Information Exchange: Publications

Environmental Dimensions of Terrorism and Natural Hazards

Author: ICIS

Presentation at Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning 46th annual conference, Kansas City, MO.

"Terrorist attacks and natural hazard events that damage critical services not only pose immediate and direct threats to human life, but also threaten the environment. These environmental damages can in turn, pose another indirect series of threats to human health and life. Planning for and responses to impacts of catastrophic events are often not consistent or explicit. Understanding this sequence of effects is critical to promote planning to reduce these environmental consequences. There are many examples of post-catastrophe environmental damages and the second level health crises they create (Institute of Medicine and National Research Council 2005). Disease outbreaks following major disasters such as floods and earthquakes are well known when water supplies and sanitation services are disrupted. Mortality and morbidity impacts of heat waves have been documented in connection with extreme heat waves in Chicago (Klinenberg 2002) and Paris, France. Air quality after the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks emerged as a major health issue (U.S. EPA 2002). The transport of pesticides and other contaminants after the 1993 MidWest floods occurred as far south as the Gulf of Mexico (Zimmerman 1994). Disruptions of water and sanitation in earthquakes such as Loma Prieta, CA earthquake have threatened human health, necessitating emergency measures (Tubbesing 2994). The Tsunami disaster of December 2004 was expected to be followed by a series of health related crises. Electric power outages often precipitate the environmental and associated human health effects that follow a disaster (Zimmerman 2004). The massive August 2003 electric power outage disrupted sanitation facilities that released wastewater discharges, for example, one third of the daily generation of wastewater in NYC was released resulting in beach and shellfish harvesting area closures (Zimmerman 2003). This paper uses a large database of over 500 U.S. electric power outage events and others internationally adapted from government and other sources to identify and statistically characterize where outages typically occur in electric power systems, the interconnections among electricity and other critical environmental and health protection services, and actual and potential magnification of environmental impacts as a consequence of cascading effects through the water, land, and air environments. Distributional effects of these environmental impacts that raise social justice issues are noted as well. The environmental justice literature is not normally connected with extreme events, and how these methodologies can contribute to natural hazard and security-related environmental equity problems are suggested. Planning recommendations are made in terms of alternative approaches to the provision of critical services in order to reduce environmental and related health threats and the geographic distribution of these services as a criterion for allocating investments for threat and consequence reduction. Acknowledgement and Disclaimer. This research was supported by the United States Department of Homeland Security through the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), grant number EMW-2004-GR-0112. However, any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in this document are those of the author (s) and do not necessarily reflect views of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

Date Created: October 2005; Date Posted: November 2006




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