The Department of Homeland Security has drawn up an extensive report outlining the top 12 potential terrorist attack scenarios, including estimated death tolls and economic losses. The confidential report will not be made public for several months, but it was accidentally posted on the government Web sites of Hawaii and several other states in mid-March before it was removed.
The report, titled "National Planning Scenarios," includes detailed projections of the 12 scenarios deemed most plausible and with the potential to create the most damage. The scenarios include:
-Multiple-site infection of cattle with hoof-and-mouth disease, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses;
-The spread of pneumonic plague in the restrooms of a major train station, airport, and sporting complex, killing 2,500 and sickening 8,000 worldwide;
-The detonation of a nuclear device in a major city;
-The detonation of a liquid chlorine tank, killing 17,500 people and injuring more than 100,000;
-The truck bombing of a sports arena during an event;
-The release of sarin nerve gas in office buildings; and
-Prolonged aerosol anthrax spray released in five cities over a two-week span, killing 13,200.
Also included in the report are three catastrophic natural events including a Category 5 hurricane hitting a major East Coast city, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, also in a major city, and an influenza pandemic. The natural catastrophes were included for the sake of more well-rounded emergency planning. The report does not include terrorist scenarios that have already been addressed in-depth, such as an airplane hijacking.
The document, in the works for more than a year, was commissioned by presidential directive after members of Congress criticized the Department of Homeland Security, saying it was squandering funds by not concentrating on the highest risk areas or situations.
Michael Chertoff, the new secretary of Homeland Security, addressed such criticisms in his testimony before a Senate panel in early March. "I want to emphasize that our philosophy, our decision-making, our operational activities and our spending will be grounded in risk management as we determine how best to prevent, respond and recover from attacks," said Chertoff.
Chertoff says that risk-based initiatives such as the National Planning Scenarios will be part of the department's modus operandi under his watch.
There have been no credible reports that the attacks listed in the report are currently being planned by foreign or domestic terrorists. The report was an effort to better allocate federal security funds. The intent, according to Homeland Security officials after the document was accidentally released, was to help identify possible terrorist events and to isolate actions to be taken to respond to and recover from them.
The document's release is a good opportunity for risk managers to review their own terrorism planning scenarios, says Steve Hernandez, worldwide manager for loss control, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. "The release of the document should spike interest in the updating, testing and/or development of an emergency plan," he says. "Terrorism awareness is the responsibility of everyone and we should be alert as to unusual events in our environment. If we provide good security, plan for all contingencies and report suspected criminal activity, facilities will be as protected as possible."
April 15, 2005
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