Chemical industry setting up security code in wake of nation's threat from terrorism

May 1, 2002
WAYS to improve security and an update on a Responsible Care security code still under development were two topics leading the program at the National

WAYS to improve security and an update on a Responsible Care security code still under development were two topics leading the program at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) meeting March 24-26 in San Antonio, Texas.

Robert M Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said there are three levels of security preparation companies should undertake: in-house, with various government agencies, and with high-level government officials. “You should take the initiative,” he said.

One way the industry is taking the initiative is through the American Chemistry Council's (ACC) Responsible Care program. Through the program, ACC members are committed to continuously improve the chemical industry's health, safety, and environmental performance.

As a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC, Responsible Care members are working on a new security code that can be applied across the chemical industry.

Russell D Crockett, a Lyondell Chemical Company vice-president with Responsible Care and engineering oversight, discussed the proposed code plan, which is expected to be approved in June by the ACC board of directors. Among the concerns are just what security measures companies have in place, what are the risks, and what security measures are adequate to meet a crisis.

Crockett and Gates emphasized the importance of a government/industry alliance to further the security objectives. Gates said company officials should contact local, state, and government agencies to be sure they are sharing information they may have about terrorist threats. He recommended companies prepare a paper that defines security costs and worst-case scenarios, and present it to government officials so they can understand what the industry faces.

Furthermore, he said high-level executives should contact high-level government officials, including the president, vice-president, and director of Homeland Security, and discuss the problems. “Provide experts to work with government officials,” he added.

Working with government officials not only helps the security effort, it gives industry an inside conduit to federal regulators before they establish new rules that may not be appropriate to the various situations, Gates said.

For example, Crockett said there is a Senate proposal that would levy civil and/or criminal penalties against company executives whose plants suffered a terrorist attack, which subsequently resulted in damage or personal injury.

The Responsible Care plan proposes member plants to undergo security assessment, similar to the procedure that is required to be a member of the organization. When the Responsible Care assessment is completed, plants could then implement improvement measures as necessary, Crockett said.

Another feature of the plan addresses ways to alleviate the public fear of terrorist attacks on chemical plants. A public relations program would be developed to disseminate information about the Responsible Care security program and other ways the chemical industry is working to improve safety.

Gates pointed out that top priority lies with determining the greatest risk to the greatest number of people. “You cannot create a risk-free environment in this situation,” he said.

As for the future, Gates said he does not anticipate great economic disruption as a result of the terrorist threats, but globalization is likely to slow and transportation may experience periodic disruptions. “Business may even be safer than it was before September 11 because America is active — and mad.”

The difficulties lie, he added, in sustaining public support for the nation's continued efforts to prevent terrorism.