification that all procedures are being followed in very important. A security audit of these procedures must be done frequently. Not only does this audit serve to assure management that their security plans are being followed, but it is a tool used to look for potential improvements in those procedures.

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