• United States



Chemical Perceptions

Mar 01, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Disaster Planning Are companies that house large amounts of hazmats prepared for a terrorist attack? According to a recent survey, not as well as they should be. New Perspectives Consulting Group and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) found that 54 percent of the PACE workers surveyed at 125 sites said they faced a medium or high likelihood of a catastrophic event from a terrorist attack. Only 38 percent said their companies had taken effective action to prepare and respond to an attack.

The safety and security of employees at hazardous chemical plants and the communities near them was an issue long before the events of 9/11. The U.S. Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the establishment of risk management programs at the 15,000 sites in the United States that produce or store highly hazardous chemicalsincluding petroleum refineries and paper mills, and sites that use nuclear materials or manufacture chemicals. Those sites are now deemed potential terrorist targets.

In the area of prevention, according to 73 percent of the survey respondents, systems to guard and secure the plant had improved; 43 percent had improved their communications systems; and 38 percent had improved training and procedures to prevent terrorist attacks. Irv Rosenthal, senior fellow of risk management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says that the 73 percent number is higher than he expected. “People in business are coping with many crises. The fact that 73 percent took action with regard to terrorism on a voluntary basis, I think that’s surprisingly high,” he says.

One area Rosenthal says deserves closer attention from companies, however, is worker and community involvement. Just 21 percent of union respondents said they were informed of plans relating to preventing or responding to a terrorist attack. The entire survey can be found at