Security: Vulnerability Assessment Service for Commercial Buildings


Immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, terrorism was excluded from most insurance policies. In response, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 was passed, which ensures that terrorism risk insurance is available to building owners. Unfortunately, current terrorist experience is limited in the United States, and so there is no credible process for insurance carriers to rely on when setting premiums.

One engineering consulting firm, Houston-based BAQ, Inc., has responded by launching a “building vulnerability assessment program” that is designed to guide and inform commercial building owners, insurance writers and commercial lenders about the new issues that terrorist attacks have brought to the forefront. This program helps those with the greatest financial risk to budget and manage the greatest areas of risk first.

“Building owners who want to provide the lowest risk of a possible terror attack need to assess their highest risks and possible threats,” says Travis West, president of BAQ. “Assessing the risk and vulnerabilities for a property provides credible data that can be used to rate insurance, acquire funding, or even budget for capital improvements.”

BAQ’s program offers a number of ways to lower risk and achieve a level of protection against manmade attacks.

First, by evaluating the building’s assets, BAQ reviews and prioritizes the building structure and operating systems, building inhabitants and the corporate processes most likely to be impacted in a terrorist event.

Next potential threats or hazards are reviewed. This step is invaluable because it is important to understand the potential aggressors and their tools and tactics. Threats evaluated can include agri-terrorism, armed attacks, improvised explosives, arson, biological and chemical agents, conventional bombs, cyber-terrorism, hazardous materials, nuclear devices, radiological agents and even site surveillance.

The third step involves conducting the vulnerability assessment, which identifies weaknesses in the building and those areas most vulnerable for attack.

“Often people address concerns like air filtration systems when that may not be the biggest threat or vulnerability,” notes West. “It is important to realize where you are most vulnerable, and implement the programs to help ensure the safety of your surroundings.”

The final step is the actual risk assessment, which takes the findings of the first three steps and measures them against each other—ultimately providing building owners with a relative risk profile.

“In the long run, changes to building design will be left up to regulators and trade associations,” emphasizes West. “In the short term, however, lenders and insurers will have to create an environment that demands and rewards investments in safety to encourage a building owner to take steps to protect property and lives.”

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