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Terrorism attacks involving the use of violent means in the contemporary society have been on the rise, which has resulted to the loss of many innocent lives. In the past, terrorist groups like al-Qaeda have carried out terrorist attacks in countries like the United States and Kenya among other countries.
These attacks include the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Kenya and disastrous terrorism attack in the US, which targeted the World Trade Centre and the pentagon in the year 2001. These attacks were targeted on buildings that housed many citizens of the respective countries.
The main aim of targeting these buildings was to kill thousands of people in a bid to create fear and warn the countries that the terrorist groups were determined to reach their political and religious goals by whatever means possible. This assertion explains why it is very important for any building in urban areas to be prevented from any potential terrorist attacks, as terrorist organizations with ill motive will continue to terrorize innocent people in the quest to advance their agenda.
In order to avoid a recurrence of the terrorist attacks that happened in 1998 at the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and other threats across the world, there is a need for risk assessment to be carried out on the facility. Risk assessment to this facility is crucial, as it will aid in making important decisions on areas that need improvement. Certain steps must be followed to ensure that the building is safe.
Threat identification and rating
Threat identification is the first step in the risk assessment of the US embassy building in the capital city of Kenya. Apart from terrorism attacks, it is important to note that the building can be affected by other equally catastrophic threats as natural events like earthquakes and tornados or accidents like a fire.
Hence, the management of the facility carries the responsibility identifying any possible threat to the facility as it helps in safeguarding people in the building. As the threats that may affect the building are different, there is a need to gather sufficient information on each one of them. Natural disaster threats can be identified by researching on historical data that is available on the national libraries, archives, and even on the Internet (Kunreuther, 2002).
With the information gathered on the frequency of natural disasters that have happened near where the building is situated, it is possible to determine the probability of natural disasters being of any threat to the building. If in the research it is clear that in the past there have been frequent massive earthquakes near the building, then earthquakes threat can be rated high and preventive measures put in place to avoid the effects that it can have on the building.
The possibility of the building being targeted by terrorist organizations also should be identified. It is possible for terrorists to attack the building based on its location. If the building is located in a place where there is less surveillance by security forces, attack by terrorist can be successful. This assertion can be proven by the terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda on the building in the year 1998, which was successful as there was inadequate security and the terrorists even carried the bomb to the facility using a lorry without being detected.
The bomb caused massive damage to the building and many innocent people lost their lives. In most cases, the aim of any terrorist organization is to cause as much damage as possible. Hence, the building can be targeted by terrorist based on its size and the number of people that it houses. Therefore, if the building is big in size and there is inadequate security surveillance, then the likelihood of it being attacked by extremist organizations is very high.
Apart from terrorist attacks, threats by criminals and the kind of weapons that they can use to commit any criminal activity that is against the law should be identified. Information should be gathered on the crime rates in the areas surrounding the facility.
This kind information can be collected from the available security agencies. If the findings show that the crime rates are high, and in the past some of the buildings surrounding the US embassy in Nairobi have been attacked and people held hostage by criminal gangs, then the possibility of the facility being attacked by the gangs is still high.
Asset value assessment
After identifying any kind of threats that may affect the normal functioning of the building, then the second step, which is asset value assessment, should be carried out. This step is equally important as the first one since it involves gathering information to estimate the value of the assets that are in the building.
Being an embassy of the United States of America, the building contains documents and equipments that are of high value and they need to be safeguarded incase a disaster strikes the building. In addition, the building houses many people who work in it and others who frequent it in search of certain services.
Human life cannot be compared to the value of vital documents and expensive equipments; therefore, they are the most important assets that need to be safeguarded even though they do not hold a tangible value that can be measured in monetary terms. Keeping in mind that people are the most important assets and without them it is impossible for normal activities to be carried out in the building, then measures can be taken early enough to prevent the loss of lives in case of a manmade or natural disaster.
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Escape routes can be created in the building for people to use and they should be designed in a way that will provide enough space for any rescue attempt by any concerned department to be carried out successfully. Fire extinguishers can also be strategically placed near places where people can easily reach them and put out fire.
The identification of the most crucial documents and electrical points should not be ignored, as they are useful to the facility. They should be identified and stored in hardened structures like safes, which can survive a bomb hit or fire accidents. Once the most important assets are identified and safeguarded, then the normal daily activities of the facility can still go on after a disaster, even it is in another building as the embassy is being repaired.
Vulnerability assessment aims at considering loss that can be incurred in case of a disaster and the vulnerability of the building to an attack. If terrorists are targeting the building, then there are some weak points that can be exploited by the perpetrators to ensure that their mission is successful. Being vulnerable means that the existing defense mechanisms to avoid a catastrophe in case of manmade or natural disasters are ineffective, and thus the building is a possible target for such an attack.
As an embassy of the United States, the facility can be described as a very high profile attractive target for terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, which is a sworn enemy of the United States. An attack to this facility would completely jeopardize the normal functions of the embassy. This aspect explains why this third step is important, as the results will help in the formation of mitigation measures to avoid a disaster.
Although the building is vulnerable to terrorism attacks, an in-depth analysis of the building maintenance, design, and its year of construction play a critical role in determining its vulnerability when faced by hazardous natural disasters (Stewart & Melchers, 2004). With this knowledge, it can be determined whether this building will be destroyed together with its critical assets.
In addition, it can determine if it will be temporary destroyed and only a few of its assets will be destroyed and it can be operational after a few weeks or days. The vulnerability assessment process is crucial as it will involve detailed analysis of the building, and thus there is a need to ensure that only very qualified, experienced, and skilled staff is selected.
However, before carrying out the vulnerability assessment, the assessment team can carry out some research and find out about other facilities that were affected by manmade or natural disaster and what made them to be more vulnerable. With this information, they can compare the vulnerabilities that they find in their facility and come up with effective mitigation measures.
The assessment team can also explore the fact that the building can also be vulnerable to terrorism attacks by chemicals weapons and asses the loss that can be brought by such an attack before coming up with possible ways to avoid the same. Apart from this risk, the vulnerability of the building to seismic activity caused by an earthquake with high magnitude by geo-statistical analysis should be explored.
This assertion explains why some of the people carrying out the assessment should have the required skills and knowledge in geo-information techniques if a detailed seismic vulnerability report of the building is to be produced at the end of the vulnerability assessment. With an experienced team carrying out the vulnerability assessment, the most vulnerable areas of the building will be identified and upgrading done with the major aim of protecting the valuable assets that it houses.
Risk assessment is a systematic process that seeks to identify and evaluate any possible risk that could prevent the facility from reaching its goals (Kunreuther, 2002). This important step involves the combination and evaluation of threat, asset, and vulnerability assessment. This information is useful in establishing if there is any potential threat to the building and help in protecting the assets of the building.
As the potential threats and the vulnerability of different assets have already been identified, the risk assessment is useful in determining the impact of loss that different assets are likely to incur in case of a certain threat. For example, if there is a terrorist threat, the loss of lives will be very high. Therefore, based on the level of threat to any asset in the building, countermeasures should be put in place to safeguard the same.
After the risk assessment step, there is the last step, which is aimed at providing solutions to reduce or eliminate the damage that can be caused by any disaster. Mitigation measures include the upgrading of the building by installing blast resistant glazing and strengthened perimeter columns and walls to increase its stability (Cretu, Stewart & Berends, 2011).
Though this move is expensive, it is worthy as at will help in avoiding death and loss of property in case of a terrorist attack. In addition, there is a need to upgrade the security surveillance to prevent a recurrence of the 1998 bombing and to deter any criminal activity from happening in the facility. Vehicles entering the premises should be inspected thoroughly to ensure that none of them is carrying any explosive materials that can cause any harm to the people.
As stated earlier, people are the most important assets in any building and appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that they are secure. In cases where disasters can result to casualties, the involved parties should note the same and come up with emergency strategies to counter the same should it happen.
This move will be useful for people working in the building will continue with their productive lives until they retire instead of suffering from injuries and being forced to retire at an early age. In addition, normal operations and the reputation of the building will not be affected.
Cretu, O., Stewart, R., & Berends, T. (2011). Risk Management for Design and
Construction. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kunreuther, H. (2002). Risk analysis and risk management in an uncertain world. Risk Analysis, 22(4), 655-664.
Stewart, M., & Melchers, R. (2004). Probabilistic risk assessment of engineering systems (Systems effectiveness). London, UK: Chapman & Hall.