Additional issues of concern have been raised in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11. One of the most important issues facing the industry is terrorism insurance. Part of preparedness is adequate insurance coverage. Congress needs to complete what it has begun and act on legislation that will make it feasible for insurance companies to provide coverage for acts of terrorism.
Clearly, the anthrax scares of fall 2001 were very real and revealed a security gap. The release of a toxic chemical into an air-handling system has become a growing fear. The potential for an internal release of hazardous materials is determined by: 1) the presence of hazardous materials stored in the building, 2) security measures to prevent hazardous materials from being brought into the building, and 3) architectural and mechanical features to isolate or limit the spread of hazardous material if an internal release occurs. BOMA is working on best practices and identifying resources to give better guidance.
Concerns over parking security, highlighted prominently in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, have resurfaced. Security concerns relating to HVAC have resulted, since many parking facilities house HVAC systems. BOMA is working with the parking industry to coordinate best practices.
Emergency preparedness is not only about terrorism. Accidents and natural disasters are real threats that need to be addressed and are far more likely to occur. Building tenants are now more sensitized to these possibilities as well. The large amount of office space and the numbers of people occupying the space virtually guarantee that some incidents will occur. An effective emergency plan can prevent these incidents from becoming significant.
Of course, simply having a plan is not enough. Actions taken in an emergency are rarely effective unless they are planned and practiced in advance. In the event of an emergency, improper or nonexistent preparedness plans can make a bad situation worse.
While the industry has a lot of work to do with the new reality of terrorist threats, we should also take pride in the knowledge that the emergency procedures in place at the World Trade Center on September 11th, and the implementation of plans by building management, were instrumental in saving tens of thousands of lives when tested against an attack that no one could have foreseen.
For more information about the issues discussed in this column, visit the BOMA International website (www.boma.org).