National Security and Homeland Security – Protecting Utilities

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National Security and Homeland Security – Protecting Utilities


Warning of insider threat to utilities

A recent article from Sacramento’s states that a new intelligence bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security cautions state and local law enforcement officials about threats to private utility facilities on or before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, ABC News reported. “While DHS has no specific, credible intelligence of an imminent threat posed to the private-sector utilities, several recent incidents highlight the ongoing threat to infrastructure in the utility sectors from insiders and outsiders seeking facility-specific information that might be exploited in an attack,” DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler said. 
  Analysis by Lt. Col. Oz Hill (U.S. Army, ret.)

The security considerations in a post-9/11 world demand that leaders and decision-makers at all echelons critically consider refinement of efforts to further enhance protecting utilities and security at utility facilities.

Our disaster plans, emergency response plans, and business continuity/continuity of operations plans must be periodically reviewed and refined to ensure they are relevant in addressing the challenges presented by a dynamic and constantly evolving threat. The scope of our plans must be broader than catastrophic equipment failure, power outages, fire, chemical spills or organized labor issues.

In short, plans can no longer be simply written to address natural disasters, or a “legacy” threat array; threats in the contemporary operating environment are ever-changing.

Decision-makers must mandate that vulnerabilities and security of public utilities be continuously observed, analyzed and assessed to determine if there are issues that require corrective action or further evaluation Attention must also be given to re-evaluating standard operating procedures, crisis communications plans and emergency action plans.

Homeland Security – Protecting Utilities

Historically, utilities have been recognized as being vulnerable to acts of terrorism and sabotage. As a result, security and life-safety features are commonly incorporated in the design phase of capital improvement and construction projects. This often includes components such as: perimeter fencing, interior and exterior lighting, channelizing ingress and egress access points, fire suppression equipment, chemical leak detectors, smoke detectors, intrusion alarms, turbidity, chemical dosimeters, real time monitoring of systems and functions, and other process variables.

However, existing security systems and procedures that may have served us well in the past may not be sufficient to protect critical infrastructure against the threats we confront today or in the future.

External and Internal Risk Considerations of Protecting Utilities

Today’s security and disaster planning efforts must consider terrorist attacks by external actors and disgruntled employees within the organization.

The terrorism activities considered in the planning processes to protect our utilities/critical infrastructure should include cyber attacks, chemical contamination, biological contamination, physical destruction, and devolution of organizational functions/operational capacity. In many instances, threats are made primarily for the purposes of disrupting business/operational activities, eroding public confidence and creating confusion, chaos and fear. All threats must be taken seriously until disqualified or neutralized.

Leaders and decision-makers at all echelons must seize the moment and take advantage of every opportunity to identify and improve the security posture and emergency preparedness of our utilities/critical infrastructure.

Our meticulous and vigilant efforts must focus on ensuring these essential resources are available when needed. To this end, technical assistance is available to help organizations with the implementation of security and disaster planning best practices, which are relevant to specific types of utilities; a “cookie cutter” approach to security and disaster planning for all types of utilities may result in more challenges than are being resolved.

–Lt. Col. Oz Hill (U.S. Army, ret.), Firestorm franchise principal

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