Building Corporate Castles

Homeland defense affects business. Fortunately, many items are already in place that represent the various aspects of force protection.

WHEN terrorists attack, the President of the United States is sent to an "undisclosed location" for protection. The Vice President of the United States is sent to a different "undisclosed location." In England, the Queen has ordered a high-tech "panic room" to be built inside Buckingham Palace. The Sunday Times reported that the Queen's chambers will have 18-inch-thick steel walls and will provide protection from bombings, gas attacks, and attacks by light aircraft.

These examples illustrate how government agencies are protecting key people. If a major corporation lost some of its key people because of terrorist activity, the results could be catastrophic. The loss to Microsoft or Ford Motor Co. of their leader would have a dramatic result on stock prices and their ability to complete in the world market. While the loss of any worker to an accident affects the company, key individuals have a larger impact.

If the corporate headquarters were attacked by terrorists and stopped activity, the company may fail. Most companies have insurance against this type of business interruption. However, after September 11, many insurance companies notified businesses that the policy excluded acts of terrorism.

Companies are familiar with the concept of direct and indirect costs of accidents. Safety professionals stress the direct payments of worker's compensation and medical expenses along with indirect costs that the company may not be aware of, such as such as loss of productivity, management time spent investigating incidents, and the time it takes to get new workers to operate the equipment as efficiently as it was running before. Insurance premiums and the Experience Modification factor come into play when promoting safety policies.

Another key element for the safety professional to keep in mind is the ever-present Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the General Duty Clause, which drives OSHA to require that employers provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA has kept up with the changes in the world as it affects workplace safety and continues to provide assistance to companies to ensure safe work areas. For example, the recently modified rule on egress went into effect last December; it allows companies to use National Fire Protection Association standards and establish a place of refuge for egress participants. It sounds sort of like the panic room for the Queen, doesn't it?

As the Department of Homeland Security molds its internal organization, it becomes apparent that it may be some time before DHS officials are able to help small businesses. The department has grown, and some of the key elements are in place. Many state and local governments are still waiting for help from Washington that may never come becaus of the economic situation that currently exists.

However, the government realizes private companies own a large portion of the American infrastructure targeted by terrorists. These businesses must pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The White House has identified critical infrastructure that will most likely be targeted by terrorists. Naturally, the list includes government offices, Post Offices, military installations, and national landmarks. Other locations that are often in private hands include events with large attendance and audiences, power and water facilities, corporate headquarters, transportation terminals, and fuel and chemical depots.

Many items are already in place that represent the various aspects of force protection and homeland security, including security forces, guards, and safety committees. OSHA has programs on violence in the workplace, chemical protection, fire prevention, emergency action plans, respiratory protection, and other regulated activities should be in place at companies.

The world has changed drastically in recent years. Leaders at all levels, in government and private sectors, are beginning to look at terrorist acts as a loss that can be prevented. By expanding the principles of risk management and occupational safety to include intentional accidents, safety professionals can apply the principles of risk reduction to homeland defense. When it comes to violence in the workplace or terrorism, we may have to develop a new term for the incident. Let's use the term "Intentional Accident" for sake of discussion to describe accidents that result from terrorism.

Consider the facility or workplace to be a castle that has to be defended. In the medieval days, the owner of the castle would build a moat with a drawbridge around the castle to keep the bad guys outside. Inside the castle were support systems to allow the inhabitants to quickly and safely move around and obtain food and water. There were safe havens established, such as the "castle keeps" in the center of the castle. In the event of a total failure of the castle fortification, often there were escape routes so the owner and his family and workers could escape.

Assume there are two castles on the coast and the Vikings were attacking. While both castles are built to defend against the Vikings, one castle has been improved. Its walls are a little thicker, the moat is filled with crocodiles, and its drawbridge is made of solid oak, hardened with steel bands. The other castle is the normal, run-of-the-mill castle of the time. The Vikings know which castle is weak and which has been "hardened," through the use of spies and people who talk in the villages. The Vikings are not going to attack the hardened castle when they can achieve their ends by attacking the softer target. By using a concept of hardening targets, the coastline could be protected. If all the castles on the coastline were hardened, the Vikings would seek another, less formidable, coastline to attack.

The same strategy can apply to any facility, building, structure, or organization. If all of the automotive plants in Detroit were hardened to such an extent that terrorists could not achieve their goal, the auto industry would not be threatened. (And the industry as an SIC code might be able to reduce its insurance rates!) It is important to realize that this requires planning, and once the bad guys are beating at your door it is too late to begin to dig an escape tunnel. Establishing a secure building and presenting an appearance of security prompt attackers to look for an easier target. In this first article in a series, we'll look at some of the things companies should do to protect their facilities.

10 Things Companies Should Have in Place Right Now

  • Hazard Communication
  • Process Safety Management plans, for chemical plants
  • Emergency Action Plan--Fire Prevention Plan
  • Egress marking and access
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Alarm system
  • Walking surfaces
  • Ladders for rescue operations
  • General Duty Clause awareness
  • Hazardous Waste Operations, if necessary.
  • Defining the Threat
    Like the government, businesses may be required to reorganize their assets to protect their workers. Some firms have merged security and safety functions into one office, while others have formed task forces with staff from both offices that report directly to the CEO.

    Think of the CEO as the King, and the castle example becomes clearer. The CEO is responsible for everything the company does or fails to do and surrounds himself with loyal staff. That staff must address the issue of homeland defense as it would any other business situation. The questions that need answering are:

    1. Who is going to attack?

    2. What are they going to attack with?

    3. What can we do to stop that attack?

    4. If we can't stop it, how can we lessen the impact?

    5. Where can we get help?

    Future articles in the series will address numbers 2-5. Right now, the question of who is going to attack your company is important. Naturally, Al-Queda comes to mind. They are a threat, but there may be more immediate threats to your firm. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a local office that keeps track of domestic terrorists in your area. It is important to recognize that not all terrorists come from outside the United States. In 1984 a domestic terrorist group attempted to poison people in Oregon and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing demonstrated these organizations exist. They come in the form of militias, tax protesters, neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan chapters, and others.

    Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government or civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives. By that definition, the bombing of abortion clinics, spiking trees to protect forests, spray-painting fur coats to protest animal cruelty, or attacking fast food restaurant employees because they serve meat are all forms of terrorism. The types of attack methods used by these domestic terrorist groups and Al-Queda's operatives are essentially the same. The prudent firm would do well to develop plans and policies to deal with these situations. We'll discuss this in the next article.

    Web sites for More Information

    www.wisafety.com

    Source of training material

    www.amazon.com

    Source for homeland defense books

    www.wmdtaskforce.com

    Source of assistance for homeland defense

    www.cdc.gov

    U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    www.fas.org/

    Intelligence for Homeland Defense

    www.nocompromise.org/issues/issue_index_alf.html

    This site for the Animal Liberation Front lists what they've done

    www.stopecoviolence.com/

    A site dedicated to stopping eco-terrorism

    This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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