The chemical industry needs to work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hasten the implementation of security measures, according to a study published in the International Journal of Critical Infrastructures.

The researchers claim that slow implementation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) is leaving chemical plants vulnerable and jeopardizing the safety of American citizens.

DHS was given authority to regulate the safety and security of U.S. chemical facilities after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It introduced CFATS in April 2007, requiring chemical plants to prepare "security vulnerability assessments" and to develop and implement site security plans. However, the latest information suggests that very few facilities have completed the necessary implementations.

The authors of the study, Maria Rooijakkers and Abdul-Akeem Sadiq of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University, in Indianapolis, want to see the the chemical industry and DHS working more closely together to ensure safety and security "before it is too late".

They also suggest that, rather than waiting for CFATS to be implemented, communities could develop their own preparedness and response plans in anticipation of possible chemical disasters in the future, whether caused by terrorism or accident.

Chemical facilities are a potentially vulnerable target for terrorist attack, and four of the 15 National Planning Scenarios are related to chemical attacks. Yet, as the researchers point out, of the 3,468 chemical facilities given their final tier designations under CFATS in 2007, only 40 had had their plans approved by 2013 and the pace of adoption and implementation is yet to pick up.