Chemical Plant Security Solutions

Refining Industry Standards

While maintaining security at any industrial facility is essential, not all such facilities have the stringent government security standards applied to them that most chemical plants do.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act of 2007 gave the DHS the authority to regulate the nation’s highest-risk chemical facilities. In 2007 the DHS also published the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), which requires “high–risk” chemical facilities to enhance security and establish new procedures for protecting chemical facility security information.

Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, or CFATS, compliance makes the demands of security far more challenging than that of most other industrial sites. CFATS is the nation’s regulatory program focused specifically on security for high-risk chemical facilities.

The CFATS program is currently managed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security oversight, which was established in November 2018 with the signing of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018.

The primary function of the CFATS program is to identify and regulate high-risk chemical facilities in the United States to ensure that security measures are in place to reduce the risk of certain hazardous chemicals being weaponized by terrorists.

The Biggest Threats to Your Chemical Plants and Related Facilities

Data on the actual number of security breaches at U.S. chemical plants is not publicly available, however. 

For example, according to an article from Chemistry World,

3300 chemical facilities in the US are classed as high-risk, meaning they use at least one of the 300 chemicals of interest. Included on this list are toxic and explosive compounds such as chlorine and cyclopropane, but also chemicals that might not be immediately dangerous if released but could be converted into weapons if stolen.

The threat to chemical plants and related facilities often originates from within as well as from outside. 

For example, in 2016 the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (Nist) was the subject of a major security violation when a member of the agency’s security force caused an explosion in one of its Maryland campus labs while illegally making methamphetamine.

Unfortunately, a series of subsequent security failures continued to occur at Nist, whose mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. Members of Congress discussed the situation during a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in October 2017 where they were briefed on several other serious security lapses at Nist.

“In April 2016, a member of the public managed to enter a secured facility at the agency’s Boulder, Colorado, campus, according to the top Democrat on the committee’s oversight subcommittee, Don Beyer. In addition, he said a paraglider landed on the grounds of the agency’s same campus in May 2017.”

Although black market peddling of chemicals is a threat, a full-scale attack on the public or military facilities using weaponized chemicals is an even more pressing concern. According to a fact sheet released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),

“A wide variety of chemicals could be made, stolen, or otherwise acquired for use in an attack. Industrial chemical plants or the vehicles used to transport chemicals could also be sabotaged.”

The complexity of most chemical plant facilities and the large areas they cover combine to make security an ongoing and dynamic function. In contrast, most nuclear facilities, which should be prime targets for theft or sabotage, remain relatively safe from security breaches. In fact, according to one author writing in Forbes magazine,

“How many attacks were there on nuclear plants during that time? Zero. What about foiled plots? Also, zero. In fact, there is zero evidence that any terrorist anywhere has planned an attack on a nuclear plant, much less tried to carry one out, since 9/11.

But didn’t the 9/11 hijackers consider flying a jet plane into a nuclear plant? They did — and quickly discarded the idea, choosing instead to crash jets into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the White House. Why?

“They thought a nuclear target would be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted,” reported the 9/11 Commission, “making reconnaissance flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot down before impact.”

Fortunately, in the United States, there have been almost no major attacks on the public at large, or on targeted individuals or agencies, using chemical or biological substances. 

Aside from an intentionally caused outbreak of salmonella in Oregon in 1984 that sickened more than 750 people, the only known attack occurred in late 2001 when five people were killed and 17 more injured from anthrax-laced letters that were mailed to federal officials in Washington DC and news media offices in multiple locations. Many of the casualties were among postal workers.

This attack, however, serves to highlight the seriousness of the threat to chemical plant security.

According to sources, the anthrax used in this incident was a common genetic strain and had been treated to maximize its tendency to be aerosolized. The genetic strain, as well as the method of weaponization, led investigators to believe that the perpetrator(s) most likely had access to U.S. bioweapons research facilities.

The Challenge of Chemical Plant Security

Providing security for both the property and chemicals on-site at chemical plants is an ongoing task that is complicated by CFATS as well as the technological and logistical challenges. 

The likelihood of a successful attack is dependent on a combination of the type of threats, of possible attack scenarios, the vulnerability and the attractiveness of chemical plants, and the effectiveness of the security countermeasures.

The challenge for facility owners and management is three-fold: to successfully anticipate any and all likely and potential threats to plant security, to successfully maintain CFATS compliance, and to implement the measures and technology needed to achieve the first two challenges. 

This dilemma was summarized well in a 2006 report from the Department of Homeland Security,

“The chemical industry is voluntarily addressing plant security, but faces challenges in preparing against terrorism. Some industry associations require member companies to assess plants’ vulnerabilities, develop and implement plans to mitigate vulnerabilities, and have a third party verify that security measures were implemented. Other associations have developed security guidelines and other tools to encourage their members to address security.

While voluntary efforts are underway, industry officials said that they face challenges in preparing facilities against terrorism, including high costs and limited guidance on how much security is adequate.”

man breaking into apartment
chemical plant security solution

Shortly after the issuing of that report, the DHS published the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), which established procedures and guidance for protecting chemical facility security information.

But, for most chemical plants and similar facilities, the cost of implementing and maintaining the required security apparatus remains high.

The Role of Security Guards for Chemical Plant Security

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) requires the ability to analyze and assess a high-risk facility’s security measures and any vulnerabilities it may have regarding its use of chemicals of interest. This analysis and assessment also extends to any policies, procedures, and resources that are components of the facility’s security plan.

The assessments are achieved using a Security Vulnerability Assessment, or SVA, that must be submitted by the facility’s management. In addition, there is an assessment of the facility’s critical assets, which is, an asset whose theft, diversion, loss, damage, disruption, or degradation would result in a significant adverse impact to human life, national security, or a critical economic asset, according to the CISA.

Along with these two assessments, high-risk chemical facilities are required to submit a Site Security Plan, or SSP, which allows facility management to describe existing or planned security measures appropriate for the risk level tier assigned to the facility and for any unique considerations of the facility.

Any facility SSP must meet the CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards (RBPS).

The Guidance is based on the performance standards established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS defines a “performance standard” as,

 “[A] standard [that] specifies the outcome required but leaves the specific measures to achieve that outcome up to the discretion of the regulated entity. In contrast to a design standard or a technology-based standard that specifies exactly how to achieve compliance, a performance standard sets a goal and lets each regulated entity decide how to meet it.”

This means that the CFATS program allows a chemical facility the flexibility to choose the most cost-effective method for achieving their required level of security.

The CISA provides a CFATS RBPS Guidance document to help high-risk chemical facilities choose security measures and activities such as perimeter security, access control, personnel security, and cybersecurity.

A critical component for meeting these performance standards is on-site security personnel. In most situations, in-house or third-party security services will be relied upon to:

  • Manage visitors, vendors, and suppliers using access control systems and managed services. 
  • Mitigate terrorist attacks and events using threat intelligence and situational awareness platforms.
  • Ensure business continuity and asset protection during periods of civil unrest or disaster. 
  • Protect hazardous areas or assets with security devices and remote video monitoring.
  • Identify security breaches and incidents using intrusion and detection monitoring equipment. 

In fact, there are many tasks that on-site security staff are accountable for. 

For example, among other security-related functions, the site security plan developed under CFATS must address the following “risk-based performance standards.”

  • Secure and monitor the perimeter of the facility
  • Secure and monitor restricted areas or potentially critical targets within the facility
  • Control access to the facility
    • Measures to deter unauthorized introduction of dangerous substances and devices
    • Measures implementing a regularly updated identification system that checks the identification of facility personnel
  • Deter vehicles from penetrating the facility perimeter
  • Secure and monitor the shipping and receipt of hazardous materials for the facility
  • Deter theft or diversion of potentially dangerous chemicals
  • Deter insider sabotage

Essentially, the security management must understand how to protect a chemical plant facility. This involves, for example, proper design of security fences and vehicle gates, intrusion detection systems, surveillance systems, site access control systems, security procedures, cyber security procedures, as well as the proper training and qualification of security personnel.

Chemical Plant Security: Beyond Passive Video Surveillance Systems

However, while the performance standards do allow for flexibility, they still mandate thresholds that must be achieved in order to be approved by the DHS. The list of distinct standards includes requirements to:

  • Restrict Area Perimeter: Secure and monitor the perimeter of the facility
  • Secure Site Assets: Secure and monitor restricted areas or potentially critical targets within the facility
  • Deter, Detect, and Delay: Deter, detect, and delay an attack, creating sufficient time between detection of an attack and the point at which the attack becomes successful
  • Monitoring: Maintain effective monitoring, communications, and warning systems 

video surveillance monitoring camera

Along with the other mandatory performance standards, these require an extensive and comprehensive security and surveillance system of some type for most every chemical plant facility. 

For example, here is the “Restrict Area Perimeter” performance standard for the lowest “high-risk” designation, a Tier 4 facility:

“The facility has a perimeter security and monitoring system that enables the facility to delay a portion of attempted adversary penetrations and channel personnel and vehicles to access control points; including a system to monitor and report unauthorized penetrations of the facility perimeter.”

In comparison, a Tier 1 facility, has the following standard:

“The facility has an extremely vigorous perimeter security and monitoring system that enables the facility to thwart most adversary penetrations and channel personnel and vehicles to access control points; including a perimeter intrusion detection and reporting system with multiple additive detection techniques that can demonstrate an extremely low probability that perimeter penetration would be undetected.”

What is needed for all four tiers of facilities to meet these stringent performance standards is a real-time, interactive security surveillance system.

An ideal solution would be an advanced security and surveillance technology to replace your existing camera network with an interactive security system. This is because video surveillance and security camera systems, while having capabilities far and beyond the limits of human security personnel on the ground, still have limits.

For example, cameras cannot intervene, engage, or sound a warning. At best, their mere presence can be a deterrent much of the time. However, security cameras can be bypassed, vandalized, destroyed, or simply ignored. 

And all that chemical plant security manager or other security personnel can do is review the video footage and watch the event after the fact.

A Smart Security Solution for

Chemical Plants & Chemical Storage Facilities

Unless a facility can be monitored comprehensively and consistently 24/7 without fail, the entire security surveillance system is only as effective as the gaps in its coverage. The dynamic nature of security measures, criminal or terrorist threats, evolving technology, means that up-to-date and state-of-the-art solutions are required to ward off new or repeated attempts to breach security.

This is illustrated by the continuing threat of cyberattacks and the increasing number of cyber experts who must constantly monitor digital infrastructures at chemical facilities.

o bring it to the level of chemical plant security, what may have been sufficient 15 or 20 years ago isn’t sufficient today.

Today, with the mandates of CISA and the CFATS regulatory program, stringent security requirements and performance standards dictate that chemical plants implement the best tools, equipment, and security measures possible to ensure perimeter security, control facility access, and detect unauthorized persons, and compliance with Department of Homeland Security CFATS rules.

A critical component of these measures is an extensive and comprehensive system of surveillance video cameras to provide real-time visual monitoring of the entire complex. 

Also, in addition to facility safety and security purposes, the ability to quickly and easily obtain and access a high-quality digital record of events that have taken place on-site can be critical for training and security measure enhancement reasons, as well as for possible law enforcement needs. 

If a security breach has occurred and recorded, the video footage may be useful for the identification and possible apprehension of a perpetrator(s).

In conjunction with recorded video surveillance, a chemical plant security strategy solution will certainly include on-site security personnel in various capacities. This would likely include uniformed guards posted at key locations throughout a facility and numerous security checkpoints for access, entry, and exits.

But a smart security solution goes beyond static video surveillance and security measures. As a post at the International Society of Automation website notes,

“Today, companies have an urgent need to make improvements to their overall security practices and systems to protect intellectual and physical assets. From the physical perspective, users require a solution that integrates multiple security technologies. This facilitates automated processes that give the ability to deter, detect, delay, deny, and defend—and thus prevent and mitigate a wide range of potential hazards.”

Smart Technology:
The Ultimate Solution for Comprehensive Chemical Plant Security

AI Blackbox Technology

Active Intercept

Proactive Prevention

The “ultimate” video security system would have the ability to not only “see” threats, but to interact with and engage individuals attempting to trespass, steal property, or commit some other criminal act in real-time. 

This is possible with an advanced system that is able to analyze and assess each event. This ultimate system incorporates both human intelligence at a remote site, along with artificial intelligence (AI) integrated into the existing video cameras.

In other words, it is a “smart” video surveillance system.

Fortunately, this surveillance system is available from Blue Eye.

Using the SmartHub we can transform your existing camera network into an interactive security system. With our process, your facility’s existing cameras become sensors and our AI software allows those cameras to actively monitor your property for threats of illegal activity and security breaches.

In addition, our AI system provides analytics processing that can trigger a response to a security threat detected at your facility. This means an alarm is immediately sent to our command center where our Video Surveillance Technicians (VSTs) respond to the threat in real-time by assessing the situation and taking appropriate action.

This can range from simply issuing a verbal warning broadcast over the on-board loudspeaker system, to calling the police or your contracted security service provider. 

Fortunately, our direct audio system actually stops incidents from escalating almost 99 percent of the time, so there is rarely a need to dispatch the police or security personnel.

Best of all, this smart security system solution is far more affordable than the cost of a live security guard presence on-site.

Your Cameras, Our Technology

With Blue Eye as your chemical plant security partner, our approach of using both artificial and human intelligence will provide your facility with a robust and compliant solution utilizing the cameras you already have installed.

Our AI software technology enhancement can turn your current security cameras into detection and breach sensors that will analyze and even anticipate threats. The result is a real-time, interactive surveillance system using advanced security and surveillance technology to transform your video camera network into a stealth security system.

Blue Eye’s proprietary managed service platform provides you with state-of-the-art technology and performance that will equip your facility with a highly advanced security network.

With AI-enhanced video surveillance from Blue Eye, our remote personnel safely maintain video monitoring in a secure environment and have the ability to dispatch security or police to your property, if needed.

By using both AI and human intelligence, our approach allows for an effective security solution, while utilizing the existing video cameras installed at your chemical plant or storage property.

At Blue Eye, we have proven experience in the chemical security industry, and we understand the particular challenges and needs that your business faces to comply with DHS and CFATS.

We work with the largest names in the industry and our DHS-approved solutions will keep your facility more secure while significantly lowering your monthly costs. And complying with CFATS does not have to be overly complicated or expensive with our solution.

If you would like to learn more about our unique approach to provide security for your site, call us at 855.258.3662 or email us at [email protected] and let us design an effective solution for your business!

See What Our Clients Say About Us

“Install was smooth and easy with the team from Blue Eye working with my IT staff. We had no issues with install at all. During the life of the contract when cameras get dirty or have issues the Blue Eye team will let you know and other than that there have been no issues or concerns. It truly is install the service and no more staying awake at night worrying about the stores.”
Marty Smith | Director of Compliance & Facilities | The Evergreen Market

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