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How To Determine Your Physical Security Exposure To Potential Threats

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How To Determine Your Exposure To Potential Threats

Security Consultant

When you are trying to identify all of the threat possibilities any business or organization can possibly face, you are literally sifting through sand particles on a beach. In sum, they are limitless and sadly that does nothing to quell any uneasiness about the situation. However, regardless of the seemingly infinite potential possibilities, every scenario, in one way or another can be categorized into one of two sections. From there, you can break down each subsection into the level of harm each threat can potentially bring, and sort it even further by likelihood of occurrence.

To help in creating a list like this to judge for yourself your organizations safety and threat exposure, we’ve created an example that should give a good idea of how to determine or give a more detailed idea of all the potential risk you are potentially susceptible to. Afterwards, depending on what threatens you most, you can move forward in deciding what precautions need to be taken.

Two Categories Every Threat Can Be Categorized Under

For all intensive purposes, we’ll go ahead and make the base assumption that anything that negatively impacts an organization is a disaster, because it certainly will not likely be a boon to business or operations. That said, there are only two types of disasters to be concerned with. Those that are naturally occurring, and those that are man-made. Each have unique problems and solutions as you would imagine, and as such, each should be approached just a little differently.

For example, there is nothing that can be done to avoid a natural disaster from occurring, as after all, its the will of nature and earth, which are powers that for the most part are out of our control. Most don’t like to hear that, but you can’t rightly stop a tornado or landslide, the only thing you can do is assume it can possibly happen, and leave nothing unaccounted so as not to be taken by surprise. When it comes to man-made disasters, with enough foresight, almost everything can be negated and the problem limited in its scope. Let’s explain this a bit further.

Natural Disaster

 A natural disaster can create some of the most dangerous and horrific scenarios mankind has ever known. To put it into perspective, the Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during WWII, perhaps one of the most terrible man-made events to ever occur, killed over 150,000 people from the blast and fallout over the proceeding few months. Nearly a few decades earlier, in November of 1931, a Chinese flood reportedly killed anywhere from 150,000 – 4,000,000 people. In 2010, the earthquake in Haiti killed over 315,000 people. In 2004, the Tsunami that hit Indonesia killed over 300,000 people.

Point being, man-made disasters seem worse because they are created by man with all of his nefarious capacities. But mans largest physical threat has always been nature when it comes to catastrophic events occurring. However, the potential damage caused by natural threats may be large, they are far less likely to occur most of the time. For instance, you don’t have to worry about  earthquakes in Colorado, but you do in China and L.A.

Here is a list of most of the potential natural disasters that can occur and should be considered depending on their frequency of occurrence near your location. There are no doubt less common ones excluded from this list, but if known, should also be considered.

  • Earthquake
  • Fire (Wild Fire, Brush Fire)
  • Tornadoes / High Winds
  • Tsunamis / Cyclones / Hurricanes / Typhoons
  • Floods / Heavy Rain / Landslides
  • Avalanche
  • Hail
  • Blizzard
  • Epidemics
  • Famine
  • Heat Waves
  • Lightening
  • Volcano

Now after reviewing this list, you should take into account your organizations location, and the likelihood of any of these events from occurring  The higher the likelihood and the higher the potential damage it can cause should raise alarm to figuring out ways to mitigate the damage done. If planned properly, most to all damage can be avoided.

For instance, let say you store moisture sensitive equipment, but also live in an area that floods frequently. Obviously there is a great potential for a problem here, but rather than wait and see what happens, you can ensure your products aren’t damaged by creating water tight areas for storage, rerouting water courses around the building, keeping products off the ground and having water pumps installed in case of a a breach. Any number of solutions are available, but unless you know what problems can arise, no worthwhile solution can possibly be considered.

Man-Made Disaster

The biggest problem you face with man-made disaster is that unlike natural disaster, which is at least consistent in the types of problems that can arise even though the scope and timing may change, man-made disasters are unique every time. A flood is a flood, and the only thing about floods that make them different from each other, again, is the scope and timing of them. Anything man-made crates special and unique instances in comparison. They are much more difficult to account for because, in the end, human ingenuity in the least is clever. Nature cannot be clever, it is stuck to the rules and laws they’ve always followed.

For example, let say there is an attempt to steal something from your organization. Can you conceive the number of ways anything worthwhile in your possession can be stolen? Criminals successfully break into some of the most secured locations in the world, to the dismay and amazement of everyone around. One of the most famous cases being in Brazil in 2005. 10 men who worked from a home 2 blocks away from a bank spent three months digging a tunnel to the banks vault wall. Then on a Sunday when the bank was closed, they broke through the wall and made of with somewhere up to $150 million. Making it the largest bank heist in Brazilian history.

Now that story in mind, think of how the bank originally tried to protect itself. A vault buried under ground, surveillance, guards, locked doors, and so on. All that was bypassed by simply reaching the weakest part of the vault, its wall underground, and they did it unnoticed. To this day, no one has been caught or charged. For all other purposes, the bank vault would have been tremendously more difficult to get into. But who would assume someone could dig a two block long tunnel unnoticed. It’s this ingenuity that makes man-made disasters so difficult to account for. When it comes down to it however, there are really 4 overall categories to be concerned with.

  • Transport (Air, Ship, Rail, Road)
  • Industrial (Structural Failure, Nuclear Radiation, Chemical)
  • Health (Famine, Epidemics)
  • Purposeful Disasters (War, Terrorists, Riots, Assault, Robbery)

When it comes to identifying potential man-made threats to an organization, these four points cover most to all concerns. The odd one may appear to be transportation, but if you ship important items, or are located next to a railroad, highway, shipyard, or airport, there are special concerns those should bring up. For instance, if a plane crashes, train derails, highways accidents, or even ships that beach themselves all can terribly effect an organization either through physical damage, contaminants being spilled, or anything else.

The other points all need to be considered as well depending on what you determine are potential threats and the possible severity of those threats. Even health for example is taken into consideration by nearly every business around. To avoid keeping their employees from becoming sick, there are hand sanitizing stations placed throughout. If an employee becomes ill, they may tell them to go home for a few days to avoid infecting others. In essence, their physical security is based on the health of their workers, and they need to defend themselves as well.

In the end, and it may seem daunting, but you truly have to consider every possibility that can negatively impact an organization, from floods and trains derailing to the common cold. They all have an impact, and if it deemed worthwhile to avoid, then a thorough physical security analysis is required, and when it comes to analyzing anything outside of your knowledge base, especially for this, it would be wise to hire a physical security consultant.