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One of the most important American infrastructure industries is the chemical industry. It greatly aids in the expansion of its economy. In 2003, it was designated as a crucial sector. The GDP of the country is derived from this industry to the tune of 25%. This industry employs almost 800,000 people across a variety of operations, including manufacturing, storing, and transportation. The industry produced 96 percent of American goods in just 2013 alone (Homeland Security, 2015). The private owner does the majority of the duties at each step of production. This involves, among other things, the production process, the storage of manufactured items, and transportation. These activities are all intimately related to one another. By its very nature, these goods pose potential health and safety issues and must be handled with care right from production to end use. The users can be pharmaceutical industries, research facilities, agricultural firms, water plants and petrochemical users. They are located all over the globe. This makes the sector more vulnerable to more disruptions and to face several challenges and risks, some of which are more prevalent. These risks can be internal and external. They can stem from common natural disasters that humans have little control over. They might also be related to weather and cyber-attacks. Biohazards and regional pandemics are also other potential dangers that the sector faces. A slight disruption of supplies means disruption of many industries in a cascading nature.
Despite these diverse challenges, the stakeholders of this crucial sector continue to provide the essential services. There are many actions in place by private sector organization within this sector that would enhance its ability to provide its essential services when facing the risks. This paper will essentially be providing details regarding how a chemical sector entity carries out its continuity planning initiatives. The most prevalent challenges and the actions taken by the private organization to its functioning despite the risks will be discussed.
The risks in this sector are ever evolving with time. There is a need for a wide risk profile that should form the ground approach in risk management and guides the sector in setting goals, activities and prioritize accordingly (Sadiq, 2013). For the past seven years, there have been unique trends and emerging issues that affect the chemical sector. There has been a significant rise in the production of shale oil and natural gas. This means that new chemical facilities will be built to the effect of this. It might also mean that there will be less reliance on the international sources of the supply. Despite the greater knowledge of the risks facing the sector, the information of threats on specific facilities is limited. These facilities find it hard to point out and exactly determine the magnitude and the potential chance of evolving risks that face them. This affects the prioritization ability regarding security measures. There is also a rising concern of insider threats (Sadiq, 2013). The staffs within the facilities have at their disposal huge amount of information that is potentially hazardous. The facilities work to curb this access. However, there is a huge concern that terrorists might work to influence these workers. Additionally, some of the systems in the chemical sector are networked through the internet. This connectivity makes them more vulnerable to the ever-growing word of cyber adversaries (Sadiq, 2013).
Apart from the above trends, there are other huge risks in the chemical sector. Most facilities have taken enough measures to protect themselves against the external threats. Little attention has been paid to the insider threats. The workers in this sector have great potential to cause intentional or unintentional harm. More often than not, the services of third parties are required, making strangers gain access to a wide network of information that can be harmful. There is also a huge threat from cyber-attacks. These cyber risks can be human-made, result from the vulnerabilities of supply chains, failures in technology or just from minor human errors (Sadiq, 2013). This is because of increasing cyber system in this sector including Industrial Control Systems and international networks. If these systems are affected, there could result in possible loss of intellectual property or loss of operation at large. Other effects include chemical diversion and chemical theft. Virtually any other organization suffer the threats of natural disasters and harsh weather. Events such as fires, earthquakes, floods among others have risen together with economic impacts. When chemical facilities are located in areas prone to these harsh conditions, they are more likely to suffer property damage. Other risks that are common to chemical sectors are terrorist threats and deliberate attacks. The risks of biohazards and pandemics need a mention too. The threat of introduction of viruses are high (Yang et al., 2014).
Other critical partners work with the chemical sector. The sector and the government coordinating councils are the key players. The sector coordinating council include the agricultural, specialty, basic, consumer chemicals and the pharmaceuticals. Other organizations such as the research institutes and regional council also play a role. Despite the risks incurred the private sector entity work to ensure that the services run smoothly. The sector assesses and analyzes risks both at the facility and the sector levels (Hayes, & Ebinger, 2011). The assessment includes the consequences of an attack, the vulnerability and the chances of attack/threat. Once the assessment is done, the risk management activities are implemented. Some of these activities include the sharing of the crucial information which can be done through chemical sector portal, briefings, and threat teleconferences. The information is also shared internationally through training and seminars.
Other activities that are undertaken to ensure the smooth running of functions include the management of cyber risks. This can be done through infrastructure identification, cyber community program, development of cyber security resources through partnership and cyber storm readiness. There is also the effort of active involvement of other sectors that work interdependently with the chemical sector. These sectors are water, energy, transport and communication sectors. The staffs develop contingency plans, secure a backup power system, develop an alternate means of communication or transport routes among other measures (Sadiq, 2013). These actions could ameliorate the losses from loss of lifeline functions.
The organizations also engage in continuous research activities to develop efficient ways of mapping consequences of attacks, pointing out threats, to assess the vulnerability and take a protective stand. Also, after identification of the risks, these organizations resort to mechanisms that strengthen the sector through partnerships. They later prioritize their activities and adopt the most cost-effective program. This is followed by measures to ensure resilience so as rapid recovery is achieved immediately after a loss. The organizations also do a frequent measurement of progress and learn from the past experiences and adapt to incidents and develop new planning (Yang et al., 2014). This forms cycles that form the background to which the sector keeps its continuity
The sector also has an executive decision-making process that ensures continuity FEMA (CGC 1), 2013). The process should be flexible enough to accept review of the emergent situation. It must be able to determine the best course of action to be taken whenever an attack occurs based on the readiness posture of the institution. According to the guidelines, there are four phases of the continuity process. The first phase is the readiness and preparedness phase. It is in this state that an event or a threat occur from which the second phase is activated. The second one is the Activation stage. The third is the continuity of the operations and lastly the reconstitution (FEMA, 2013). In each of the phases, several activities are undertaken to ensure the continuity of operations. For example, the initial phase constitutes all the development and revision of plans and risk management. The activation comprises all the continuity plans that the organization has put in place, some of which involves relocation (Homeland Security, 2015). The leaders and all the employees need to stick to their roles and do their responsibilities accordingly. Orders of succession must be appropriately followed and the delegation of authority must be appropriate. There must also be appropriate budgeting and acquisition of resources (FEMA, 2013).
Conclusively, the chemical sector is a crucial sector that contributes immensely to the economy of the US. The sector has obvious close interdependence with other sectors such as energy, transport, and community relations. From the processing of raw materials to production and transport to end users, many players are involved. These players are both local and global. Thus, the very nature of this sector exposes it to numerous risks and threats. The risks are both external and internal. Whenever an attack occurs, the sector should have in place a continuity plan. The plan is usually a continuum of the process undertaken to ensure that a state of normalcy is restored once a threat or a disaster occurs.
FEMA (2013). Continuity Guidance for Non-Federal Governments (States, Territories, Tribes, and Local Government Jurisdictions. (CGC 1)
FEMA (2013). Response Guidelines using Business Continuity Plan in Chemical Plant. Korean Chemical Engineering Research, 52(6), 743-749. http://dx.doi.org/10.9713/kcer.2014.52.6.743
Hayes, J., & Ebinger, C. (2011). The Private Sector and the Role of Risk and Responsibility in Securing the Nation's Infrastructure. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 8(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.2202/1547-7355.1597
Homeland Security, H. (2015). Chemical Sector-Specific Plan: An Annex to the NIPP 2013, 1- 37.
Yang, J., Seol, J., Yong, J., Ko, S., Park, C., Yoo, B., & Ko, J. (2014). A Method to Develop for Emergency
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