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DHS Mulls Updates to Chemical Site Risk Assessments

A repaired St. Bernard Parish oil refinery that was severely damaged during Hurricane Katrina. (Federal Emergency Management Agency image, 28-Aug-08)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering potential updates to its procedures for assessing risks posed by chemical facilities under a program for imposing greater security requirements on high-threat sites. DHS is collaborating with Sandia to determine how the Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards (CFATS) initiative might assess the financial impact of a potential extremist strike involving various industrial substances, according to a GAO report.

In addition, the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division “has commissioned a panel of experts to assess the current approach, identify strengths and weaknesses, and recommend improvements.” The auditors said CFATS assessments also do not examine shortcomings in defenses, a second area stressed in a National Infrastructure Protection Plan developed with input from the private sector and agencies at every level of government.

Next month, Congressional investigators intend to issue a follow-up assessment of DHS’ steps to reform the program, the report indicates.

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