Private Security Services: A Critical Component of Counterterrorism Strategy

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the need for more vigilant counterterrorism measures has been an ongoing focus in refineries, petrochemical plants, and petroleum storage terminals across the globe. This focus is justified when one considers the risks these facilities pose.

The US alone is home to 135 operable petroleum refineries and more than 13,000 chemical manufacturing facilities—many of which are located in or very close to densely populated areas. These are high-value terrorist targets because their products are not only vital to the economy but are also harmful, even deadly, if released into the environment. An accident or event leading to a spill, leak or some other release of hazardous chemicals into the surrounding community could have devastating consequences.

And yet, while government agencies and the industry-at-large recognize the seriousness of the potential threat, security resources for many plants and refineries are failing to keep up with the need. A combination of factors at the federal level are contributing to the problem.

One major factor is financial. In 2018, the initial budget request put forth by the White House proposed more than $300 million in cuts to several grant programs run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aimed at terrorism preparation and prevention.  Major urban areas stood to lose millions of dollars in federal funds for their emergency preparedness and counterterrorism programs.

Logistics and limited resources represent another major challenge. In most states, intelligence and information gathering activities fall to two entities, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces and the DHS. These groups largely operate independently from one another, which increases the risk critical data on potential terror threats are not shared quickly and effectively.

In addition, the number of new hires at these agencies is likely not keeping pace with the growing numbers of recruits joining various terrorist organizations. This means federal counterterrorism programs are at risk of being under-resourced and outmanned—if they aren’t already.

One way to increase our ground-level capabilities and improve our chances of stopping terrorist threats is to decentralize some aspects of the counterterrorism effort to local law enforcement and rely more heavily on the skills and resources of private security agencies.

A dedicated private security force, always onsite and engaged, can serve as an effective deterrent for terrorist activities. The primary way they can accomplish this is to be aware—to look for anything or anyone out of the ordinary. This is an easier proposition for a dedicated security detail comprising the same personnel at the same facility. The sense of familiarity with the plant and its crew helps security staff understand who belongs, and who doesn’t.

Onsite private security is available quickly to prevent an unusual or potentially dangerous event from escalating out of control. To thwart attacks, security teams must have procedures in place, and follow these procedures to the letter. And, as terrorist groups get more inventive with their tactics, security groups must adapt by regularly reviewing and improving their plans and procedures to counter new threats.

It’s impossible to predict and prevent attacks 100 percent of the time. However, by being proactive with your preparation and thinking ahead, you can help keep your plant, and the people who work there, safe and secure. Investment in private security can make a major difference in helping you achieve these goals.

Contact us to learn more about our private security services and how we can help you stay ahead of terror threats and stay protected, day-in and day-out.