HS Risk Assessment Paper for Empire State Building

HomeEssaysTechnologyHS Risk Assessment Paper for Empire State Building

Conventionally, terrorists have chosen various important buildings as a favored target for mounting their malicious attacks. Their preference is easy to understand since there are many vulnerable buildings all over the world. Some buildings though follow the regulations of building codes, lack substantial design considerations envisioned to prevent or reduce the impact prompted by CBR attacks. The collapse of these buildings can result in a severe consequence on all key resources and economy sectors causing a momentous loss of life (Apostolakis, 2004). With this in mind, it is evident that terrorism is a high domestic concern, and people’s security must be included in the national strategy for guarding a critical infrastructure. Therefore, building designs must contain resilience and physical security as their objectives of a proper design procedure in order to diminish the extensive array of hazards from terrorist attacks (Homeland Security, 2011).

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Threat Identification and Rating

According to Homeland Security (2011), this process assists in identifying the threats that are urgent concerns in the area and that may be cause harm to the assets. This process comprises indicating the threats, collecting information, determining the design basis threat, and threat rating.

Identifying the Threats

A threat is an indication, event, or circumstance with the prospective to cause loss of an asset or its damage. In such bodies as law enforcement, intelligence community, and military services, the word ‘threat’ may be used to refer to terrorist attacks (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). On the other hand, the term ‘hazard’ is used in diverse contexts by civil agencies and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). For instance, ‘natural hazard’ indicates a natural event like a seismic disaster, wind, or flood. According to Homeland Security (2011), human-caused hazards and terrorism originates from human activity. Correspondingly, technological hazards are presumed to be accidental and their outcomes are unintended. In its turn, terrorism is an unlawful act of violence against people.

Identifying the threats can be a tough task because they are somehow difficult to predict, unlike natural hazards. The latter maybe predictable due to the availability of quantitative and historical data as well as the prospects associated with duration, magnitude, and a cycle of natural hazards. In this case, determining the threat of the Empire State Building attack is rather challenging, because terrorist actions are nearly unpredictable (Apostolakis, 2004). However, the crime rates in the neighborhood of the Empire State Building may explain and provide some helpful information on the type of criminal activities that are likely to threaten this building. As reported by Homeland Security (2011), when it comes to terrorist threats, it is vital to understand who exactly or what an organization intends to cause harm. In most cases, the aggressors do it for political and monetary gain. Thus, the threat may arise from various groups with different motives and methods. For instance, the Empire State Building may attract the eyes of the aggressor due to its assets and deals or activities that happen there every day. There are many companies, firms, and organizations located in this building, hence many people work there and this may attract the terrorists who intended to kill many people (Homeland Security, 2011; Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012).

Additionally, aggressors implement various ways of performing their attacks. They include stationary vehicle bombs, moving vehicle bombs, suicide bombers, attack weapons, ballistic attacks, covert entries, mail bombs water, and airborne contamination (Apostolakis, 2004). Within the US, there is a number of explosions every year, however, most of them have less than five pounds of weapon yields. The largest weapons are deliberated to be prevalent in utterly unsecured public spaces and the smallest ones are said to be used in the secure areas of the building (Homeland Security, 2011).

As a result of past experience, one can admit, there is a low chance of large scale explosive attack in the Empire State Building; nevertheless, there is a high chance of a smaller explosive assault. This is due to the fact that small explosive objects can be hidden in briefcases, for example (Apostolakis, 2004). Conforming to Homeland Security (2011), small weapons may cause severe damage once they are gotten into unsecured and vulnerable areas of the Empire State Building. Further on, there may be greater damage done once the weapon is in the interior, such as a mailroom, lobby, and retail spaces. Recent events around the globe indicate that the likelihood of bombs being delivered by persons is increasing greatly (Hayden, 2010).

Moreover, CBR threats are emerging throughout the world, so they are of great concern since they can affect a large geographic area. For instance, if the Empire State Building faced a CBR attack, the outcome would be severe and horrible as thousands of people would die from this contamination. Furthermore, CBR attacks can be delivered internally or externally to the building. External threats can be conducted through an air intake, while the interior ones can be delivered to reachable areas such as a mailroom, egress route, and lobby. Therefore, it is recommendable to be attentive to any sign of a release happening (Aven, 2011).

Furthermore, chemical agents are very dangerous and can cause mass casualties once dispersed. According to Aven (2011), these agents might cause an immediate or delayed effect. For instance, if chemical agents were dispersed to the Empire State Building, the number of casualties would be devastating. On the other hand, biological agents present a severe threat, though they are hard to grow and maintain. Such agents are dispersed by the use of contaminated food, injection, aerosols, and direct skin contact. For example, such type of an attack on the Empire State Building may demand various environmental health cleanup plans and procedures as well as mass patient care (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012).

Consequently, nuclear threats are not very common. However, there is a rising concern about the increase of radiological materials shipment around the world. In agreement with Kuempel, Gerasi, and Schulte (2012), nuclear explosions can cause lethal effects, as they can produce radioactive particles that can be blown by the wind for many miles away. If such an attack was realized in the Empire State Building, every living thing there in its surrounding would be affected. An unexpected nuclear or radiology attack remains a possibility (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012).

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Collecting Information

When gathering information for a threat assessment, it’s advisable to consider the following: the existing groups or organizations, their capability to prepare and mount an attack, their history of terrorist acts, their intention against commercial enterprises, and the government. Additionally, for technological hazards, one has to consider if there is anything that can cause collateral damage, near the building (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). There are many bodies, agencies, etc from which one can get the information for threat assessments. They include the FBI office, local state police office, Department of Homeland Security, CIA, local fire department, and Local Emergency Planning Committee. The Homeland Security Information Network informs people of any possible threat that is likely to take place (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012; Apostolakis, 2004). Each State receives software licenses and proper training in order to take part in information sharing. Therefore, if the local State detects any planned threat to the Empire State Building, it would inform the relevant authorities for effective precautions to be taken (Hayden, 2010).

Selecting the Primary Threats

It is very difficult to stop a terrorist attack on any building, as it is easier to change the weapons and tactics than to modify a building against a certain threat. Nevertheless, the building should be more secure in order to lessen the odds of being attacked. For instance, the Empire State Building has a high-security level; hence planning and conducting an attack on it is not so easy. Though the Empire State Building can be targeted by terrorists, because there are many people working there, and if the terrorists intended to kill a huge number of victims, then they would have achieved their goal (Aven, 2011).

The Assessment teams together with the building stakeholders are the people who select the size and type of weapons to be deliberated in the threat assessment. The building stakeholders have to determine the kind of threat their building is likely to face and the type of protection they can pay for. However, the Empire State Building shareholders may be forced to revisit their risk assessment, because the terrorist’s threat conduction is changing all the time (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). To be fully prepared, the building shareholders should acquire profound knowledge and expertise of the systems that are likely to be attacked such as ventilation and air conditioning. Secondly, they should be aware of any past attack and its outcome. Thirdly, they should ascertain the building’s importance to society, and what the terrorist stand to gain. Further on, the shareholders should be able to define the level of security in that building. By the way, the primary threats to the Empire State Building include vehicle bomb, chemical agent, biological agent, cyber-attack, and suicide bomber (Aven, 2011; Apostolakis, 2004).

Determining the Threat Rating

Having the primary threats in mind, the next step is to determine the impact of such threats. For instance, if the Empire State Building shareholders decide that its threat rating is very high, it means that the likelihood of an attack is imminent. So, a high rating surely indicates that the likelihood of an attack is expected. Further on, if the rating is low, it means that an attack is possible but is not likely to happen. Additionally, if the rating is very low, so the possibility of an attack is very negligible (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). The Empire State Building has a very high rate of facing a cyber-attack, though it has a medium-low rate of facing a vehicle bomb attack and a suicide bomber attack. Finally, it has a low rate of facing a chemical and biological attack (Apostolakis, 2004).

Asset Value Assessment

An asset can be tangible items such as computers or equipment, and it can also be non-tangible ones such as intellectual property or information. According to (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012), an asset has a certain value to an organization, hence it must be protected. Therefore, the Empire State Building stakeholders should determine the value of their assets through the following elements: preliminary and continuing costs of the enterprise for licensing, supporting, purchasing, and developing the information and physical asset (Apostolakis, 2004). Second, the value of the assets to the enterprise’s core business viability and production operations should be considered (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). Third, one should also regard the value of the assets in the external marketplace. Additionally, the cost that can be incurred to replace the lost asset should also be taken into consideration. It is important for the stakeholders to determine their exposure factor and how they can counter it. Accordingly, they should be aware of the annual rate of occurrence of any possible threat to their property (Hayden, 2010).

Vulnerability Assessment

Vulnerability refers to the possibility of an occurrence of damage, business disruption, and casualties resulting from a successful attack. The state of being vulnerable is measured by evaluating the features that would make a building susceptible to an attack on it (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). The aggressor would consider the weakness of the Empire State Building and exploit it. Therefore, the building stakeholders should always conduct a detailed analysis of the building systems and functions to identify any weak areas that might be exploited during an attack. Such assessments are very essential since they not only determine the extent of consequences but also identify the protective measures that can be applied in case of emergency (Hayden, 2010).

The Empire State Building should have an assessment team with a wealth of experience. This team should be able to decide on the level of assessment to undertake depending on the building location, type, available economic resources, and a number of occupants. Further on, a vulnerability portfolio should be prepared. This portfolio answers the questions in the Vulnerability Checklist. The checklist aids in identifying the overall risk that building is likely to face (Hayden, 2010; Apostolakis, 2004).

Risk Assessment

The risk assessment considers the possibility of an attack occurring and its consequences. Risk= Consequences Rating x Threat Rating x Vulnerability Rating.

Traditionally, the Empire State Building has tackled the mitigation of the following natural disasters such as tornado, flood, hurricane, and earthquake through strict building codes reinforced by well-established reference standards, assessment techniques, and regulations. Nonetheless, the building regulatory system has not entirely addressed the risks of terrorist threats (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012). Risk management pursues to reduce the various risks by decreasing possible vulnerabilities of assets. The stakeholders of the building determine the preferred level of protection centered on the building’s operational and physical characteristics. This assessment process should be conducted by professional engineers, landscape architects, architects, and the assessment team. This is to ensure that sound protective measures are taken to increase the building’s capacity to resist probable terrorist attacks (Aven, 2011).

Correspondingly, the stakeholders should apply such protective measures that have the highest capability of reducing the risk. Again, such measures that are likely to decrease the overall risk should be selected. In addition, protective measures that should have a priority are those that fit in the budget and capital improvement process. It is important to note that a certain protective measure may minimize the risk for a precise set of threats, but not the overall danger (Aven, 2011; Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012).

Some of the protective measures that the Empire State Building has applied include installing security lighting, availability of parking that provides enough standoff for vehicle bombs, parking ban within the building, availability of sensors that provide effective detection of possible risks in all sectors of the building, installation of a CCTV surveillance (Aven, 2011).

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Mitigation Options

Mitigation is a determination to reduce the loss of life and property by lessening a disaster’s impact. Effective mitigation requires a proper understanding of the risks, addressing the tough choices, and investing in lasting community well-being. The Empire State Building can achieve high levels of mitigation through risk analysis, risk insurance, and risk reduction. Risk analysis entails analyzing the type of threats a building is likely to face while risk reduction provides for effective planning on how to protect a building from possible threats (Kuempel, Gerasi, & Schulte, 2012).


In summary, terrorists can target any building, and especially those with a high population. Therefore, it is important to have protective measures in place, because one does not know when terrorists can decide to strike. It is necessary for a huge building like the Empire State Building to tighten its security by, for instance, setting an electronic security system and those systems that effectively detect an intrusion by aggressors. Additionally, the devices in the building should have a fingerprint verification or facial recognition. It is better not to take risks but be prepared for them in advance.

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