Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Detection vs Response

There is an interesting discussion underway on the Linkedin group for pipeline security. A group member noted that he was working on a proposal for a pipeline security project and asked for input from the group. As one would expect a number of vendor representatives jumped in with response touting their product lines. One of the more interesting responses came from Ed Clark, a long time reader, commenter and financial supporter of this blog (Contributions are graciously accepted – see donation box to the right). He noted:

“OK, quiz time, after we spend a ton of money to detect a potential threat, how do you respond? If you cannot stop the intruder, you are just recording the crime.”
This points out a clear problem for many security plans, intrusion detection is covered in some detail, usually with multiple overlapping programs, but intruder interception is not provided for as well. This is a subject that I have dealt with in a number of different blog posts (see my series on security forces at chemical facilities), but I want to come back to it once again; the use of armed guards in a security plan.

First off, it is clear that not all facilities need to have an armed response force to adequate protect their facility against a terrorist attack. Facilities with only theft/diversion COI on site do not really need to stop the theft of those chemicals (though it is certainly preferable). If the theft is identified quickly enough that the local police agencies can stop the chemicals in transit, that certainly prevents subsequent attacks using those materials. Armed guards are not needed for this type response; recording/reporting the crime is adequate.

For facilities with release COI, particularly release – toxic COI in significant quantities, any security plan that does not provide for a means to stop an armed attacker is a waste of time and resources. Some sort of armed response force is going to be necessary. The question that must be addressed in the site security plan is whether the facility will maintain that force (typically with a contract guard company) or whether they will have to rely on local law enforcement agencies.

There are two major draw backs to using law enforcement personnel. The first and most obvious is the response time issue. To effectively use the local law enforcement agency (LEA), a facility will have to have a good understanding of the response time for both a single patrol car and a tactical team (SWAT). Then the physical security measures must be designed to delay an attacker long enough to allow for that known response time. It takes lots of barriers to slow an attacker long enough to identify the attack and allow for SWAT to arrive.

The second major problem is a training issue, hazard communication and facility lay out. An LEA response force needs to be fully aware of the chemical hazards on site and their potential effects on their response plan. They need to be tactically aware of what tanks and process equipment may absolutely not be penetrated by flying bullets and what areas may be expected to present a flammable atmosphere where the simple discharge of a firearm might lead to a catastrophic fire and or explosion. Simply giving them a facility map with those areas designated will not provide the situational awareness necessary to avoid these problems in a live fire response situation.

A tactical response force is going to need to have frequent, comprehensive access to the facility to effectively respond to an armed attacker. Anything less at a high-risk chemical facility will just make that armed response part of the terrorist attack. This certainly suggests that a private, dedicated armed response force is needed.

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