Monday, May 28, 2012


(Natural Hazards Triggering Technological Accidents)

I believe it is good, before I start my article, to explain the meaning of the words OECD and NATECH.
OECD : Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
(A useful definition for) NATECH: A “Natech” accident is a “chemical accident” caused by a natural hazard or a natural disaster. “Chemical accidents” include accidental oil and chemical spills, gas releases, and fire or explosions involving hazardous substances from fixed establishments (e.g. petrochemical, pharmaceutical, pesticide, storage depot), and oil and gas pipelines.
Now let’s get started.
Not many people and not many facilities are aware of the impact natural hazards could have on environment and on people’s life. This theme as well as the strong connection between natural events and potentially dangerous technology-related-facilities, was the subject of a workshop held 23rd - 25th May 2012 in the Congress Zentrum in Dresden (Germany).
The city of Dresden, severely damaged by the flooding in August 2002, wants to be as much as possible prepared in case a new flooding should occur, a possibility that seems to be not so remote as one could imagine.
The continuous and quick climate changes the world is facing in the last few years, leave no doubts that new and more frequent  weather-related events could occur.
Let’s think at the hurricanes and tornados that created above the ocean near Africa move towards the American’s states, or at the frequent earthquakes that are hitting  the north of Italy since the beginning of this year, or at the earthquake that hit Japan and Fukushima last year, causing a nuclear power disaster. Nevertheless, countries like the Philippines are continuously subjected to natural hazards: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, floods are part of the daily life.
What would happen if these natural hazards, whose strength goes well beyond the human control, would hit and destroy facilities engaged in working and storing chemical or toxic substances?
What would happen to the population living there, to the fields, the rivers, the flora and the fauna of these places and to the whole eco-system?
Are the facilities involved in producing and/or storing dangerous substances aware of these risks? And most important of all, are they ready to cope with natural events (or even with bush fire), whose destroying power could go beyond our prediction?
Disappointingly, the present situation is not as good as we could expect. Many facilities involved in producing or transforming dangerous substances, would not be able to cope with natural hazards whose strength is stronger than usual. In other words, they are not ready to face a potential (not-yet-experienced)-natural disaster.  
Most of these facilities have been built many years ago in respect of the various needs and requirements of the time. In the course of the years, however, things have changed and they are going to change further. These facilities, therefore, need to be put in “safety”, need to re-think at the dangerousness of the substances on the view of present and forecasted future natural hazards.
Natural hazards do not make any difference among OECD member countries and not OECD member countries, therefore, these problems are of same relevance for all countries.
At the end of a very interesting and well organized workshop some conclusions and recommendations on Natech Risk Management were drawn:
  • Methods and tools for industrial Natech risk analysis and territory mapping with help of GIS (Geographic Information System) for identification and monitoring of Natech risk locations are extremely important
  • Elaboration of guidance, strength co-operation and experience exchange among  OECD member countries and not OECD member countries have to be promoted
  • Environmental insurance against Natech Risk for facilities and installation already existing and/or in construction is of great relevance
  • Natech risk analysis should be taken into consideration when locations for new facilities are chosen
New scenarios open in front of our eyes, a lot of work needs to be done and an even stronger co-operation among experts, governments and facilities needs to be promoted and supported. The earth belongs to all its inhabitants and it is in the interest of all to protect it and to keep it as safe as possible.

Interesting could be to give a look also to:
IEEE TTM: Technology Time Machine
Abundance: Future is better than you think
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