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Guidance for Protecting Building Environments From Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2002
40 pages
Based on the findings and conclusions of recent building vulnerability assessments conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the recommendations of the Interagency Workgroup on Building Air Protection, this report identifies actions that a building owner or manager can implement to enhance occupant protection from an airborne chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) attack.
While more comprehensive guidance for building protection is being developed, this document focuses on the short-term goals of identifying those protective actions that can be taken immediately. In initiating any plan to modify building system design or operation, the first step is to understand how these systems were intended to operate and how they currently operate. This involves a walk-through inspection of the building and its systems, including the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system), fire protection, and life-safety systems. A partial checklist of items to examine during this walk-through is presented. The recommendations for building protection offered in this report are divided into four general categories: things not to do; physical security; ventilation and filtration; and maintenance, administration, and training. Things not to do include not permanently sealing outdoor air intakes, not modifying the HVAC system without first understanding the effects on the building systems or the occupants, and not interfering with fire protection and life safety. Nine recommendations are offered for physical security, including preventing access to outdoor air intakes, preventing public access to mechanical areas, physically isolating entry and storage areas from the rest of the building, securing air grilles, and restricting access to building information. The five guidelines that pertain to ventilation and filtration are to evaluate HVAC control options; assess filtration; assess ducted and nonducted return air systems; the installation of low-leakage, fast-acting dampers; and ensure building air tightness. Recommendations for maintenance, administration, and training pertain to emergency plans, policies, and procedures; HVAC maintenance staff training; and preventive maintenance and procedures. 14 resources