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close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
close this folderChapter 4. Natural hazards
close this folderCharacteristics of particular hazards and disasters 1
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View the documentChemical and industrial accidents

Chemical and industrial accidents

Causal phenomena

Disaster/explosion in a plant or storage facilities handling toxic substances
Accidents during the transportation of chemicals
Contamination of food or the environment by misuse of chemicals
Improper waste management of toxic chemicals
Technological system failures
Failures of plant safety design or components
Natural hazards such as fire, earthquake or landslides
Arson or sabotage


Incidences of chemical and industrial accidents are expected to increase as industrialization increases in developing countries.

Factors contributing to vulnerability

Those persons, structures, livestock, crops, and environment closest to the scene of an accident are most vulnerable, however, large scale releases of airborne pollutants may spread for hundreds of kilometers.
Lack of safety features or lack of evacuation plan.
Unawareness by vulnerable persons of the potential danger.

Typical adverse effects

Physical damage - Damage or destruction may occur to structures and infrastructure. Transportation accidents damage vehicles and other objects on impact. Industrial fires may reach high temperatures and affect large areas.
Casualties - Many people may be killed or injured and require medical treatment.
Environmental - Contamination of air, water supply, land, and animal life may occur. Areas may become uninhabitable for humans and animals. Ecological systems may be disrupted even on a global scale.

Possible risk reduction measures

Development of a plan, such as the APELL (Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at the Local Level) process, to assist decision makers and technical personnel to improve community awareness of hazardous installations and aid them in preparing disaster response plans.

Specific preparedness measures

Hazard mapping
Hazardous materials identification
Inspection of chemical plants and storage facilities
Monitoring toxic waste disposal procedures
Improve fire fighting capacity
Monitoring pollution levels
Prepare and practice evacuation plans
Test warning sirens

Typical post-disaster needs

Evacuation from area; search and rescue; alternative sources of water; cleanup; monitor environmental effects.

Impact assessment tools

APELL process forms for emergency response plan evaluation, CHEMTREC (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center) information systems.