New tool helps builders evaluate terrorist threat

04/09/04

Today, building owners and managers must respond to terrorist threats that were once unimaginable. At the same time, budget constraints make it critical that building design, location, construction, management and renovation decisions be financially responsible. Economists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a risk evaluation and mitigation process that makes such security, safety and financial decisions easier.

The three-step process, developed by NIST's Office of Applied Economics, helps decision-makers determine the vulnerability of their facility to damages from low-probability, high-consequence events. The economic tool also identifies engineering, management and financial strategies for abating the risk of damages. And finally it uses standardized economic evaluation methods to select the most cost-effective combination of risk mitigation strategies to protect the facility.

The risk reduction strategies considered include (1) engineering alternatives (such as sensors to detect airborne contaminants or a reinforced building shell); (2) management practices (such as evacuation drills, security identity checks, improved communication with first responders); and (3) financial mechanisms (such as government subsidies or tax write-offs for capital improvements, reduced insurance costs and increased rental rates due to new safety features).

Software that supports the economic evaluation of risk reduction strategies is planned for this fall.

The NIST risk evaluation and mitigation plan is found in "Cost-Effective Responses to Terrorist Risks in Constructed Facilities" by Robert E. Chapman and Chi J. Leng at www.bfrl.nist.gov/oae/oae.html. Further information also is available in "Applications of Life-Cycle Cost Analysis to Homeland Security Issues in Constructed Facilities: A Case Study," by Robert E. Chapman at the same Web address.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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