Plant protectors30 April 2018

Facilities managers look after buildings, but how can they mitigate the likelihood of a terrorist attack? Adam Offord examines guidance from the British Institute of Facilities Management

Around 8:30 am (GMT) on 26 June 2015, delivery driver Yassin Salhi gained entrance to Air Products & Chemicals’ Saint-Quentin-Fallavier gas fabrication and bottling plant near Lyon, France, and attempted to blow up the factory by ramming gas cylinders with his van. The impact caused an explosion and injured two people. Salhi was eventually met and overpowered by firefighters responding to the scene, and later arrested. He was known to employees at the site after having made regular visits to the factory.

Following the attack, Air Products chairman, president and chief executive officer Seifi Ghasemi said that security had been increased at Air Products’ locations around the world as a precautionary measure. He added: “This incident reinforces that we all need to take safety and security very seriously, every day, and remain vigilant in everything we do.”

In November last year, professional body the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) published guidance on the subject: ‘Counter Terrorism Advice for FM’ (, in cooperation with the UK Security Expo.

BIFM says that it is important all facilities management professionals understand the threat they face and then take action to reduce their vulnerabilities. It states: “When a terrorist attack happens, it’s too late to do your planning. You know the risk. Businesses can and should do all they can to deter any terrorist from attacking their site. The best way to do that is to have good and obvious security that makes the terrorist believe that an attack would fail. There really is no excuse for not taking action on this. Lives may depend on it.”

It states that security has three pillars: physical, personnel and cyber security, and advises that, from a management point of view, they be overseen by a single accountable ‘owner’.

Physical risks can be mitigated through measures such as: properly positioned and monitored CCTV; reducing the number of entrances to the building to the minimum; ensuring each entrance has access control; ensuring glass is protected; restricting vehicle access; and carrying out staff training. Asset identification exercises can help identify the most critical assets.

Personnel security measures include both internally-facing and externally-facing aspects. It argues: “One of the biggest threats to a building is from an insider attack. Ensure background checks are rigorous and that all security policies are also applied to contractors.” At the same time, insiders should cultivate a security culture. It continues: “Encourage staff to actively participate in security and celebrate staff who challenge poor security behaviours. These will include good management of visitors to the building.”

Thirdly, in recent years numerous companies have been struck down by malware and ransomware, including the NHS. “Cyber is at the heart of all the buildings systems,” the BIFM guidance adds. “Make sure that it is up-to-date and its importance understood by staff. There are many types of attack vectors and these should be understood by all staff on site.”

In addition, the document provides a 50-question security audit checklist, covering everything from whether unused offices, rooms and function suites are kept locked to maintenance regimes of CCTV camera systems. It even offers advice to the surveyor: “Don’t just rely on someone saying that a system works. Check it out. You will find gaps and, when you do, try to close them to increase your building’s security.”

Finally, in addition to safeguarding their facilities, businesses should also look outwards. Most industrial sites in the UK are well known in their local areas, and have a good relationship with local communities and emergency services. Building links with local businesses, police and other public services will help with the sharing of intelligence and security information.

Adam Offord

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