Examining Building Security
The News and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) put their heads together and assembled a blue chip panel to discuss these issues at the National Hvacr Systems Security Summit here in Baltimore on Jan. 26. It was attended by 103 members of the hvacr community.
The day-long session featured four separate panels that addressed:
- “Manufacturer/Product Perspectives”;
- “Contractor Challenges/Short-Term Issues and Answers”;
- “Air Handling Security/Long-Term Focus”; and
- “Open Dialogue for Contractors.”
“America is far more secure now than it was four months ago,” he said. “Your industry has done a great deal to protect the public from the threat of bioterrorism — but there is much more work to be done.
“I am optimistic that there is much to be done fairly quickly, at a minimal cost, to fight this problem.”
Stroech said he looks forward to working with members of the hvacr community and hearing their thoughts because he believes our country is not out of the woods yet. We need answers.
“Fighting terrorism is not a bureaucratic exercise; to me it is personal,” he said. “The terrorist mission has failed, but we have to believe they will try again.”
MANUFACTURER PERSPECTIVESRobert Baker, chairman and ceo of BBJ Environmental, said that hvacr businesses need to make sure the products they use do what they claim to do — or expect trouble. “You will have to evaluate [product] claims and look at them very carefully — because you could be liable,” he said.
Baker said the industry needs to research the methodology of companies that make claims and stressed that help is eventually on the way with some of the answers. But some things can be done now: “We should maintain buildings the way engineers designed them and the way manufacturers built their equipment for the buildings,” he concluded.
Stephen Zitin, founder and president of Bioclimatic Inc., talked about security and emergency planning, which involves a company’s employees.
“A good deal of the threat to security begins right here at home,” he said. “It could be a disgruntled employee who carries out a threat, which is then reported by the media.”
Zitin stressed emergency planning as a key to maintaining security. He particularly emphasized the following points:
- Define the threat.
- Define the air-cleaning requirements.
- Prepare the staff and perform drills.
- Prepare building operations.
- Plan for decontamination and evacuation.
Brian Monk, vice president of sales and marketing of Circul-Aire, shared some case studies of buildings that applied special equipment to catch and trap contaminants. His company deals with buildings affected by industrial accidents such as chlorine spills, and how to maintain safe and healthy indoor air in the wake of accidents and/or natural disasters.
He conceded that it is hard to stop a determined terrorist. “There are a lot of readily available gases on the market that could wreak havoc in a building,” Monk said.
Warren Shoulders, senior vice president of International Environmental Corp. in Oklahoma City, talked about the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building there. He noted that the building will be replaced by several low-rise facilities, all connecting campus-style. “This is being spread out to minimize risks,” he said.
Shoulders noted, “We need to step back and be rational, not emotional. Let’s face it, we can only minimize risks. Because we live in an open society, we really cannot stop every nutcase.”
Charlie Seyffer, marketing specialist for Camfil Farr, asked that engineers and contractors turn to the IAQ method for determining cfm per person as stated in ASHRAE Standard 62.
“Instead of bringing in 20 cfm of outside air per person, we’re talking about bringing that down to 5 cfm per person. That’s reducing the risk of a contaminant from moving around. This is not rocket science,” he said. “The biggest negative [in using the IAQ method] is time. Any time you can reduce the dosage, you are going to remain healthier.”
Mike Yoshida, consultant with Siemens Building Technologies, stressed the need for security. “These [terrorists] are not rational people,” he said.
He said terrorists can gain access from entryways, windows, and loading docks. Air intakes, rooftops, underground or structural parking, and utility and service tunnels should also be guarded and secured, he said.
“I’ve actually seen buildings with air intakes in the sidewalk,” said Yoshida. “We have to address these structural issues first.”
Gregg Burnett, vice president and general manager of Dust Free, cautioned contractors regarding boasts made by some UV and filter manufacturers. He said that no test has proven that UV lighting is effective in destroying anthrax spores simply because anthrax is not available at research labs.
“I found out very quick that testing on the real stuff is a hard thing to do,” added Burnett. “We were dealing with a lab. They made some phone calls to get Bacillus anthracis and I get a call the next day and the lab director said he didn’t want any part of this [testing] because they got a call from the FBI.”
The best Dust Free could do was test a surrogate of anthrax, which resulted in a 74% germicidal efficiency attained for the UV light-exposed filter.
CONTRACTOR CHALLENGESKent Ferguson, director of Employment History Operations for DAC Services/STA United, a provider of employee background checks and substance abuse testing, told attendees, “The front line starts with you. As an employer the first step is to tighten your hiring procedures. Since so many background checks begin with the social security number, you must validate it first.”
Being responsible for the action of employees is one of the many things contractors have to be concerned with. Thomas Jackson, an attorney with the Washington, DC law firm of Kelly, Drye & Warren LLP, said it is very important that contractors and service providers review the contracts they have with existing customers.
“There is no way to limit liability rising out of another terrorist attack,” he added. “So you need to look carefully at the your contract language. Just remember, you are not in the insurance business. You do not want to be responsible for insuring safety in a building. If you make a recommendation to a building owner, you have to be aware of the legal ramifications.”
Ron Burton, vice president for Advocacy and Research with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International-al, spoke about how building owners and managers need to pull their resources together to deal with the security issue.
He said, “Our responsibility is to provide the best information possible and that isn’t always easy, especially working with the federal government. They are just learning how to deal with this problem.”
Nicholas Fioravante, engineering group leader of Consolidated Engineering, echoed what many other speakers said: Have an evacuation plan in place. “For example, have a plan that makes sense. Don’t go back into the building after an attack to shut down the a/c system — do it on the way out.
“The World Trade Center had an evacuation plan — and it worked. The majority of casualties happened where the planes hit and on the floors above. Most of the other people evacuated safely.”
AIR HANDLING SECURITYMichael Chipley, Principal Engineer and director of Marketing and Sales of UTD Technologies, said it is important to understand the “expanded threat spectrum.” This includes “understanding the mindset of those who want to enter our buildings and cause ill will.”
He said that some of the things building owners must also think about are that terrorists may have the capability of disabling a building without destroying it. “The physical plant may survive, but there may be no way to service the systems if the computers are destroyed,” he said.
Joe McCarty, Engineering Team Leader for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, discussed filtration systems.
“You need to design your filtration system for the actual threat you face,” he said. “For example, HEPA filters are not effective in fighting chemical agents.”
Barney Burroughs, former president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and now an outside director of Environmental Design Inter-national, Ltd., briefed the audience on the recent ASHRAE study, “Risk Management Guidance for Health and Safety Under Extra-ordinary Measures” (The News, Jan. 21, 2002).
“We will have a study group which will look at an extensive list of issues, with IAQ being a major component of the study,” he added. “We are looking at broader issues than just terrorism.”
OPEN DIALOGUEVince DiFilippo, owner of DiFilippo’s Service Co., is also a volunteer fire chief in his community. He recommended that contractors get involved with their community fire departments. Doing so could be beneficial in the event of a local terrorist attack.
“First, contractors should contact [their] local fire department and tell them who they are and what they do,” he said. “They should also think about becoming a consultant with their local fire department.”
Bob Wasniewski, president of Roberts Environmental Control, suggested a couple of things to talk about with employees and customers.
“We are encouraging our people to be alert and observe anything they might think is suspicious,” he said. “We explain products to our customers and what they are really designed to do, and we discuss disclaimers.”
Lee Rosenberg, chairman of the ACCA Environmental Systems Task Force, said, “We heard some very good points today, such as knowing about a building before touching it.
“We are on the threshold of new business. We have very bright people in our industry and this cooperative spirit [i.e., Security Summit] can raise our level of professionalism.”
Publication date: 02/04/2002