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Emergency Planning for Hazardous Industrial Areas: A Brazilian Case Study

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One of the characteristics of modern industrial development is the emergence of a new typology of accidents whose effects can be spread, in space as well as in time, well beyond the borders of the installations where they occur, sometimes impacting the local population and the environment in a catastrophic fashion. This is the result of a number of factors that have changed the risk profile of modern industrial activities. For a number of reasons, the developing countries have proved to be more vulnerable to industrial disasters. Three of the most catastrophic industrial accidents—Bhopal, San Juan de Ixhuatepec, and Cubatão—occurred in developing countries, claiming thousands of lives. During the 1970s and 1980s the higher degree of public visibility of industrial hazards as a result of serious accidents, led to the creation, especially in the more industrialized countries, of regulations for greater control over industrial activities, either by means of new laws or by updating existing legislation. Some of these regulations were designed to improve the response to accidents with potential impacts outside the industrial sites. This article attempts to describe the current status and identify the shortcomings of off-site emergency planning for hazardous industrial areas in Brazil. The most important problems are the lack of specific legislation and the absence of awareness and active participation of public authorities. The experience of an off-site emergency planning process for a Brazilian industrial area is presented. This experience illustrates how difficult it is to prepare and implement emergency planning processes in an industrializing country.

Keywords: Emergency planning; industrial hazards; major accidents; risk management

Document Type: Original Article


Publication date: August 1, 2000

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