Industrial facilities and critical infrastructure are vulnerable to the impact of natural hazards. These impacts can trigger so-called Natech (Natural Hazard Triggering Technological Disasters) accidents and the release of toxic substances, fires and explosions, potentially resulting in health effects, environmental pollution and economic losses. This article presents some results of a study by the European Commission’ Joint Research Centre (JRC) that considered in detail the most important factors driving Natech risk, proposed a set of indicators to help measure a country's level of Natech risk reduction, and provided targeted recommendations on how to close persisting gaps related to Natech research and policy challenges.
Natech risk is expected to increase in the future, because of both climate change and human development leading to more industrialization and urbanization. It is therefore important to continue efforts at reducing Natech risk. Since there is no reliable point of reference for comparing levels of Natech risk, the JRC has proposed a set of high-level indicators to measure the performance of Natech risk management over time. Countries can use these indicators as a simple self-assessment of their status, while at the same time providing a baseline against which future progress can be gauged. The indicators also facilitate the comparison of Natech risk reduction levels between countries at the same point in time.
Many hazardous industrial activities, such as refining, oil and gas production and transport, nuclear power generation or the preparation of rare specialty chemicals, provide society with indispensable goods and services. Unfortunately, past events show that these activities are vulnerable to Natech accidents, causing releases of hazardous substances, fires and explosions. Natech events continue to occur, even in countries with generally high levels of preparedness and advanced capacity for disaster risk management.
To provide a measure of progress in Natech risk management, qualitative indicators can be used as proxies. These proxies should relate to human, financial and physical resources, as well as to the legal and administrative infrastructure available. The following eight high-level indicators are considered key elements for judging the level of Natech risk reduction in a global context:
§ Awareness: Awareness of Natech risk.
§ Legal framework: Existence of a legal framework for Natech risk reduction.
§ Data collection: Collection of accident data.
§ Natural hazards: Natural hazards considered.
§ Industrial activities: Type of activity that considers Natech risk.
§ Risk assessment: Assessment of Natech risk.
§ Risk maps: Availability of Natech risk maps.
§ Preparedness: Extent of Natech preparedness.
The choice of the proposed eight indicators is based on expert judgment, and assumes that basic information on technological and natural hazards already exists (e.g. industrial facility registers including type of activity, type and amount of hazardous substances present, industry location; natural hazard information).
The proposed indicators are high-level markers on a four-tier scale (“none”; “low”; “medium”, “high”) that can consist of one or more sub-indices. For example, the indicator on Awareness can include risk communication and dissemination of information on Natech risks between stakeholders. The indicator on Legal framework could comprise components such as application of land use and emergency planning, or a requirement for a periodic review of safety levels, in particular in view of climate change. The indicator on Data collection should also consider near misses and success stories, e.g. effective prevention and mitigation measures, to be even more useful for lesson-learning studies. Sub-components of the indicator on Preparedness could include Natech scenarios in emergency-response drills, training of on- and off-site first responders, or the availability of response equipment adequate for natural disaster situations.
The proposed performance indicators can be aggregated into a composite index to represent a country’s overall level of Natech risk reduction, or alternatively, the individual indicators can be compared separately, as shown in the Figure below. Full details of the JRC study on Natech risk drivers and risk management performance indicators, are provided in Krausmann et al. (2019).
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Krausmann, E., S. Girgin, and A. Necci. 2019. Natural hazard impacts on industry and critical infrastructure: Natech risk drivers and risk management performance indicators. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Volume 40, 101163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2019.101163
CAPTION FOR FIGURE: [ Example visualization of the proposed qualitative Natech risk reduction measures for two countries. From: Krausmann et al. (2019). ]