Friday, April 06, 2007

Chlorine, Iraq, and Chemical Security

Another chlorine attack in Iraq. It's number 9.

The bombing in Anbar province marked the ninth use of suicide chlorine bombs in the sprawling, mainly desert territory that has been a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency. Recently, however, many Anbar tribes have switched allegiance, with large numbers of military-age men joining the police force and Iraqi army in a bid to expel al-Qaida in Iraq fighters.
(Off-topic, that's good news about the Anbar tribes switching sides. It reminds me of the widely distributed PowerPoint presentation created by an Army Captain who served in Anbar before he was killed by an IED in December 2006.)

Back on topic now: Al-Qaeda is showing that they are interested in refining their ability to use chlorine in attacks. Anyone responsible for local homeland security ought to make sure they know as much as possible about the location and security of stocks of chlorine in their area, if they don't already. This includes chlorine that passes through in trucks and railcars, to the extent possible. Even though all the detailed information on rail shipments isn't available to local authorities, some is - but you have to ask for it:
Tom White, spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, an industry lobbying group, said that in 2005, railroad companies agreed to provide local officials with a listing of the top 25 chemicals by volume coming through their communities -- if they ask for it.
Rail security is an evolving situation which involves pending litigation and political maneuvering. Hopefully in the end, more information will be forthcoming:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has asked the federal Department of Homeland Security to require railroads to tell cities when highly toxic shipments are coming their way, or to at least require better communication about the types of chemicals being shipped through communities.
For chemical plants, the situation is less clear, as documented in these recent posts. New DHS effectively block state and local authorities from having a say in the security of chemical plants. But regardless of how the political situation shakes out, it's helpful to develop trusting relationships between chemical plant security personnel and local authorities. An accident, attack, or natural disaster is no time for introductions.

No comments: