In February of 2012, the government changed the rules for protecting structures from the potential for terrorist threats. This was an update to the original Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC 4-020-01) published on July 31, 2002 regarding site protection.

The latest revision was gleaned from the lessons learned during the past decade. It includes a number of design and construction changes that are meant to protect both lives and property.

Aside from government office buildings, the directive also impacts structures where people gather and live.

Whether the threat concerns a potential car bomb, roadside IED, or booby-trapped trash can, UFC 4-010-01 addresses both the hardening of structures as well as the required standoff distances that have been proven to mitigate such threats. For instance, the simplest strategy for protecting a building and its occupants from a car bomb is to maximize the standoff distance between a building and the explosive device. This can be anywhere from 82 to 148 feet, depending upon the size of the potential explosive device. UFC 4-010-01 actually specifies two different conventional construction standoff distances. One is for a larger explosive (Weight 1: for example, a car bomb); the other is one associated with a smaller explosive (Weight 2: a pipe bomb).

The governing principle of the directive is to be able to guide architects and contractors in what it takes to harden windows, doors, exterior walls, and roofs in any proposed or existing structure. This should be done without having to undertake special analysis usually required for blast mitigation. Other considerations of the directive include such things as vehicle barriers, parking areas, stairwells, mail rooms, and exhaust systems.

The changes made to the original directive were derived from lessons learned the hard way. Therefore, the required upgrades are a small price to pay to protect everyone.

Ed Meskel is vice president of SCIF Global, a Jacksonville, Florida firm that specializes in the design construction and shipping of Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities worldwide.