Risk Management And Bioterrorism

January 18, 2002
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ASHRAE president William Coad (left) and George Glavis (right) discuss the "Risk Management Guidance for Health and Safety Under Extraordinary Incidents" report, made public during the AHR Expo.
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wave of anthrax-laden letters sent through the U.S. mail, a number of individuals and groups have made claims about their abilities to combat bioterrorism and provide safe and healthy environments to live and work in.

In order to take a constructive look at what building owners, operators, and service providers can do in the event of bioterrorism and other threats, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently released its “Risk Management Guidance for Health and Safety Under Extraordinary Incidents” report.

“Over the years, there seems to always be a whole group of people who represent themselves as experts on everything, on things such as bomb shelters

and energy conservation,” said William Coad, ASHRAE president. Coad was among a group of ASHRAE members who talked about the study at a public session held during the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) here in Atlantic City. “And now we have people who are talking about being experts on bioterrorism.”

Coad and fellow members of a special presidential study group wanted to ensure that education about a building’s hvacr system and the impact of changes to the system in the event of extraordinary incidents are very important factors in determining what, if any, system design changes should be made.

“First, we should take the time to find out if we should be doing anything differently, and secondly, we need a fully coordinated effort of our engineering and research studies,” said Coad.

He said that the study group is looking at ways to improve system security and to provide better air quality, and health and safety with the systems.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT

In its introduction, the report states, “Extraordinary incidents, whether caused by war, terrorism, accident, or natural disaster, focus attention on such basic, immediate, human needs as survival and safety, and longer-term needs such as water, food, and shelter.

“To reduce risks under such situations, ASHRAE recognizes that its expertise in hvacr, and its knowledge of building envelope insulation, fenestration, air filtration, intake and exhaust air control, and filtration is critical in addressing occupant survival and safety.”

James Woods, Ph.D., study group member and principal in the HP-Woods Research Institute, Herndon, VA, said that building codes and standards typically have not addressed extraordinary incidents. “There is not a whole lot of guidance to address the types of issues we are dealing with now,” he stated.

Woods also was quick to point out the limitations of the report. “This is not a definitive piece. This is an initial report, and it is not based on any specific project or system.”

In the report’s section on “Background and Lessons Learned,” the study group touched on the area of exterior and interior aerosol attacks. The report states, “If protection against aerosol attacks from a source exterior to a building is to be accomplished, then the openings into the building that could allow aerosols to enter must be capable of timely closure, located sufficiently remote from any launch site, or equipped with adequate filtration.

“If protection against aerosol attacks launched from a source interior to a building is to be accomplished, then the space in which the aerosol is released or present must be capable of timely isolation by the closure of all openings communicating with other spaces.”

Regarding filtration, the report had this recommendation: “Enhanced filtration is a desirable, but not sufficient control strategy to reduce occupant risk to airborne contaminant. A comprehensive strategy is needed which includes enhanced filtration coupled with building pressurization of the building interior relative to the outdoors; this, in turn, requires improved air tightness.”

The report lists recommendations to building owners and managers, including three preliminary recommendations:

1. Understand the capabilities of your building and its systems.
2. Ensure that your building is performing as intended.
3. Do not make changes to building performance unless the consequences are understood.

“We have to be very clear and very careful to represent a clear message to building owners and managers,” said George Glavis, manager of mechanical engineering for the U.S. Dept. of State and a study group member.

This message, contained in a section of the study titled “Understand Your Building,” lists a number of building systems and other items that owners and managers must consider during extraordinary incidences. They include:

  • Ventilation system operation;
  • Filter efficiency and bypass;
  • Quantity of outdoor air;
  • Control access to air-handling components;
  • Isolation of likely entry points;
  • Fire protection and life safety;
  • Building shell and duct tightness;
  • Areas of refuge;
  • Preparedness plan; and
  • What not to do.
Glavis pointed out some key items in the study recommendations, such as controlling access to air-handling equipment. “The average person should not have access to air-handling components,” he said. “Verify that air intakes are elevated as high as practical above ground level, making access by unauthorized people much harder.”

WHAT NOT TO DO

The section on “what not to do” recommends that building owners and managers carefully consider “any changes in building codes to address issues of health and safety under extraordinary incidents.”

The report cautions against “requiring, or even recommending, that buildings be designed to enhance safety under extraordinary incidents without careful consideration of such parameters as initial and maintenance costs, energy consumption, indoor air quality, and site adaptability.”

Barney Burroughs, a study group member and consultant with Building Wellness Consultancy, Inc., Alphraetta, GA, said, “We need to recognize the increasing responsibilities of building owners, operators, and maintenance providers.

“We also need to practice MBWA — management by walking around.”

Burroughs will join several other hvacr industry experts in discussing hvacr system safety and security at the “National Hvacr Systems Security Summit” sponsored by The News and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Sheraton International Hotel at BWI Airport, Baltimore, MD. For more information or to register for the summit, contact Kimya Bailey at 703-824-8845; kbailey@ms.acca.org (e-mail); or visit www.achrnews.com (website).

For a downloadable copy of the “Risk Management Guidance for Health and Safety Under Extraordinary Incidents,” visit www.ashrae.org (website).

Sidebar: Good News For Mail Handling

IQAir North America (Santa Fe Springs, CA) introduced this portable fume hood at the most recent AHR Expo in Atlantic City, NJ. The Clean Zone H 13 is a small, portable fume hood that can be used in addition to other precautions in mail-handling facilities. Mail can be opened under an opening at the bottom of the fume hood; with the unit in operation, particulates are drawn up into the hood and clean air is exhausted out the top. The cost: a modest $1,500. Particulate count can be measured at the top of the fume hood with IQAir’s ParticleScan™ Pro, a laser particle counter for IAQ measurements. Exective director Glory Dolphin-Hammes said that the company is being selective about its target customers, preferring to work with facilities that have a genuine need, and avoiding general consumers due to the risk of being perceived as playing on their fears.

Publication date: 01/21/2002

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