Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 Update for CFATS Program – 3-27-20

Today the CISA Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) published a notice in the ‘Latest News’ section of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Knowledge Center concerning the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the CFATS program. The notice also provides a link to a document providing additional information signed by Brian Harrell, the CISA Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security, the component of CISA in which the ISCD resides.

Knowledge Center Notice

The notice makes two essential points. First, earlier this week ISCD began postponing and rescheduling all site visits by ISCD Chemical Security Inspectors. This is being done in support of the isolation and social distancing prevention program in place across the country. The notice makes it clear that these inspections and assistance visits will resume as the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

Second, the notice reiterates that the CFATS regulations remain in effect and that facilities are still required to fulfill their reporting requirements and continue full implementation of their approved site security plans. With regards to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their facilities, ISCD notes:

“We are encouraging facilities to consider what compensatory measures they may need to put in place to continue to secure their critical assets if their designated personnel are unable to perform their security duties due to illness or quarantine.”

Infrastructure Security Letter

Director Harrell’s letter re-emphasizes the comments made in the notice. It also provides responses to four questions that CISA expects facilities to be asking:

• When will I be contacted to reschedule inspections and visits?
• What should I do if our security has been impacted and I need assistance with compensatory measures?
• What should I do if my COI is missing or has been released?
• I am unable to complete my in-progress Top-Screen or Site Security Plan by the current due date due to COVID-19 response. How do I request an extension?

In response to the first question, Harrell makes an important point:

“In these rare cases, our personnel will coordinate with you in advance of arrival to discuss health and safety requirements in place at your facility.”


I think that this is a reasonable response to an unexpected national emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic may have reduced the threat to chemical facilities from international terrorists; international travel has, after all, been severely impacted. It seems that there might be an increase in the threat from domestic terrorist action; there has been at least one preempted attack on a hospital that was related to the COVID-19 epidemic. Chemical facilities must remain vigilant, this applies to both chemical security and chemical safety vigilance.

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