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Building Security And Bio Chemical Terrorism ? An Interdisciplinary Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Technical Issues in Architectural Engineering II

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.335.1 - 12.335.8



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Paper Authors

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Frank Yeboah North Carolina A&T State University

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Harmohindar Singh North Carolina A&T State University

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Shamsuddin Ilias North Carolina A&T State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax incidents raised several questions as to how the U.S. Government can better protect its citizens and cities against the use of chemical and/or biological agents (CBA) as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The enemy that U.S. faces today is hydra-headed with no clearly defined frontline that makes it difficult to fight. In fact, the U.S. currently finds itself in an asymmetric warfare. Its geographical isolation is no longer a sufficient barrier for preventing attacks on its citizens and cities. Most Americans spend, at least 90% of their time in buildings – Schools, offices, homes etc. Buildings are vulnerable targets for bio-chemical terrorism because the high population densities allow for maximum effect. In addition, confined space means relatively small amount of CBA can have a substantial impact. Coupled with these, the economic and psychological impact of an attack can be very high. A review of engineering courses reveals that securing buildings against bioterrorism has not been sufficiently addressed in the engineering curricula. Everyday that we delay in making building owners and building professionals such as architects and civil engineers aware of the consequences of their inaction in addressing the threat posed by bioterrorism, not only do we undermine one of the most important goals of securing our homeland, but also contribute to a weakness that terrorists can exploit to their advantage. Building professionals therefore must be educated on the potential threats of bioterrorism, and how these may be mitigated. The paper describes an interdisciplinary course in an aspect of buildings security - bioterrorism - and how it can be offered as a course to building professionals to help combat the growing threats of bioterrorism.


The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax incidents in the U.S. suggest that much more efforts are needed to protect buildings against CBA attacks. Buildings are attractive targets because of the high density of people in them at any given time and the fact that most people in the U.S. are known to spend about 90% of their time indoors; homes, schools, offices etc.1

In response to the fears, chaos and destruction that followed the September 11 attacks, federal, state, and local authorities have issued safety and other protective measures to safeguard high profile buildings and facilities against CBA attacks. Some private building owners and operators have also taken steps to increase security. In fact, building owners and building designers no longer share the illusion that their buildings are “immune” against terrorist attacks, but rather have accepted the fact that these buildings are indeed vulnerable.2

Today, terrorist attacks can impact anyone, at any time, at any location, and can take several forms.3 Unfortunately, not all buildings are well protected, and hence designers and owners may have to worry about more than mere moral culpability for the loss of life that ensues. They also face potential civil lawsuits, since September 11th-style attacks against buildings are now foreseeable under the “Totality of the Circumstances” test.4 Building owners and designers can no longer circumvent the legal liability by arguing that a release of chemical or biological agents in a building’s heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, for instance, was unforeseeable.

Yeboah, F., & Singh, H., & Ilias, S. (2007, June), Building Security And Bio Chemical Terrorism ? An Interdisciplinary Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2820

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