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Source: Business Insurance, May 14, 2001 v35 p42.

Title: U.S. firms told to beware different types of terrorism.
Author: Sally Roberts

Full Text COPYRIGHT 2001 Crain Communications, Inc.

ATLANTA-American businesses are at risk of terrorist attacks worldwide, but it's not just bombs and guns they should be worried about, a risk consultant contends.

The threat of chemical and biological attacks is rising and businesses need to understand the issues surrounding the use of these agents and what actions can be taken to lessen the risk, said Steven Kuhr, senior consultant in the crisis and consequence management group of Kroll Associates Inc. in New York.

``In 1998, the large majority of anti-American political violence in the Western Hemisphere was carried out against U.S. businesses,'' he said. ``In the same year, most anti-American incidents in Europe were also carried out against U.S. businesses.''

``In the near term, we're very, very certain that bombs and guns are more of a threat than chemical and biological weapons, because they are easier to make and allow terrorists to get the flashy reaction that they want,'' Mr. Kuhr said. Nevertheless, he warned that terrorists seeking mass casualties increasingly are looking toward such unconventional weapons as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear devices, as well as cyberterrorism.

``Cyberterrorist attacks are on the rise all over the world and, over time, chemical and biological attacks in particular will pose increasingly greater threats to American corporations at home and abroad,'' said Mr. Kuhr , who discussed the threat of unconventional weapons the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.'s annual conference in Atlanta.

Military chemical weapons-including VX, sarin, mustard gas and lewisite-are not easily accessible, but ``precursors'' of the chemicals can be found in industrial settings, Mr. Kuhr told attendees. These highly lethal chemicals can be disseminated in air or water, he said.

Toxic chemicals such as chlorine, parathion and cyanide are widely accessible in factories, labs and loading docks and aren't as closely monitored as biological substances or military chemicals, he said. ``In massive quantity, (such chemicals) can act very similar to military nerve agents,'' and sophisticated dispersion methods or devices aren't needed,, he added.

``A disgruntled employee could relatively easily override safety measures at a chemical facility, and such an incident would probably go undetected and unreported as toxic chemicals drifted or seeped into the surrounding community,'' he said.

Biological weapons include viruses, such as smallpox; bacteria, such as anthrax; and toxins, such as botulin, Mr. Kuhr said, noting that these agents can be disseminated via aerosols, powders, water and food. Anthrax is of particular concern, because it is extremely lethal-100,000 times deadlier than the deadliest chemical warfare agent, he said. Various rogue nations are known to have the anthrax bacteria, he said, noting that over the last three years, there have been more than 300 anthrax threats across the United States.

To protect a company against terrorist attacks, Mr. Kuhr suggests first determining a facility's vulnerability. This includes assessing physical, personnel and information security. Risk managers should locate deficiencies, make improvements and form crisis plans and procedures to respond to attacks, he said.

Mr. Kuhr advises U.S. companies to establish and regularly practice emergency drills. Businesses also should establish a chain of command and lines of communication, so everyone knows what to do and whom to communicate with in the event of an attack, he said. Risk managers should also review building blueprints and perform walk-throughs to confirm the building layout, he suggests.

To protect against all types of terrorist attacks, Mr. Kuhr suggests erecting fences and heavy barriers around facilities and having sufficient exterior lighting., and controlling access to the facility, restricting parking and installing solid-wood or sheet-metal doors.

To specifically protect the facility and employees against chemical or biological attacks, Mr. Kuhr advises companies ``to elevate security around entry points.'' These include vents, pipes, mechanical rooms, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems-and exhaust pipes that can be reversed, including sewer pipes, kitchen exhausts and cooling towers. Consider installing filters and scrubbers to protect ventilation systems, he said.

Mark J. Ryan, director of casualty insurance for Occidental Petroleum Corp. in Los Angeles, moderated the session.

 
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