Active shooter(s) at an industrial business. Two are down, including the plant manager. Shooter was last seen heading toward the control room. What questions would you have if you were facing this call in your community?
FEATURED IN TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS
While the events of 9/11 made it abundantly clear that American citizens were the target of international terrorism that day, we are also reminded daily of local threats to our communities. Active shooter incidents, natural disasters, hazardous materials spills and industrial accidents all pose significant threats to local communities. The ability to protect, prevent and respond to these threats remain public safety’s primary mission in safeguarding the public. Many agencies throughout the nation had identified potential risks to their communities but there was no systematic method of prioritization of those targets for protection prior to 9/11. The Automated Critical Assessment System (ACAMS) was developed to assist us in that primary mission. Since 9/11, law enforcement has reinforced the need to work with both public agencies and private industry to identify potential targets and improve physical and personal security.
Few people outside of the New York City area were aware of all of the interconnections of critical infrastructure that were lost during the 9/11 attacks. In addition to the massive loss of human life, television transmission towers, cell phone service, area power, water, transportation systems and the financial center of America were all severely impacted by the loss of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and surrounding WTC buildings. These services took many weeks and months to restore, if in fact they have yet been restored.
When communities throughout the country started to look at ways to protect themselves, some communities began to focus on the preservation of critical services. Members of a newly formed anti-terrorism unit of the LAPD known as Archangel started to look at their own vulnerabilities. They identified a long list of potential targets which, if lost, could affect their community in a similar way as New York. In an effort to develop a prioritization plan for that list of targets, they developed the ACAMS program to assist them. Then, they shared it United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ultimately with the rest of the country. The DHS funded the program to make it available to all state and local jurisdictions so that each community could identify its own “critical infrastructure” and then take steps to protect it.
What questions would you have if you were facing this call in your community? Possibilities include:
1. How should you approach?
2. Where is the control room?
3. What does the business do and what happens there normally?
4. Who do I need to establish contact with inside?
5. If I decide to form a team for immediate entry, what are the hazards and what do I need to know to increase the odds in my favor?
The Automated Critical Asset Management System (ACAMS) is a tool you can add to your inventory to help you answer these questions—in both preplanning and incident response.
Even before 9/11, we in the law enforcement community realized that we needed fast and reliable information when responding to a major incident. Although the first-responding officers may be familiar with the exterior of a business, school, event or facility, they may not be familiar with the interior layout or what, if any, hazards are inside. They may not know who’s responsible for the facility or how to contact them. Even if the first-responding officers do know the details, the assisting agencies and neighboring jurisdictions may not have the information and might have difficulty getting it from those who have it.
In 2003, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) formed a special unit named Archangel. The primary purpose of Archangel was counterterrorism work and the protection of critical infrastructure within Los Angeles. The challenge: The LAPD had previously identified more than 600 critical sites within the city. Since they had limited resources, they had to decide which of those 600 sites were most critical, so they could focus their efforts.
As a result, the LAPD developed a Web-based database management tool—ACAMS—for specific critical infrastructure in the city. This tool was later adopted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was then enhanced for use throughout the country. The federal government had a similar problem with limited resources when it came to the protection of the nation’s critical infrastructure and determined that ACAMS could address those issues.
Following are some questions that can help explain ACAMS and why it might be beneficial to your agency.
What Is Critical Infrastructure?
DHS has identified 18 critical infrastructure sectors, including but not limited to communications, government facilities, transportation, chemical facilities, water and energy. (To learn more about DHS’ critical infrastructure protection program, visit www.dhs.gov/criticalinfrastructure.)
Each of these sectors has the potential to affect the nation and the other sectors in the event of loss through either terrorism or natural disaster. This is the first level of prioritization that occurs at the federal level. Once we know what’s critical, then we can protect it.
How Will ACAMS Help Me?
ACAMS is provided free to state and local agencies to assist them in identifying, prioritizing and protecting critical infrastructure locally. So, if a particular location is identified by a local jurisdiction as critical, the tool can be used to catalog it, prioritize it and provide information to first responders who may be called to respond to incidents at those buildings/areas.
The tool itself assists in asking the right questions to determine criticality and options to consider in “hardening” the site. Although an asset may not be critical nationally, it may have
significant state, regional or local criticality—e.g., schools, regional distribution centers, shopping malls, fire stations, hospitals, bridges. I think we can all agree that the loss of a bridge that connects each side of a city may not be that big of a deal to the nation as a whole, but could significantly impact the local community.
How Do I Use It?
ACAMS is relatively easy to use (especially for those who grew up in the computer age). There’s some required training for those who are going to input data and conduct site inspections, but to gain read-only access, the training to use ACAMS is available online and will only take a few hours to complete. Once you receive the ACAMS training and complete Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII) training, you can access the database and view information about a specific site in your jurisdiction’s inventory.
Example: The industrial business identified in the opening scenario is in your community. Because a site assessment has been completed on the facility previously, you can generate a report that includes answers to the questions we identified. In addition, you may be able to access photographs, real-time video links, a list of potential danger areas, a facility map or blueprints, key employee contact information and normal business hours. Additional information could also be available if it was collected during a site visit or added by the facility asset manager.
Are There Usage Restrictions?
The information contained within the ACAMS system is classified as PCII. Release of the information to unauthorized individuals, companies, or agencies is prohibited and could subject you to both criminal and civil penalties. For more information on PCII, go to:
Bottom line: First responders should restrict the use of ACAMS to prevention, response and mitigation efforts.
How Do I Become an ACAMS User?
Since ACAMS is relatively new, there may be only a few (if any) assets that have been identified and cataloged within your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have many assets previously identified as critical by federal agencies. To find out more about ACAMS within your jurisdiction or to start an active critical infrastructure identification program, you should contact your agency’s intelligence unit or homeland security liaison. Consult with your agency administrator or chief prior to contacting Homeland Security State Administrative Agencies (SAAs) or regional FEMA representatives, who should be able to put you in contact with the appropriate individual in your state who administers the ACAMS program.
Understanding the Benefits of ACAMS
There are many reasons to use the Automated Critical Asset Management System (ACAMS) to assist in the prevention, response and mitigation of incidents in your community.
1. ACAMS is a comprehensive tool to catalog, prioritize and protect critical infrastructure in your community.
2. It’s available to first responders for planning, prevention and response to incidents involving sites that you have selected as critical. Additionally, it’s available wherever you have an Internet connection.
3. It’s a secure, Web-based database management tool that can be used by all emergency response disciplines.
4. It can be used as a tool to prioritize and justify funding to improve a particular asset’s security profile in the future.
5. The program itself is free. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for a local, small agency to develop a program with the features of ACAMS. That being said, there’s a commitment needed to implement a program of information gathering and local administration.
Let’s return to the scenario portrayed in the first paragraph of this article. Using ACAMS, you would be able to access the following information quickly:
1. The plant is responsible for the manufacturing of a product used in the defense industry.
2. The closest entry point to the control room isn’t at the main entrance but in the rear of the plant.
3. The rear entrance point isn’t visible from the hallway leading to the control room.
4. The control room is securable and the operations manager is available by personal cell phone.
5. Responders have the ability to view floor plans and live-feed video from inside the plant, including the hallway adjacent to the control room.
6. The business has an active-shooter plan and practiced it recently.
7. Room 301, near the control room, stores hazardous chemicals. The uncontrolled release of these chemicals would be very hazardous to responders and employees in the plant.
Armed with that information, you can formulate a quick tactical plan and act on it immediately, giving you a much better chance of success. In addition, the preplanning capability of the ACAMS tool would allow responders to coordinate their response to the facility dependent upon the type of incident. And if you effectively use ACAMS’ asset manager feature, you can be sure that the information you’re accessing is current.
ACAMS is a useful tool that provides us the ability to identify, prioritize and maintain critical asset information within our communities. And it’s free. So if you’re not already using it, why not?
• Infrastructure Information Collection Division
• Office of Infrastructure Protection
For a video overview of ACAMS: www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1190729724456.shtm