Battening Down the Hatches: Co-Op Security Measures Intensified in Post-September 11 World

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: Dewey is corporate communications manager for CF Industries, Schmidt is public relations manager for Farmland Industries and Thuner is a USDA agricultural economist.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, have forever changed the American mind set. No longer do Americans feel safe from attacks by terrorists. Feelings of shock, anguish and anger combined with a real sense of violation have led to increased security measures throughout the United States in nearly every industry.

The agricultural industry has been especially affected as concerns about the use of crop dusters and agricultural chemicals have risen to a new high. Two major cooperatives in the fertilizer industry, Farmland and CF Industries, have always been aware of potential security concerns, but both have increased their guard as security threats have become a heightened concern in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Farmland redoubles security efforts

Assessing risk, planning "what-if" scenarios and protecting products from illegal use have long been routine practices for Farmland Industries. But the September 11 events, as well as the anthrax-tainted mail incidents, have generated an added security emphasis.

Before Sept. 11, Farmland's "what-if" scenarios may have dealt with a leak or accidental release of fuel or an agri-chemical. Now Farmland considers the threat of anthrax-tainted mail or even someone flying an airplane into a fertilizer manufacturing facility to create an explosion.

Preparation will make or break the response to such an event. Scott Ast, Farmland director of worldwide security, and his team look at big-picture processes and risks. They also serve as a resource and consultant to Farmland business units and facilities. "We want to protect all the points in the process--from securing raw materials to production, storage and distribution," Ast says.

Although imagining the most elaborate "what-if" scenarios is part of the job, it is important to balance that with the most likely security breaches. According to Ast, the most prevalent illegal use of a Farmland product remains the theft of anhydrous ammonia to make methamphetamine.

Transportation is another vulnerable point in the production and distribution process. Companies such as Farmland are taking necessary precautions against theft and misuse. Farmland drivers are more aware of their surroundings and are encouraged to lock their units and park in secure areas. Farmland has also eliminated preloading of trucks.

Farmland security officials have attended a number of meetings between farm organizations and government agencies to discuss the chances of agriculture becoming a terrorism target. It recommends the following suggestions for local cooperatives.

* Know your customers and escort everyone while on your property.

* Report any suspicious attempts to purchase ammonium nitrate or urea to the FBI.

* Pay close attention to product inventories and shipments.

* Conduct a full security review of your facilities.

* Construct suitable barriers around your property, such as fencing and structures.

* Park vehicles and equipment where they can be easily seen by law enforcement during regular patrols.

* Use steel doors with deadbolt locks and bar windows where appropriate. Use high-security chains and padlocks.

* Lock vessels, containers, hoppers, tanks and equipment containing hazardous products.

* Deter vehicle ingress by using gates or bollards and chain/cable with padlocks.

* Remove hoses and use tank locks and seals for anhydrous ammonia tanks.

* Ensure security and emergency plans and procedures are in compliance with local, state and federal requirements. Conduct quarterly drills and training exercises.

* Post "Private Property-No Trespassing" signs along fence lines/boundaries.

* Keep an undated list of all emergency contacts. …