Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Making Buildings Immune

"Today there is heightened concern about our vulnerability to chemical or biological warfare agents. As the technologies to manufacture such weapons become increasingly available around the world, as evidence grows regarding rogue nation – and terrorist – interest in the use of these weapons, and as attacks continue on our overseas military and diplomatic installations in the post-Cold War environment, it is becoming increasingly clear that our buildings are potential targets for attack by chemical and biological agents."

That statement comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Is the day coming when military buildings will effectively shield their occupants from chemical and biological weapons? If DARPA is successful, the answer is a definite yes. To achieve that objective, DARPA's Special Projects Office has begun the Immune Building Program. The program will first be applied to military buildings. The program's objectives are:
  • Protect human occupants by stopping or neutralizing chemical or biological agents before they reach the building
  • Restore the building's original function by quickly decontaminating it
  • Preserve forensic evidence

The military's traditional defenses against chemical and biological attack have been limited to battlefields. Protect individual troops. Very little effort had been put into trying to defend buildings and thereby protect the people who occupy them. That's changing.

The Immune Building Program wants to make buildings less attractive targets by better protecting them. Deter the attack by convincing the attacker that he is unlikely to achieve his desired objective. The approach is to reduce the effectiveness of an attack by active and passive responses of heating-ventilaton-air conditioning systems (HVAC) and other infrastructure modifications such as filtration, sealants, and chemical neutralization.

The success of such a program depends first on having systems of sensors and processors that give the earliest warning possible. Recognizing that, DARPA has begun a collateral effort, the Sensors for Immune Buildings Program. As its name implies, "this program develops point and stand-off sensors to enable the protection of military facilities and the associated military and civilian work forces." The capablities of those sensors are described in the link.

So, is the day coming when we in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, will have buildings immune to accidental or intentional chemical or biological contamination? Will there be a time when our own local hospital, Kootenai Medical Center, might be able to safely shelter in place rather than consider evacuation in response to a massive chemical spill on US Highway 95? Might our area's schools, office buildings, and county jail someday be immune buildings?


DARPA's project timeline hopes to have its first operational demonstration of an Immune Building system in the second quarter of FY 2006. However, the capability to produce Immune Buildings is being done in the private sector. Assuming the Immune Building technologies and procedures are unclassified, they could begin to appear commercially within a very few years.


Post a Comment

<< Home