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Buffering Critical Assets

DHS, local law enforcement develop security plans for sensitive sites

March 29, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 13

The Department of Homeland Security is working with local law enforcement to develop security response plans for 1,700 critical assets, including chemical facilities, nuclear power plants, railroads, and national monuments. DHS hopes to have these so-called buffer zone protection plans in place by Sept. 30.

Unlike after-the-fact emergency response plans, these security response plans will outline steps to be taken to detect, deter, and defend against terrorist attacks at critical assets. If properly designed, these buffer zone plans will make potential targets less attractive to terrorists and give law enforcement and facilities as much warning as possible before an attack. To that end, the plans will have to improve communications and intelligence between critical assets and what an official in DHS's Information Analysis & Infrastructure Protection Directorate calls "first preventers," or local law enforcement.

The official explains a buffer zone plan as "a tool local law enforcement will use to get resources—funding for equipment and training—from DHS" to address security shortfalls. Through its various grant programs, DHS will help 500 of the 1,700 critical assets it has identified—so-called high-value targets—initiate additional antiterror measures.

Buffer zone plans are being developed in consultation with critical facilities personnel and are seen as complementing the facilities' own security plans. DHS officials met with chemical industry representatives in January.

"ACC thinks the buffer zone protection program is a good idea, one consistent with Responsible Care's security code," says Dorothy Kellogg, American Chemistry Council's senior director for facility safety and security.

Under the worst-case scenario, EPA has said that up to 1 million people could be killed if any of 123 specified chemicals facilities were attacked.


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