Standards for Homeland and International Security: Building a Safer Environment for All

By McCabe, James | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Standards for Homeland and International Security: Building a Safer Environment for All


McCabe, James, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


One of the best kept secrets of these troubled times that we live in is the work being done by the U.S. and international voluntary standardization community to make the world safer and more secure for all individuals. A unique partnership of private and public sector interests, this diverse body of stakeholders is working cooperatively to build safer communities, empower consumers to make informed decisions, and improve the quality of life for families.

A standard is a technical expression of how to enhance the safety of persons and ensure the efficiency, compatibility, and seamless interaction of products, processes, and systems. For example, standards ensure that light bulbs screw into uniformly-sized sockets and that ATM cards work in automated teller machines. Globally-relevant standards also promote economic prosperity and trade. Voluntary consensus standards are developed by subject matter experts who work cooperatively to find the best technical solution to a problem following a development process that is characterized by openness, due process, and consensus among all materially affected parties. Government agencies participate in the development of voluntary consensus standards and often rely on such standards to fulfill their mandate to ensure the public's health, safety and security.

Responding to 9/11

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Federal government identified the need for standards to support homeland security and emergency preparedness ("National Strategy," 2002). However, the Congressional Research Service Report for Congress noted that "[n]either the Federal government nor the private sector presently has a comprehensive, consolidated program for developing new preparedness standards" ("Homeland Security," 2003). In response, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) launched the Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP) in February 2003 ("ANSI Forms," 2003).

A private, nonprofit organization that administers the U.S. voluntary standardization system, ANSI is uniquely positioned to coordinate the development and enhancement of homeland security and emergency preparedness standards. Comprised of businesses, professional and technical societies, trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, consumer groups, labor organizations, and academia, the ANSI Federation represents the diverse interests of more than 120,000 entities and 3.2 million professionals worldwide. ANSI does not develop standards but, rather, coordinates the work of its member organizations by providing a fair and open process for standards development. Protecting consumers and promoting public health, safety, and the environment are key aspects of ANSI's mission.

Since its inception, the ANSI-HSSP has worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other public and private sector partners to identify existing voluntary consensus standards, and, where none exist, to accelerate the development and adoption of standards to meet the security needs of the nation. For example, in response to a January 2004 request from the 9/11 Commission for assistance in identifying or developing a national standard on private sector emergency preparedness and business continuity, the ANSI-HSSP convened a workshop on the subject ("Private sector Emergency," 2005). Just a few months later, ANSI presented its recommendation of the American National Standard NFPA 1600 on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs ("NFPA 1600," 2004) to the 9/11 Commission vice-chairman Lee Hamilton ("9-11 Commission Presented," 2004). The Commission endorsed this recommendation in its final report noting that "the experience of the private sector in the World Trade Center emergency demonstrated the need for these standards" ("9/11 Commission Report," 2004, p. 398). The subsequent Intelligence Reform legislation stated that the Secretary of Homeland Security should promote the adoption of voluntary national preparedness standards such as NFPA 1600 ("Intelligence Reform," 2006). …

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