Terrorism and Safety

Nov. 22, 2002
Since 9/11, safety professionals increasingly are involved in efforts to protect employees and facilities against the threat of terrorism. Here is expert planning advice on developing a thorough security program.

The safety profession has been profoundly impacted by the events of 9/11.

As a discipline, the safety function has been steadily assimilating the security aspects of what it means to "be safe" within the work environment. With the increase of workplace violence, employees "going postal" and acts of aggression by customers, clients, visitors and even neighbors, safety professionals have had to increase their knowledge of security and incorporate that knowledge as an integral part of their safety responsibilities. Gone are the days of security being the guards at the gate, with a wave-thru to get into the facility.

With the increased risk of terrorism, the physical protection of the facility has become the focal point of how to achieve an acceptable level of "safeness" within the confines of the facility, as well as how to keep the employees safe while performing their daily tasks.

We in the safety profession have had to re-think our positions relative to how to provide a secure and safe working environment. We've had to look at engineering safeguards, procedural methodologies and structural barriers, as well as ways to minimize the threat of biohazards, chemical hazards and even weapons of mass destruction.

It is obvious that facility security is needed to guard against external threats, such as terrorism and sabotage. Additionally, facility security should protect against internal threats such as workplace violence.

A well-planned security program will encompass a number of efforts, paying special attention to screening and background checks for personnel; training security professionals and in-house staff; preventing unauthorized entry and controlling access; actively and effectively safeguarding and protecting sensitive materials; periodically inspecting security controls and audits; establishing levels of accountability, enforcement and authorization; controlling chemical disposal efforts; developing access restrictions and controlling movement within the facility; continuously evaluating and monitoring personnel in sensitive areas; developing education programs in information security; and applying security techniques, devices, procedures and policies.

Security Management System

The guide below suggests some elements that might be incorporated into a company security management system. Some companies might need more elements than these, depending on the type of industry and the product produced.

  • Risk assessment and prevention strategies
  • Security policies
  • Collaboration with other corporate departments and with local law enforcement agencies, local emergency planning committees, etc.
  • Incident reporting systems
  • Employee training and security awareness
  • Incident investigations
  • Emergency response and crisis management
  • Periodic reassessment of the security plan for physical security, including access control, perimeter protection, intrusion detection, security officers, ongoing testing and maintenance and backup systems
  • Employee security measures (including prudent hiring and termination practices)
  • Workplace violence prevention and response
  • Information, computer and network security.

Initial Planning

The first step in constructing a solid security program is to conduct a risk/vulnerability assessment. One common and recommended risk assessment tool for all processes which could be hazardous is a Process Security Assessment (PSA). This is different than a Process Hazard Assessment (PHA), although it is recommended you conduct a PHA when hazardous chemicals are involved. A Process Security Assessment uses the same methodology as a PHA, but the purpose of the PSA is the prevention and mitigation of a hazard caused by intentional or criminal acts. These activities can include acts of terrorism, vandalism, sabotage or workplace violence.

Keep in mind that the difference in this kind of assessment is the key words intentional or criminal acts vs. accidental release. In an accidental release scenario, we are assessing the worst-case situation where the why it occurred is the key factor. In the intentional or criminal act scenario, the reason for the assessment is who could cause it and how to protect against its occurrence.

Facility security, just like design, operations and maintenance functions, is a necessary part of the management system to safely conduct operations.

Assets At Risk

The range of property that an employer may wish to protect could include some or all of the following:

  • Buildings
  • Vehicles
  • Production equipment
  • Storage tanks and process vessels
  • Control systems
  • Telephone and data lines
  • Raw materials
  • Finished product
  • Electrical power lines
  • Backup power systems
  • Automated production equipment, such as digital control systems and programmable logic controllers
  • Hazardous materials
  • Boilers
  • Water supply
  • Sewer lines
  • Waste treatment facilities and equipment
  • Natural gas lines
  • Rail lines/rail load-out facilities
  • Office spaces and equipment
  • Warehouse facilities and supplies
  • Tools
  • Personal possessions

Updating Evacuation Plans

For thousands of years, terrorism has been employed by governments and those committed to undoing them. The agents of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network merely combined the most effective tactics of the past three decades with a style of warfare dating as far back as recorded history.

We in the safety profession can and must do our part to minimize the threat these kinds of tactics employ. Homeland Security incorporates all that we do within our function and scope.

If a terrorist incident occurs within or outside your workplace, an effective evacuation plan increases the likelihood that your employees will reach shelter safely.

Most employers already have emergency plans, such as an Emergency Action Plan developed in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.38(a), or a Hazardous Substance Emergency Response Plan developed in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.120(q). If you are one of these employers, your plan probably includes evacuation information for several types of anticipated emergencies, such as fires or explosions. A review of your plan is worthwhile. By incorporating terrorist releases, your plan will be strengthened and workplace readiness for terrorist incidents such as the release of a chemical warfare agent or an ionizing radiation source in or around your facility will be increased.

This article defines a terrorist release as "a release of an agent or material commonly identified as a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction' (WMD) or of another hazardous substance, performed as a violent act dangerous to human life and intended to further political or social objectives." The range of releases to consider will depend, in part, on the operations within and surrounding your workplace. You may want to contact your local and/or State Emergency Planning Committee to determine what terrorist releases are considered possible within your community and region.

(For more information on terrorist groups from around the world, see "A Who's Who of Terrorism" at the end of this article. The information was gathered primarily from military and state department sources.)

Check Them Out

September 11 has changed our lives forever and in ways we are just now realizing. Not only do we not feel as secure as we once did, we now actually feel threatened physically as well as emotionally. Our personal freedoms will certainly suffer because of 9/11. We will see an increase in the cost of doing business, the cost of living and the cost of future regulations that affect how we conduct our business. All of this has, and will continue to, impact our lives both in small and large ways.

We now must look at finding ways to make sure the person who delivers our packages, materials and equipment is who he says he is. Background checks have become a very important tool in our "tool box". But what kind of checks should we conduct? Not one of the hijackers of 9/11 had a criminal record, yet there is a feeling that somehow criminal checks on people will do the trick. I suggest we verify the identification of the person as who he says he is. This can be accomplished by demanding three forms of I.D.:

  • Driver's license of the individual
  • Company I.D. card with a photo
  • Credit card

With the above three levels of I.D., you can be reasonably certain the individual is who he says he is. If there is a doubt, call the company the individual says he works for and verify employment.

Future Challenges

I believe that in the near future, all individuals delivering goods, working for or in any manner dealing with the following industries will be subjected to a national I.D. card, issued by a U.S. agency:

  • Atomic
  • Oil and gas
  • Transportation
  • Utility
  • Government (at least federal and state)
  • Chemicals
  • Certain type of products (flammable, explosive, hazardous)

In the future, we will probably be dealing with background checks on individuals which verify the following:

  • Nationality (immigration status)
  • Organization memberships
  • Finger printing
  • Voice recognition
  • Retina scan
  • General profiling for (friends, associations, etc.)

New Federal agencies will be formed; old ones will be transformed. We have already observed this with the Homeland Security Act. Agencies to watch for are:

  • National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), which combines all information gleaned from the FBI, CIA, NSC and DIA.
  • Information and Analysis Center (ISPAC) which will make sure all audio and visual communications are shared by the NIPC.
  • FBI and Chemtrec will be working very closely relative to any hazardous material shipped by air, rail, road or water. They will be using NIPC and ISAC to access Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), coordinate with contractor responses, monitor compliance with regulations and form a "seamless" line of communication between all affected agencies.

The future also holds the prospect of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for all hazardous materials produced and shipped, electronic placards for trucks and railcars, E-commerce and Web internet applications, as well as more precise technical information systems regarding hazardous materials and substances.

With the kinds of safeguards we are putting into place, and the efforts of all safety, health and security professionals focused on maintaining a safe and secure work place for our employees, terrorism and all its horrors can and will be controlled. Can anything we do really stop a dedicated terrorist, who is willing to give up his life for the sole purpose of destroying property and killing people? History has shown we cannot prevent this kind of act from occurring, but we can minimize the destruction and loss of life by instituting the kinds of recommendations set forth in this article.

Sidebar: Terrorism Defined

How is terrorism defined, and by whom? The following examples should help us make the determination as to whether an act of terrorism has been committed rather than an act of workplace violence or sabotage.

The FBI defines terrorism as "violent or criminal acts against a civilian population for the purpose of coercion, and promoting a political cause or agenda."

The Department of Defense says it is the "calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological."

Sidebar: Security Checklist

For a practical approach to some of the common aspects of industrial security and espionage, check out The Basic Security Planning Checklist with this article. It can be considered as a working tool or guide to developing a more comprehensive program. The information should be considered a basic overview of industrial espionage security planning and not as an exhaustive analysis for site security preparedness.

The checklist has had input from many sources, and from many industries, and is the basis for OSHA's guidelines for terrorist releases.

This checklist contains broad questions that you can use to evaluate your current evacuation plan(s). If you want to modify your plan(s) to address these considerations, you can get additional information from online resources such as OSHA's Emergency Response webpage at www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/emergency response/index.html.

A Who's Who of Terrorism

In April 2001, the U.S. Department of State released a report titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism," which chronicled occurrences and locations of terrorist activity during the year 2000. The report also contained a comprehensive list of foreign terrorist organizations and groups. The dossiers describe some of the more well-known terrorist groups. The military has followed terrorist groups for years, beginning with the U.S. group known as the Black Panther s in the 70s, and up to and including the list below.


  • Description: Established by Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s to bring together Arabs who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion, al-qaida helped finance, recruit, transport and train Sunni Islamic extremists for the Afghan resistance. Al-Qaida's goal is to establish a global pan-Islamic caliphate by working with Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems "non-Islamic" and expelling Westerners and non-Muslims from Muslim countries. Al-Qaida issued a statement in February 1998 saying it is the duty of all Muslims to kill U.S. citizens civilian or military and their allies everywhere.
  • Activities: Conducted bombings in August 1998 of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed at least 301 people and injured more than 5,000 others. Claims to have shot down U.S. helicopters and killed U.S. servicemen in Somalia in 1993 and to have conducted three bombings that targeted U.S. troops in Aden, Yemen, in December 1992. Linked to plans to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila in late 1994; simultaneous bombings of the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila and other Asian capitals in late 1994; the midair bombing of a dozen U.S. trans-pacific flights in 1995; and to kill President Clinton during a visit to the Philippines in early 1995. Continues to train, finance and provide logistic support to terrorist groups in support of these goals.
  • Strength: Several hundred to several thousand members. Also serves as an umbrella organization for a worldwide network that includes many Sunni Islamic extremist groups.
  • Location/Area of Operation: Al-Qaida has a worldwide reach, with cells in a number of countries and reinforced by its ties to Sunni extremist networks. Bin Laden and his key lieutenants most recently resided in Afghanistan, where the group maintained terrorist training camps. As of this writing, he is now suspected as being in Pakistan.
  • External Aid: Bin Laden, son of a billionaire Saudi family, is said to have inherited approximately $300 million that he uses to finance the group. Al-Qaida also maintains moneymaking front organizations, solicits donations from like-minded supporters and illicitly siphons funds from donations to Muslim charitable organizations.


  • Description: The military wing of the Communist party of the Philippines, the NPA is a Maoist group formed in March 1969 with the aim of overthrowing the government through protracted guerrilla warfare. Although primarily a rural-based group, the NPA has an active urban infrastructure to conduct terrorism and uses city-based assassination squads called sparrow units. The NPA derives most of its funding from contributions of supporters and so-called revolutionary taxes extorted from local businesses.
  • Activities: The NPA primarily targets Philippine security forces, corrupt politicians and drug traffickers. Opposes U.S. military presence in the Philippines and attacked U.S. military interests before U.S. base closures in 1992. Reports in 1999 indicated the NPA would target U.S. troops participating in joint military exercises under the visiting force agreement and U.S. Embassy personnel.
  • Strength: Estimated between 6,000 and 8,000
  • Location/Area of Operation: Operates in rural Luzon, Visayas and parts of Mindanao. Has cells in Manila and other metropolitan centers.
  • External Aid: Unknown


  • Description: Formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslin Brotherhood. Hamas has used both political and violent means including terrorism to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel. Loosely structured, some elements work clandestinely and other work openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities and distribute propaganda. Hamas' strength is concentrated in the Gaza strip and a few areas of the West Bank.
  • Activities: Hamas activists have conducted many attacks including large-scale suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets. Claimed several attacks during the unrest in late 2000, and is responsible for many suicide bombings in Israel up to and including the present time.
  • Strength: Unknown number of hard-core members, tens of thousands of supporters and sympathizers.
  • Location/Area of Operation: Primarily the occupied territories, Israel. In August 1999, Jordanian authorities closed the group's offices in Amman, arrested its leaders and prohibited it from operating in Jordanian territory.
  • External Aid: Receives funding from Palestinian expatriates, Iran, private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab states. Some fund-raising and propaganda activities take place in Western Europe and North America.


  • Description: Organized among militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s, the PIJ is committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war. Because of its support for Israel , the United States has been identified as an enemy of the PIJ; it publicly threatened to attack U.S. interests if the U.S. Embassy is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
  • Activities: The PIJ conducted at least three attacks against Israeli interests in late 2000 and suicide bombings against Israeli targets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel.
  • Strength: Unknown
  • Location/Area of Operation: Primarily Israel and the occupied territories and other parts of the Middle East, including Lebanon and Jordan. The PIJ is headquartered in Syria.
  • External Aid: Primarily funded from Iran, Libya


Party of God a.k.a. Islamic Jihad, Revolutionary Justice Organization of the oppressed on Earth and Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine

  • Description: A radical Shia group formed in Lebanon, Hezbollah is dedicated to increasing its political power in Lebanon and opposing Israel and Middle East peach negotiations. Strongly anti-West and anti-Israel. Closely allied with Iran. Hezbelloh may have conducted some operations not approved by Tehran.
  • Activities: Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti U.S. terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of U.S. and other Western hostages in Lebanon. The group also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and is suspected in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires. In fall 2000, it captured three Israeli soldiers in the Shabaa Farms and kidnapped an Israeli non-combatant whom it perhaps lured to Lebanon under false pretenses.
  • Strength: Several thousand supporters and a few hundred terrorist operatives.
  • Location/Area of Operation: Operates in the Bakaa Valley, the Southern suburbs of Beirut and southern Lebanon. Has established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North America and Asia.
  • External Aid: Receives support from Iran and Syria.


a.k.a. Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Jihad Group, Islamic Jihad.

  • Description: A close partner of Bin Laden's al-qaida organization, this Egyptian Islamic extremist group has been active since the late 1970s. Numerous operatives have been arrested word-wide, most recently in Lebanon and Yemen. The group's primary goal is to overthrow the Egyptian government and replace it with an Islamic state.
  • Activities: Al-Jihad specializes in armed attacks against high-level Egyptian government personnel and car bombings against official U.S. and Egyptian facilities. The original Jihad was responsible for the assassination in 1981 of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The group claimed responsibility for the Egyptian Embassy bombing in Islamabad in 1995, in 1998, its planned attack against the U.S. Embassy in Albania was thwarted.
  • Strength: Several hundred hard-core members, by most estimates.
  • Location/Area of Operation: Operates in the Cairo area. Has a network outside Egypt including Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Lebanon and the United Kingdom.
  • External Aid: Not known. The Egyptian government claims that both Iran and Bin Laden support Al-Jihad.


  • Description: The ABB, the breakaway urban hit squad of the Communist Party of the Philippines New People's Army, was formed in the mid 1980s.
  • Activities: Responsible for more than 100 murders and believed to have been involved with the 1989 murder of U.S. Army Col. James Rowe in the Philippines. In March 2000, the group claimed credit for the rifle grenade attack against the Department of Energy building in Manila and strafed Shell Oil offices in the central Philippines to protest rising oil prices.
  • Strength: Approximately 500
  • Location/Area of Operation: Manila and central Philippines
  • External Aid: Unknown

Click here to view a sample security checklist.

James J. Thatcher, Ph.D., is president of the National Safety Management Society.

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