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Module 1 Theories of Risk and Crisis This module serves as an introduction to the course and to the subject area of risk, crisis and disaster management, and it is also a conceptual tool box for the rest of the course. In particular, it introduces a range of theoretical perspectives on the concepts of risk and crisis such as how risk is assessed and managed. The overarching aim of the module is to identify different perspectives and examine the extent to which they inform practice and ultimately to lay a foundation upon which future modules will build.

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MSc in Risk, Crisis & Disaster Management

MSc in Risk, Crisis & Disaster Management

Module 2 Managing Risk and Crisis

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In this module some contemporary debates about security are explored. It brings together broad developments in theories of risk in the social sciences with risk issues of relevance to security managers. It also examines the relationship between these different perspectives on risk and a general theory of security. An attempt is made to highlight the relationship between the theory and practice of risk management and security.

(updated February 2012)

Module 3 Research Methods in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management This Module aims to provide students with comprehensive knowledge and understanding of methodological issues in investigation studies research. The Module introduces students to research methodology on both a theoretical and practical level. Students are encouraged to analyse critically the process of social scientific enquiry and to examine the relationship between research problems, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches.

In this module a number of case studies of crises and disasters are examined. The case studies act as heuristics ‑ vehicles for exploring some of the issues and concepts introduced in modules one and two. Such issues include the impact of personality on crisis and disaster management, the influence of cultural factors and national preferences on crisis and disaster management techniques, and the impact on disaster investigations of paradigmatic interpretations of evidence. The rationale for the module is that important lessons can be learned from the detailed, objective analysis of past crises and disasters. The unit also provides an insight into the politics of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, which set up the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, and into subsequent legislation on the regulation of developments close to hazardous complexes.

Module 5 Models of Risk, Crisis and Disaster This module addresses the possibility that risks, crises and disasters may be understood in different ways by different people. An air crash, for example, may be understood primarily as a potential blow to profitability by an aircraft manufacturer, as a case for investigation by the relevant police service and national accident investigation bureau, as a destabilizing influence on the stock market by brokers and investors and as a human tragedy by the tabloid press (for whom disasters provide many column-inches of material) and relatives, partners and friends of the victims. Thus the same event may be ‘constructed’ or experienced differently by different parties. This module examines how parties with different ‘investments’ (reputational, financial, emotional etc.) in crises and disasters may experience them in quite different ways.

Module 6 Emergency Planning Management This module looks at the ‘front line’ management of risks, crises and disasters. The emphasis is on practical risk, crisis and disaster management, from risk assessments produced by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive to the factors that need to be considered by emergency planners when drafting an evacuation plan. The module aims to be as eclectic as possible, including, for example, a unit on the identification and management of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The course material is and remains the property of the University (and must be immediately returned to the University upon request at any time) and is either the copyright of the University or of third parties who have licensed the University to make use of it. The course material is for the private study of the student to whom it is sent and any unauthorised use, copying or resale is not permitted. Unauthorised use may result in the course being terminated. The course material was created in the academic year 2011/2012 Civil Safety and Security Unit • University of Leicester • 14 Salisbury Road • Leicester • LE1 7QR

MODELS OF RISK, CRISIS AND DISASTER

Module 4 Case Studies of Crises and Disasters

Models of Risk, Crisis and Disaster


MODULE 5 MODELS OF RISK, CRISIS AND DISASTER Copyright The course material is and remains the property of the University (and must be immediately returned to the University upon request at any time) and is either the copyright of the University or of third parties who have licensed the University to make use of it. The course material is for the private study of the student to whom it is sent and any unauthorised use, copying or resale is not permitted. Unauthorised use may result in the student’s registration being terminated.

This course material was created in the academic year 2005/2006 and updated in the academic year 2011/2012.


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Table of Contents Unit One: Introduction................................................................................. 1-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 1-3 Incommensurate Constructions of Disaster - The Lockerbie Disaster and other Examples......................................................................................................... 1-6 Conclusion................................................................................................................ 1-8 Bibliography.............................................................................................................. 1-9

2 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 2.10 2.11 2.12

Unit Two: The Role of Central Government in Disaster Management........ 2-3 Aims and Objectives of this Unit................................................................................ 2-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 2-3 Civil Defence............................................................................................................ 2-4 National Emergencies................................................................................................ 2-8 Safety Legislation..................................................................................................... 2-14 Fire Safety Legislation............................................................................................... 2-16 International Collaboration...................................................................................... 2-18 Overview............................................................................................................... 2-20 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 2-21 Further Reading....................................................................................................... 2-21 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 2-22 Bibliography............................................................................................................ 2-22

3 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9

Unit Three: Disasters as Heuristics?............................................................ 3-3 Aims and Objectives of this Unit................................................................................ 3-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 3-3 Socio-Economic and Political Context of the Flixborough Disaster.............................. 3-6 The Flixborough Disaster.......................................................................................... 3-7 BP Chemicals at Baglan Bay..................................................................................... 3-11 Conclusion.............................................................................................................. 3-15 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 3-16 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 3-16 Bibliography............................................................................................................ 3-17

4 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 4.10 4.11

Unit 4: The Economics of Disaster - Sea Empress....................................... 4-3 Aims and Objectives of this Unit................................................................................ 4-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 4-3 Plans and Preparedness............................................................................................. 4-5 The Economic Context............................................................................................. 4-6 The Incident.............................................................................................................. 4-7 The Response........................................................................................................... 4-9 The Response at Sea............................................................................................... 4-12 The Shore Clean-up............................................................................................... 4-12 Funding and Compensation..................................................................................... 4-15 Economic Impact.................................................................................................... 4-15 Statutory Duty........................................................................................................ 4-18

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1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4

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risk 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16

Overview............................................................................................................... 4-18 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 4-20 Further Reading....................................................................................................... 4-20 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 4-20 Bibliography............................................................................................................ 4-20

5 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.10 5.11

Unit 5: Hazard Construction........................................................................ 5-3 Aims and Objectives of this Unit................................................................................ 5-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 5-4 The Theoretical Basis................................................................................................ 5-5 Are Differences in Hazard Construction Important?................................................... 5-8 Applications of Hazard Constructs............................................................................. 5-9 Differences in Hazard Constructs............................................................................ 5-11 The Application of ‘Postmodernity’.......................................................................... 5-13 Conclusion.............................................................................................................. 5-15 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 5-16 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 5-17 Bibliography............................................................................................................ 5-18

6 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 6.10 6.11 6.12

Unit 6: National Emergency Management: A Comparative Study............ 6-3 Aims and objectives of this Unit................................................................................. 6-3 Background and Expectations.................................................................................... 6-3 National Priorities and Emergency Planning................................................................ 6-5 Social and Cultural Expectations................................................................................. 6-8 Counter-Disaster Planning....................................................................................... 6-10 Case Studies........................................................................................................... 6-16 Other Comparisons................................................................................................ 6-20 Conclusions............................................................................................................ 6-22 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 6-23 Suggested Further Reading...................................................................................... 6-23 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 6-24 Bibliography............................................................................................................ 6-24

7 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 7.10

Unit 7: The Lockerbie Disaster: Experience of a Victim’s Family .............. 7-3 Aims and objectives of this Unit................................................................................. 7-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 7-3 The Lockerbie Disaster............................................................................................. 7-4 Terrorism — Nature and Prevalence......................................................................... 7-5 Lockerbie — A Subjective View of the Disaster Response.......................................... 7-6 Summary of Issues Important to the Bereaved......................................................... 7-18 Suggested Modifications to Emergency Service and Government Response to Disaster.............................................................................................................. 7-18 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 7-20 Suggested Further Reading/Bibliography................................................................... 7-20 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 7-21


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Unit 8: The Public Inquiry: An Example and a Critique.............................. 8-3 Aims and Objectives of this Unit................................................................................ 8-3 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 8-3 The Big Public Inquiry................................................................................................ 8-4 Analytical Framing...................................................................................................... 8-6 The Case Study: A Public Inquiry into Manchester Airport’s Application to Build a Second Runway............................................................................................. 8-7 Conclusions............................................................................................................ 8-18 Guide to Reading.................................................................................................... 8-20 Recent Developments............................................................................................. 8-20 Study Questions...................................................................................................... 8-21 Bibliography............................................................................................................ 8-21 Notes on the Case Study........................................................................................ 8-22

9 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4

Unit 9: Conclusion........................................................................................ 9-3 Module Summary..................................................................................................... 9-3 Understanding Katrina............................................................................................... 9-6 Guide to Reading...................................................................................................... 9-7 Bibliography.............................................................................................................. 9-7

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UNIT 1 Introduction


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1 Unit One: Introduction 1.1 Introduction This Module addresses the possibility that risks, crises and disasters may be understood in different ways by different people. An aircrash, for example, may be understood primarily as a potential blow to future sales by the aircraft manufacturer, as a commercial upset and threat to profitability by the carrier, as a political embarrassment by a Prime Minister or President, as a commercial opportunity by rival manufacturers and/or carriers, as an unwanted burden by investigative agencies, or as a human tragedy by the relatives of the victims. Thus the same event may be ‘constructed’ or experienced differently by different involved parties. This Module examines how parties with different ‘investments’ (financial, reputational, emotional etc.) in crises and disasters Of course, the parties involved in a crisis or disaster may experience a whole range of emotions. In the aftermath of an aircrash, many of those involved, and not just victims’ relatives, may experience grief (Emergency Planning College: 44). What we are concerned with here, however, is the primary orientation of a particular involved party to a risk management decision, crisis or disaster. The Module describes the likely orientations of seven potential participants to a situation of risk assessment, crisis or disaster management - from the necessary dispassion and objectivity of central government departments, to the committed agendas of environmentalists engaged in a public debate over an airport expansion programme, to the reaction of victims’ relatives towards the handling of an aircrash investigation. The Module also illustrates how disasters may act as ‘heuristics’, enabling ‘at-risk’ communities to come to a better understanding of their own imperilled situation, and shows the multi-dimensional character of disasters, through a discussion of the economic (as opposed to, for example, purely environmental) impacts of an oil spill. The various Units are summarised below.

Unit 2 The Role of Central Government in Disaster Management This Unit provides a broad survey of the responsibilities and scope of central government in the United Kingdom in relation to the management of risk, crisis and disaster. It looks at government responsibilities in relation to civil defence, disaster management and safety legislation. It also looks at the links between the UK government and international agencies with regard to disaster management and recovery. Thus the Unit gives the UK government’s perspective on risk, crisis and disaster management, and provides a touchstone for the various other perspectives described in Units 3 to 8. Following three major crises in 2000/01, the UK Government comprehensively reviewed and

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may experience them in quite different ways.

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revised the statutory duties of all those who might have to deal with a disaster (Cabinet Office, 2005). This unit will introduce you to these changes in the national approach to civil preparedness.

Unit 3 Disasters as Heuristics? This Unit examines two quite different aspects of the social construction of risk. First, it reviews the changing attitude of a local community towards the risks presented by a petrochemicals complex in light of a major explosion at another complex. Secondly, it discusses the potential lateral impact of

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events in similar areas of human endeavour on risk perception. That is, it explores the possible heuristic qualities for risk perception of events in the same or related fields. It is suggested that low frequency, high-consequence technological failures may alert the public to risks not previously considered. In the case discussed here, an ‘at-risk’ community constructed the risks presented by a neighbouring petrochemicals complex chiefly in terms of odours, noise, dust and light pollution, until an explosion at another plant (on the other side of the country) alerted them to the explosive risks presented by such installations. The explosion seemed to perform an heuristic role - alerting the public to previously unconsidered, or deliberately ignored, risks. As a result, the petrochemicals complex was seen (constructed) in an entirely new light.

Unit 4 The Economics of Disaster

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This Unit examines the various economic outcomes of a major disaster, namely the February, 1996, grounding of the Sea Empress oil tanker off Milford Haven, Wales. The disaster is seen from the point of view of the various local authorities responsible for cleaning up the oil spill. The various economic outcomes of the spill are described in detail. One rather surprising insight is that the outcomes were not entirely disbeneficial to the economy of south-west Wales. First, the spill necessitated the recruitment of unemployed labour for clean-up operations, and secondly, the ready availability of labour for this purpose highlighted the poor state of the local economy. South-west Wales has long been a victim of rural poverty and marginal living. Of course, this economic construction of the spillage jars somewhat with any environmental construction that may be offered. Many hundreds of seabirds, and countless numbers of fish were killed. The visual disamenity was (for many weeks) significant.

Unit 5 Hazard Construction This Unit examines the possibility that different parties may, depending on their particular interests, produce different risk profiles of technologies. The Unit looks specifically at possible different perceptions of the risks and hazards presented by plastic foam-sandwich panels, of the kind used in the construction industry. It is suggested that the hazard constructs of building designers and firefighters differ in a number of important respects. For example, while firefighters might view the material primarily in terms of its fire resisting properties and behaviour when alight, designers and architects might be more interested in its engineering (for example, load-bearing) and ascetic qualities. For the latter group, the fire-resisting/combustion characteristics of the material would not be central to their view - construction - of plastic foam-sandwich panels. The reading produced by the British Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is a (perhaps inevitably) partisan construction of the building technology in question. This is unsurprising, given the FBU’s organisational mission, to further the interests, especially the safety interests, of its members.

Unit 6 National Emergency Management: A Comparative Study This Unit seeks to draw comparisons on an international scale between the national emergency plans of four countries. The disaster plans of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia and Japan are compared. It is noted that each country faces a number of unique problems. Japan, for example, located on the Pacific ‘ring of fire’, lives with the ever-present threat of earthquake

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and tsunami. Britain, on the other hand, is less threatened by natural disaster. As a result, its national emergency plans are more a response to ‘man-made’ disasters. It is suggested that the current and historic socio-economic, political, demographic, and geographic contexts of a country will, in some degree, influence its risk perception, assessment and management processes, and disaster response. In Japan, for example, a tradition of loyalty to one’s immediate superior can obstruct efforts at timely central direction of disaster response activities. The cultural dimension to responsibility, authority and action in each society exerts a powerful influence on behaviour - even in disaster situations. The Unit demonstrates how different national characteristics, historic experiences and geographies can affect constructions of risk, and accompanying practices and behaviours.

Unit 7 The Lockerbie Disaster; experience of a victim’s family

Unit 8 The Public Inquiry: An Example and a Critique This Unit looks at the Public Inquiry into the application by Manchester Airport Authority (MAA) in England to build a new runway. The discourses of the runway’s sponsors and opponents are examined in detail. It is suggested that the differing value systems of the protagonists produced different assessments - ‘constructions’ - of the utility of a second runway. While the runway’s sponsors emphasised the need to relieve airborne congestion and create new employment opportunities, the runway’s opponents emphasised the potential negative environmental impacts of the scheme. Thus a major aviation development project proved amenable to two quite different constructions. The first was that the development would bestow significant economic benefit on the community. The second was that it would harm the environment. (Of course, there were other possible constructions. For example, that a second runway might improve safety. Or that a second runway, by increasing capacity and usage, might actually reduce safety). It was left to a Public Inquiry to resolve these incommensurate social, economic and environmental constructions of MAA’s proposal.

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This Unit looks at the Lockerbie disaster from the point of view of the family of one of the victims. When a Pan American Jumbo Jet crashed onto the small Scottish village of Lockerbie in December, 1988, several hundred families lost relatives in the carnage. While the British and American governments enacted a comprehensive disaster recovery operation and crash investigation, some of the victims’ relatives felt that their emotions and needs were not given sufficient weight by the authorities. In Britain, for example, some families had to provide repeated descriptions of their lost ones to law enforcement agencies. The agencies seemed incapable of liaising to share the same data. Such demands increased emotional stress levels. At the scene of the disaster, some families were treated as obstacles to the investigation, rather than as part of the overall disaster. In looking at the Lockerbie crash from the point of view of a victim’s family, the Unit provides a construction of the event from the perspective of those most intimately involved. Of course, the subjectivity of the Unit is both a strength and a weakness. A strength in that it demonstrates through the medium of a powerful personal narrative the emotions of those bereaved in the disaster, and a weakness in that it skirts around other - perhaps equally valid - constructions. For example, the determination of crash investigation and law enforcement agencies to discover as much as possible about the circumstances of the disaster, to the extent of noting the location of every item of debris, however small.

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1.2 Incommensurate Constructions of Disaster The Lockerbie Disaster and other Examples On December 21, 1988, a Pan-Am Boeing 747 named Maid of the Seas crashed on to the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. All 259 passengers and crew were killed, along with 11 Lockerbie residents. As the ‘lead agency’, the Dumfries and Galloway police force had the job of securing the crash site for the recovery of evidence. The crash site extended over an area of some 800 square miles (Emergency Planning College 1994: 41) - a severe test for a force with just 344 officers: A large-scale criminal investigation into the causes of the Lockerbie air crash involved a massive search and identification operation. Ten square miles of countryside around the town were combed for bodies, personal belongings, aircraft wreckage and debris. Every last item was catalogued in the hope that it would provide clues to the cause of the disaster. The district was divided up into

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six main areas and teams of firemen, police and accident investigators were tasked with searching each segment (Civil Protection 1989: 4). Thus the Dumfries and Galloway police service - whose numbers were rapidly bolstered by officers from other forces, British Transport and Military Police officers - were faced with a formidable task: to preserve large amounts of evidence scattered over a very large area. This was their necessary, if unpleasant, primary orientation to the disaster. Necessary, because crash investigators need to examine and log every piece of evidence, however small or wherever located. As one investigator has put it: [Y]ou take your time, look at everything and record it, photograph it, and that way you’re kind of programming the computer with the necessary data (Faith, 1996: 12). The huge logistical task of logging all the evidence meant that some 60 bodies remained out in the open for up to three days. The primary orientation of the victims’ relatives, however, was very different - namely the rapid identification by themselves of their loved ones followed by their speedy removal to a place of rest prior to burial or cremation. While the police construction of the event was of a potential criminal investigation, necessitating the preservation of the scene, the relatives’ construction was of a huge emotional loss of almost unimaginable proportions. As a relative of one of the victims put it on one occasion: Faced with her sudden death, we were in a different dimension of loss; the shock and anguish and the intensity of the grief combined to make our individual lives almost insupportable (Swire, 1995: 1689). Such powerful sentiment led, inevitably, to confrontations between those who had suffered loss, and those who were tasked with investigating the disaster. On one occasion, a group of relatives was escorted to the crash scene by a social worker. During the visit the social worker gave them as much information as he could. The relatives found such openness refreshing. “It was the first time anyone had volunteered information spontaneously” said

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one (Dix, 1997: 21). The police, however, saw (‘constructed’) the visitors as a potential threat to the integrity of the crime scene, and reacted accordingly. As one of the relatives explained after the visit: We were met by a group of police officers who insisted that we should not get out of the bus. The social worker negotiated on our behalf and, despite strong opposition, we got out of the bus. We were dumbstruck by the enormity of what we were seeing, yet our silent contemplation was constantly interrupted by police officers asking us to get back into the bus. We were treated like ghoulish sightseers (Dix, 1997: 21).

The relatives, however, constructed their visit as a ‘pilgrimage’ - a means of grieving: For the bereaved, the visit was a pilgrimage - we were not a bunch of lunatics who were going to rifle through the debris for personal possessions. If we had been asked to stay behind the wall to look at the scene (which, in any case, we did) and been told of the need to preserve the evidence, the situation could have been diffused (Dix, 1997: 21). Thus it can be seen that the differing constructions of the crash scene maintained by the police on the one hand, and the victims’ relatives on the other, caused tensions, and on at least one occasion, confrontation. Each group felt it had certain rights over the disaster - rights that were incommensurate and, therefore, potentially conflictual. Besides wanting to preserve the integrity of the crash scene, the police felt they had to ‘protect’ the relatives from the horror of the disaster. But this had the effect of making the relatives feel ‘excluded’ (Dix: 21) and unable to resolve their grief. On a more positive note, it was felt that if the authorities had explained why they behaved in a certain way, this would have helped the relatives to come to terms with the situation: It is...rare for the different roles and responsibilities of the coroner, the police and social services to be clearly explained to relatives and survivors. Doing this would help those directly affected to make sense of the process (Dix, 1997: 21).

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Thus, according to this participant, the police constructed the relatives’ visit as an unwanted intrusion into a very complex and - in terms of international relations - important investigation. The relatives posed a threat to police efforts to bring order to the crash scene.

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As it was, the only explanation given to the relatives was that visitors were excluded from the crash scene because that was normal practice - de rigeur in the circumstances. It is clear, however, that a more flexible approach - one that attempted to accommodate and reconcile different constructions of the event - might have gone some way to ameliorating the suffering of victims’ families.

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1.2.1 Lessons to be Learned It is clear that the various parties involved in a disaster, either professionally or through force of circumstances, may ‘construct’ the event differently. During this course many different examples are used to bring out salient points, some of which readily generalise to other situations. In a vividly illustrated book Sandra Forty reviews what seem to her to be “…some of the greatest disasters of the 20th century.” (Forty, 2005:6). Her justification for what is included is in itself an interesting discourse on the scope of this area of study, and something that can be argued over. Forty does include (p118-119) the capsize of the ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’ car ferry in 1987, but none of the recent UK rail crashes that increased greatly the public demands for new laws to punish management failures that lead to ‘corporate killing’. Forty does include (p182-187) the sinking of the Kursk submarine in August 2000; this disaster

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drew great media attention, despite the Russian government’s attempts to keep it secret. The entire crew of 118 lost their lives and the Russian authorities were criticised heavily on many points, including their reluctance to accept help from foreign rescue experts for military security reasons. Lessons were clearly learned because the approach was different when in summer 2005 a Russian mini submersible, the ‘Priz’, became trapped at a depth of 620 ft off the Kamchatka peninsula. British experts were quickly invited onto the scene and the crew of seven were rescued. Sometimes revisiting old events can prove most rewarding, as the following two examples demonstrate. First, the release of government papers thirty years after the 1966 collapse of a coal tip at Aberfan, South Wales, which killed 116 children and 28 adults, has enabled researchers to expose more of the serious failings in the official handling of that disaster (McLean and Johnes, 2000). Particularly significant are the further revelations about the misuse of the money donated for the relief of the afflicted community. Secondly, Simon Winchester’s 2005 book on the San Francisco earthquake in April 1906 is informed by latest findings of geological research and gives a compelling account of the causes of the disaster. His description of the handling of the aftermath is also replete with interesting detail, including the strong leadership provided by the Mayor. However, the most telling conclusion of Winchester’s book is the inescapable fact that more major earthquakes in the USA are inevitable.

1.3 Conclusion It can be seen that disasters are amenable to different ‘constructions’ and that these constructions may be incommensurate, that is they may not be measurable by the same standard. This module will show that risk perceptions, risk assessments and management decisions are contingent upon a party’s orientation towards the technology, the issue or event in question.

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1.4 Bibliography Cabinet Office (2005) Civil Contingencies Act 2004: a short guide (revised October 2005), London: Cabinet Office (www. ukresilience. info). Civil Protection (1989) ‘Lockerbie’, London: Home Office (Issue No 10). Dix, P (1997) ‘Disaster Relief?’ in Police Review, Nov 7th. Emergency Planning College (1994) Easingwold Papers Number 8, York: Home Office. Faith, N (1996) Black Box: Why Air Safety is no Accident, London: Boxtree.

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Forty, S (2005) Defining Moments: Disasters, Rochester: Grange Books.

Swire, J (1995) ‘The Aftermath of Disaster’ in British Medical Journal , Dec, 23-30. Winchester, S (2005) A Crack in the Edge of the World: The Great American Earthquake of 1906, London: Viking.

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McLean, I and Johnes, M (2000) Aberfan: Government and Disasters, Wales: Welsh Academic Press.

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UNIT 2 The Role of Central Government in Disaster Management


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2 Unit Two: The Role of Central Government in Disaster Management 2.1 Aims and Objectives of this Unit That national government has a duty to provide for the protection of its citizens in times of crisis is a general principle that few would dispute. Similarly, we readily accept that some responsibility for the care of others is shared by individuals and the many organisations, including businesses, that comprise the nation’s social structure.

The aim is to set the scene for you to consider those issues by describing the development and current (2006) structure of the United Kingdom’s central government arrangements for disaster management. Some overlap with other elements of this course is inevitable because local and central responsibilities are interwoven and the focus can shift as a crisis develops. International comparisons will be introduced to illustrate how they can broaden the debate and sharpen the choices. It should be noted that no claim is made here for the universal applicability of the UK system of disaster management, especially as it is currently absorbing radical changes made in 2004/05. Rather it is probable that a formulation of ‘best practice’ would require the synthesis of elements of many national approaches.

2.2 Introduction National government provides for the protection of its citizens either directly or by shaping the actions of others through legislation, setting and enforcing standards and by issuing guidance. An important part of government’s role is to develop and resource the agencies, services and administrative structures it judges are needed to deal with all emergency situations for which it accepts it could be held to bear some responsibility. Government’s decisions and actions are of course always subject to parliamentary scrutiny and approval. War and terrorism are the most obvious potentially disastrous threats to the public that a nation’s central government is expected to deal with. But as the means of armed aggression have developed so have new fears and public expectations that have created new political priorities. Since the First World War, the British government has responded to such concerns by developing various Civil Defence measures that have been a major influence on the development of its general disaster

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In fact, much of the national contingency planning and crisis management effort is delivered by other agencies in a legal and organisational context created by central government. Many issues are raised if one examines this sharing of responsibilities, the parts of the various players, and the merits of other possible arrangements.

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management arrangements. Another less well-known element of central government’s contingency arrangements, which also developed from the First World War experience, has been legislation which enabled government to take various measures to counter the impact of strike action on industries essential to national life.

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Thus this Unit will cover the introduction of the Emergency Powers Act 1920, and its subsequent application. A third contributory stream for consideration here is the growth of safety legislation and supporting actions, in response to national experience of natural disasters and of accidents and other crises resulting from technological developments and social changes. Tragic events where deaths or injuries result are examined, often through an official inquiry, and the lessons learnt can lead to government action. Often this produces new or amended legislation (sometimes called, perhaps rather tastelessly, ‘tombstone legislation’), together with advice on safety measures and improved emergency response techniques or procedures.

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Fourthly we need to take account of the growing international collaboration on disaster management, as this is increasingly shaping domestic policy and practices. Providing aid to stricken communities and countries has long been a feature of British foreign policy but the potential value of focusing on preventative measures has been given more prominence lately by the variety of international aid agencies and institutions. Within the European Union (EU), there is considerable political interest in public protection being harmonised through formal community-wide actions rather than bilateral agreements (as in the advocacy of a Europe-wide air traffic control (ATC) system called Single European Sky (see Flight International, 2002:5)). Government therefore has to consider the implications for domestic disaster management of such developments, both narrowly in terms of their efficiency, and their broader significance for Britain’s EU membership. Thus our model of government’s role in disaster management will be based on consideration of four development streams: • Civil Defence • National emergencies • Safety legislation • International collaboration Common to all four areas is the democratically elected British government’s mission to maintain public order and safety, and public confidence in the protection provided, while preserving the freedom of the individual within a fair and stable society.

2.3 Civil Defence During the First World War, aerial bombing became a new danger for civilian populations remote from the battlefield (the First World War marked the inception of the doctrine of ‘Total War’). Central government responded to this threat to the nation’s industry, communications, services and civilian morale. Measures were taken from 1935 onwards, as the outbreak of the Second World War approached in 1939, to organise Civil Defence services. These included: • preparing an air-raid warning scheme • plans to evacuate mothers and children • arranging for Regional Commissioners to have wide administrative powers if communications broke down

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Also Acts of Parliament required local authorities, factory owners, commercial premises and public utility operators to provide ‘schemes for protecting the public from hostile attack’. A Minister for Home Security was appointed during the Second World War, the locally organised fire service was nationalised and a great many civilian volunteers worked part-time to support the police and fire services in a range of Civil Defence activities. When the war ended in 1945, Civil Defence was closed down, but by 1948 it was clear that it needed to be revived because of the worsening international situation and the new threat of the nuclear bomb. (This was the era of the ‘Cold War’ and ‘Iron Curtain’ . As Prime Minister Winston Churchill remarked on 5th March 1946: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent” (cited in Isaacs and Downing, 1998:30)). The Civil Defence Act 1948 was the foundation for a rapid increase in the nation’s Civil Defence • Preparations for emergency administration to enable the functions of central and local government to continue and to resume as near normality as possible after a nuclear attack • Formation of an ‘organisation of volunteers trained in the essential tasks of fire-fighting rescue, care of the homeless, emergency feeding, communications and control’ (Renton, 1969) For Civil Defence purposes England was divided into ten regions, each with a peacetime Regional Director appointed by the Home Secretary. There was a Civil Defence Director for Wales, and Scotland was organised in three zones. Also a number of voluntary Civil Defence forces were set up which included: • Civil Defence Corps • Auxiliary Fire Service • Royal Observer Corps • Warning and Monitoring Organisation The task of the Civil Defence Corps was to assist local authorities with training and planning to deal with war casualties and to provide the public with advice on self-help protective measures. The Royal Observer Corps and the national Warning and Monitoring Organisation trained to work together to give early warnings of air-attacks, nuclear explosions and the effects of radioactive fall-out. The Civil Defence Act 1948 placed duties on local authorities to make contingency plans against war risks and provided for a government grant to give financial support specifically for this work. This legislation remained in force for over 50 years and was the basis for much of the nation’s contemporary crisis management planning.

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effort (O’Brien, 1955). This had two main elements:

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Until it was replaced in 2004 this legislation required local authorities and others to make specific plans for dealing with the effects of nuclear war that covered: • protective and warning measures to save life • dealing with the dead and casualties

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• maintaining administrative control at local and central government levels • restoring communications and essential services and supplies (food, water, fuel, sewage) • housing and care of the homeless Unlike some european countries, the United Kingdom never undertook the building of large nuclear shelters for public use. It was considered that they would induce a false sense of security. A number of underground, hardened structures were built for official use by those whose task it was to maintain regional and national government (Hennessy, 2001:114).

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In the 1960s, financial pressures prompted government to review and reduce the Civil Defence effort. From 1 April 1968 the two major volunteer organisations, the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service, were disbanded and their equipment put into storage (as in the case of the ‘Green Goddess’ fire engines periodically used during floods and industrial disputes within the civilian fire service), or disposed of. Some capability remained, including the arrangements and facilities for maintaining the continuity of government after a nuclear strike. However, there were protests that the cuts left Britain less well prepared to protect its population while the Cold War continued and the threat of nuclear attack remained. The issue then was (as it remains today): how big an insurance premium should government pay for a risk with horrific consequences but which is reducible by other political means? Others protested at the 1968 cuts in Civil Defence because experience had shown these resources could be very helpful in peacetime emergencies such as severe flooding (see, for example, Jones, 1976: 145–9). The government response was that adequate arrangements for dealing with peacetime emergencies would be provided through the professional emergency services (police, fire, ambulance and coastguard) supported by voluntary bodies (Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, Red Cross, St John and St Andrew Ambulance Brigades, Royal National Lifeboat Institution and others) and with military assistance, when necessary. A gradual process of legislative changes allowed local authorities to make a more flexible response to peacetime emergencies, within the context of civil defence preparations as required under the 1948 Act. Although it fell short of creating a statutory duty for peacetime planning, which some concerned individuals and organisations pressed for. The parliamentary civil defence lobby made some progress by initiating the Civil Protection in Peacetime Act 1986 which permitted local authorities to use their civil defence resources in responding to emergencies not connected with any sort of hostile attack. Furthermore, in 1989, the Local Government Act 1972 was amended to allow local councils to incur expenditure on making and exercising contingency plans as well as for dealing with emergencies in their areas. Thus far the government of the day had not deemed it necessary to place a statutory duty to plan for peacetime emergencies on local authorities. The permissive powers mentioned above, and the general duty of care that councils owe to their residents under the common law, was considered an adequate legal base for appropriate action (see Bonner, 1985, for a discussion of the legal issues of common law powers as against statutory provisions.Also a judgement at Cardiff Crown Court on 16 October 1987, which related to a flood in 1979, found Cardiff City Council and South Glamorgan County Council negligent in their preparation and implementation of a flood

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emergency plan). Government did, however, take action to promote better planning for peacetime emergencies through the appointment in 1989 of a Civil Emergencies Adviser, who consulted widely before recommending various innovations. These included the central production of more guidance, and the booklet Dealing with Disaster, that was first published in 1992; it became the core document of national emergency planning for ten years and went through three revisions (Home Office, 1997). As we have seen, successive governments have regularly reviewed the national Civil Defence effort and weighed its cost to public funds against the threat, and its applicability to peacetime emergencies. The issue has always been how much to spend on insurance against a remote possibility (the classic ‘low probability, high consequence’ risk). In the early 1990s the breakup of the Soviet Union and greatly improved East–West relations in Europe prompted another series of reviews that led to significant changes.

Another decision that aroused public comment was that the old siren-based national air-attack warning system should be closed down and replaced by a system for broadcasting warnings on radio and television. Some of the sirens were used for flood warning, and local authorities had to make other arrangements. Also some commentators argued that the high costs of a modern, national siren network would be justified by the need to warn the public of industrial (e.g. chemical plant explosions) and other emergencies. The government did not agree and it is interesting that some countries, Denmark for example, did modernise their siren systems, but Canada went for the broadcast option. (In the United Kingdom, some local authorities, in cooperation with industry, introduced their own siren-based warning systems (see Civil Protection, 1996)). Between 1990 and 1992 various other changes and reductions in the Civil Defence effort were made, including reduced research effort. However, it was decided that a reorganised national Emergency Communications Network should be developed and maintained. Such a technologically sophisticated and extensive system could not be set up quickly if the threat of conflict increased. Also the system has useful peacetime applications should the public telecommunications system fail. Significant reductions were, of course, also made in the nation’s military expenditure to take full advantage of the ‘peace dividend’. This in turn led to a major reappraisal of how military forces in the UK might assist the civil authorities in a crisis, including peacetime emergencies. In particular it could no longer be assumed that military personnel and equipment would be readily available at short notice. Some countries maintain part of their military forces as dedicated reserves for use in civil emergencies; conscripts can sometimes opt for such duties when completing their national service. The British Armed Forces are fully professional, and rigorous reviews have stripped them of resources not essential for their defined military tasks. Thus, ‘send in the troops’ is no longer an easy option in a crisis. In recent years the deployment of significant numbers of troops to major theatres (like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans) has futher compromised the Army’s ability to support the Civil Powers. Smith (2006), notes:

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In particular, because of the reduced risk of nuclear conflict it was decided that the previously secret, nuclear-protected centres for regional government were no longer needed and that these complex, underground buildings could be sold off. Public interest in these sales was considerable and some of the sites are now popular tourist attractions.

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‘[T]he soldiers, airmen and sailors … are highly stretched. When Blair came to power in 1997 there were 5,400 British troops in Bosnia (there are still 725 there). Blair sent 8,500 to take part in the 1999 Kosovo war (about 100 are still there); 1,500 to broker a peace in Sierra Leone in May 2000 (there are still 100 there); and 2,000 to do a similar job in Macedonia in August 2001. In late 2001, about 5,000 troops were deployed to support operations in Afghanistan. There are still 1,100 there, a figure that will grow to 5,000 by May [2006]. A total of 38,000 British troops took part in the Iraq war. About 8,000 are still there. …. [T]he 2004 defence cuts saw the already severely over-stretched infantry lose four of their 40 battalions, about 2,500 men, as a tiny contribution to a scheme to cut £1 billion from the defence budget …. [This] certainly has nothing to do with reorganising the armed forces to help them to cope with new threats such as Al-Qaeda … ’ Smith, M. (2006) ‘Ready, aim … misfire’, The Sunday Times, 1 January, 17. Central to the changes in Civil Defence in the 1990s was the drive to secure best value for money through combining contingency planning for war and for peacetime emergencies into an ‘all hazards’ approach. This led to a major revision in 1993 of the regulations that directed how local authorities were to fulfil their obligations under the Civil Defence Act of 1948, with grant-aid from central government continuing to support that effort. In particular the Civil Defence (General Local Authority Functions) Regulations 1993, removed the need for plans to be drawn up specifically to deal with a nuclear war situation. The new requirement was for planning to enable each normal function of the local authority to be capable of being delivered in an emergency, whatever the cause. This approach was termed Integrated Emergency Management, or IEM for short.

2.4 National Emergencies In the introduction to their book, Jeffery and Hennessy (1983) stated their aim as being: ... to bring into the spotlight the relatively concealed area of contingency planning, in which ministers and officials try to calculate the point at which trade union demands will plunge the country into chaos and privation, and how best to mitigate the effects of stoppages in essential industries and services. During and shortly after the First World War there were a number of major strikes in industries and services vital to the nation’s well-being. Government action to counter such threats began with the setting-up of an extensive ‘Supply and Transport Organisation’ to secure the maintenance of essential supplies and services in the face of strike action by workers in key industries. Powers for government to declare a State of Emergency and to make Regulations to deal with such crises were provided by the Emergency Powers Act 1920. In this way central government took direct responsibility for actions to meet what it saw as its obligation to secure the nation’s essentials of life. Jeffery and Hennessy (1983) suggest that this self-imposed increase in central government’s responsibilities was also a reflection of ‘Government’s concern that industrial unrest might be the tip of a revolutionary iceberg’.


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After the Second World War, the Supply and Transport Organisation became the Emergencies Organisation, based in the Home Office; from 1972 the equivalent function was centred on the Civil Contingencies Unit in the Cabinet Office. Continuing this historical overview we should note that the EPA 1920 has in fact only been used rarely. Although a State of Emergency has been declared on several occasions, including five between 1970 and 1974 by Prime Minister Heath who, in dealing with severe disruption to the life of the country, chose to introduce the ‘three-day week’ (Hennessy, 2001:352). Soon after that the Energy Act 1976 gave government emergency powers to regulate or prohibit the production, supply and consumption of energy, but these were never used. The similarly intentioned Drought Act 1976 gave government powers to help meet deficiencies in water supplies, and was used in 1984 to ban non-essential water use in some areas. It is also worth recalling that after the severe East Coast flooding in January 1953, the government introduced the Coastal Flooding (Emergency Powers) Act to make special provision for sea defence always has the option of enacting legislation to deal with the aftermath of an emergency. Clearly, though, it is safer and simpler if existing provisions and administrative action can meet the need. Also there is a principle here, since as Bonner (1985) states: Fundamental dilemmas are posed for democracies by emergency powers because they interfere with civil liberties. Experience of various disasters and emergencies led to the Emergency Powers Act 1964 which amended the 1920 Act to broaden its application from, ‘action by ... any person or body of persons’ to cover actual or probable ‘events’. Thus the legislation could apply to disruption caused by abnormal weather or other natural disasters and ‘interference from abroad’. It also gave the government powers to use service personnel, as was done in the 1977/78 firefighters’ strike, on ‘work of urgent national importance’. This legislation was, however, so draconian (i.e. farreaching) that it could only be used in the face of a very severe situation. The Act applied when there was a threat ‘to deprive the community, or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life’. (Of course, how a government defines ‘the essentials of life’ is very much a matter of subjective political assessment, informed not just by the exigencies of the situation, but also, possibly, by ideology as well.) In fact the Act was only used twelve times, the last being in 1974 (Cabinet Office, 2005). The practical difficulties of mounting a central government response to a sudden crisis were highlighted in 1967 by the oil tanker, Torrey Canyon , running aground off Land’s End (Hennessy, 2001:554). Officials quickly improvised their response but it was learned that more preparations were needed to anticipate the professional and technical inputs that may be required for

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works and the rehabilitation of farm land. This example makes the general point that government

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peacetime disasters. Also this incident is memorable for the way it brought environmental concerns into the spotlight. It is at the local level, wherever the emergency occurs, that most of the work will be done to manage the response, protect the public and environment and to restore normality. Government provides guidelines on how those local responses should be prepared and, through its Emergency Planning College at Easingwold near York, provides appropriate training. Officials will also be available to advise and assist local managers, and local authorities may well look to central

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government for extra resources, particularly for the longer-term recovery. The only direct action for central government in the early stages will be to gather information and to prepare a report to Parliament by the appropriate minister, which is determined by the nature of the event under what is known as the ‘lead department arrangements’. Responsibility for the lead department arrangements lies with the Cabinet Office. In 1995 the Secretary of the Civil Contingencies Unit at the Cabinet Office, Brigadier Tony Budd, explained that:

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After a comprehensive review in the late 1980s it was decided that neither the establishment of a national disaster squad to lead the response to all emergencies in the UK nor the nomination of one Government department to lead the central Government response to all emergencies would be the best use of available resources. As the occurrence of emergencies or disasters remains very much the exception rather than the rule in this country and in line with the principles of integrated emergency management it was decided that the central Government response would be based on the ‘lead department’ arrangements and the use, at least initially, of the well established and well understood normal administrative system, and its communications, to deal with the effects of emergencies. Details of these arrangements were set out in the government publication Dealing with Disaster and are now covered in new guidance from the Cabinet Office (see the ukresilience website). Like all contingency plans, government’s internal arrangements need to be reviewed and exercised regularly, but only rarely have such activities been publicly reported. In March 1994, an exercise called ‘Green Amanita’ — a fictional poisonous toadstool — tested the reactions of government officials to a large industrial accident releasing a toxic cloud. Professional journalists were involved to add realism to the exercise and an article in The Independent newspaper reported the event. Selected parts of the article are reproduced below: Britain has more than 300 high risk industrial installations classified as “top tier” sites under the terms of the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazard regulations. These contain toxic or explosive materials in such quantity that a severe accident could injure or kill people living off-site... Now that the Cold War has ended...officials and ministers have begun to realise that they should have been worrying about the risk of industrial disasters all along... In the pleasant surroundings of...the Civil Service Emergency Planning College [near York], officials... rehearsed “Exercise Green Amanita” - what they would do if we had lost large swathes of England in an industrial catastrophe. Perhaps the most striking lesson is that there is very little that central government could do...[I] n a seminal risk assessment of the concentration of oil refineries and chemical works at Canvey Island [in Essex, near London], the Health and Safety Executive calculated that the risk of killing or seriously injuring 1,500 people at a stroke was one in 5,000 a year. It is thus 200 times more probable that Britain will suffer major loss of life in a non-nuclear than a nuclear accident. But until Green Amanita, the Government had never rehearsed a non-nuclear industrial disaster. While the accident scenario put before the civil servants may have been fictional, their confused reaction during the York weekend was real...

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Part of the ordeal was a simulated press conference with questioning from four journalists who had been invited to represent the outside world at the event... [But] ultimately, Exercise Green Amanita was strangely reassuring, despite the flaws it highlighted. It showed that, prompted by the Health and Safety Executive, the Whitehall machine is taking industrial risk seriously - at the highest level. Once the lessons of this one have been digested, there will be other exercises until the drawbacks are ironed out. In August 1995, an article in The Times newspaper described a further exercise in which government officials were joined by local government representatives and staff of other agencies likely to be involved in the response to a massive disaster. This time the crises were computer-modelled scenarios of a small nuclear explosion in a Midlands city, and major flooding after an (improbable) earthquake in Wales.

large-scale problems. Furthermore, the value of ongoing research on these issues was demonstrated. Commissioning and conducting research into civil protection topics is a long-standing central government responsibility. Civil Defence research during the Cold War included quantitative studies of the effects of nuclear weapons on the civil population and the development of measurement techniques. Also studied were various protective measures such as shelters and the logistical problems of mass evacuations. As the report in The Times indicated, the work on massive disasters was aimed at advising ministers about any further practical or legislative measures that should be considered. This work was based on theoretical study of possible events and not the aftermath of an actual incident. Relevant parts of the newspaper report, titled ‘Doomsday at the Cabinet Office’, are reproduced below: The Cabinet Office has been playing “Fantasy Catastrophe” to prepare the United Kingdom for a major disaster... [E]xperts were presented with two scenarios: a terrorist detonating a small nuclear bomb in Coventry and an earthquake in mid-Wales. The experts decided that Britain was far from ready to cope with either situation, but there was satisfaction that senior civil servants were listening to suggestions... The Massive Disaster Seminar at the Emergency Planning College...was attended by 83 delegates... The first scenario involved a terrorist group leaving a bomb in a suitcase in Coventry...a small nuclear device with a one kilotonne yield, equivalent to 1,000 tonnes of TNT...

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Exercising the response to these scenarios underlined the importance of quickly establishing good communication between all the different agencies and levels of authority involved. It also raised important questions about the provision of the resources that would be needed to deal with such

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Within one minute, people outdoors or near windows of houses would be killed by thermal radiation up to a radius of 2000 yards... Radiation sickness would affect people up to six miles downwind... Over in Wales, an earthquake was imagined measuring 6 on the Richter Scale...Buildings would collapse or suffer irreparable damage immediately and people would be killed by falling masonry up to 15 miles away...

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Both scenarios were discussed by the experts who came up with more questions than answers. A common theme was the need for somebody to take national command of disaster planning. Bureaucracy would have to be swept away [my emphasis]. Two years later there was a re-organisation of civil contingency planning in the Cabinet Office and Home Office which some regarded as, “worrying signs of a downgrading of this work…following the death of [the CCU] Secretary, Brigadier Tony Budd, in 1997.” (Hennessy, 2001:85). This gap was not filled until after the 2001 election when responsibility for some emergency planning functions was moved from the Home Office to a new Civil Contingencies Secretariat within the Cabinet Office. Also a new emphasis was put on developing ‘national resilience’.

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During the three years 1997-2000, central government emergency planning concentrated on mitigating the threat of computer failure at the turn of the millennium. Whether the risks of the ‘Y2K problem’ were over-stated or the substantial efforts made to avert them were a necessary success remains debatable. Following that success the Government continued to deny the need for a new statutory duty for peacetime emergency planning and to cut even further the annual Civil Defence grant to local authorities in England and Wales. (Scotland enjoyed more generous provision, perhaps as a consequence of the Lockerbie (aircraft bombing) and Dunblane (school shooting) disasters). In July 2000 the Minister then responsible, Mr O’ Brien, bluntly defended the current level of grant (£14m) and told the annual conference of the Emergency Planning Society that: “It is not our aim to meet other costs to local authorities which are best met as a more general provision …. A myth has grown up that the Home Office should fund all emergency planning. It is not true.” (Blueprint, 2000). However, events soon forced a change. First, one local authority mounted a legal challenge that the current grant allocation formula was inconsistent with the 1953 Regulations. The Government had to make a demand-led allocation of about £18.6m for 2001/02 and to enact new legislation to regain control of the grant mechanism, namely the Civil Defence (Grant) Act 2002. Secondly and more dramatically, autumn 2000 saw central Government and local authorities dealing with major flooding emergencies across the country. Also in September 2000 a severe crisis was caused by fuel tax protests which impeded supplies. Local authorities found they had to implement ‘essential user’ rationing at petrol stations, without a clear statutory base for doing so and with weak, sometimes confused leadership from central Government (Hennessy, 2001:523). Part of Government’s response to the floods was the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, announcing reviews of emergency management arrangements within Whitehall and in the partnership with local government (Civil Protection, 2001). These reviews flowed from Government, it having learnt that, “the Civil Defence Act 1948 no longer provides an adequate framework for emergency planning.” (Cabinet Office, 2002). Further pressure for change soon came from the nation’s struggle with a major outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in sheep and cattle. It began in February 2001 and rapidly escalated (Rockett,

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2001; NAO, 2002). Also the eventual announcement of three independent expert inquiries into the outbreak’s scientific aspects, the management of the crisis and its impact on the rural economy disappointed those whose calls for a full Public Inquiry had been rejected (The Times, 2001). Each year the government sets a level of expenditure which it considers that each local authority should be able to cover from its own resources, should a disaster occur in its area. If the disaster requires expenditure above the threshold, then what is known as the ‘Bellwin Scheme’ — named after the person who invented it in 1983 — can come into play. It is, however, only a discretionary scheme and the crisis must involve conditions which are clearly exceptional by local standards and have abnormally and severely damaged the community. Other constraints are that the threshold is based on the number of persons resident in the local authority area, and the costs of damage to private companies and owner-occupied homes are excluded (as are costs which would normally have been covered by insurance). Furthermore, capital expenditure is normally excluded, and the actions of a polluter then costs recoverable from that source are excluded from Bellwin. Local authorities were acutely reminded of the Bellwin Scheme’s limitations during the 2000/01 crises. Thus this issue of emergency response funding was one important aspect of the Government’s considerations of new national arrangements for emergency planning. In 2002 that work came under the scrutiny of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee during an inquiry into defence and security in the UK in the light of the terrorist attacks of September 11th in the United States of America. During their evidence to that committee, Cabinet Office officials confirmed that the ongoing review of emergency planning had accepted the need for a new statutory duty for local authorities and that this would have to be suitably funded (Blueprint, 2002). After extensive consultation, new legislation was enacted in November 2004 as the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA), which aims to produce greatly increased national resilience in the event of a disaster. Part of this legislation replaces the old Emergency Powers Act with new powers to deal with the major threats that the nation now faces, such as biological or chemical terrorist attack. Broader civil protection planning is provided for by the Act, placing new planning and response duties on many organizations, especially those who are classed as core or Category 1 responders, along with the blue light services (fire, police, ambulance and coastguard) and local authorities. Category 2 responders such as transport operators and the utilities may be involved in certain types of incident and so are termed co-operating responders. Detailed guidance on the planning, response and recovery work that is expected of the various agencies, is provided in two large documents available from the Cabinet Office website. These carry forward the principles of Integrated Emergency Management for response delivery, but put a new focus on basing plans on

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other sources of grants and subsidies are to be used first. Finally, if the disaster has resulted from

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a local risk assessment. The planning and public information duties placed on local authorities include providing advice on business continuity management to companies and organizations. To support the new regime with its additional tasks there has been a substantial increase in the civil protection funding of local authorities in England and Wales; the old Civil Defence grant, which as noted above was around £14m, has been replaced by inclusion in the annual Revenue Support Grant of about £40m for the financial year 2005/06. Some commentators are doubtful that this funding will be adequate.

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Working alongside the Cabinet Office, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has new responsibilities for emergency planning at the local and regional levels and particularly for the contribution of the Fire Service to national resilience. Previously the only statutory function of the fire service was to deal with fires, but resources could be used for other humanitarian tasks. However, the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 has extended the civil protection duties of the fire service and has added rescue activities and work to promote community fire safety to the statutory duties of fire authorities. Furthermore, the requirements of fire safety legislation have been revised radically as the following section will show.

2.5 Safety Legislation

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Central government sets the legislative framework that regulates and guides national efforts to minimise and mitigate risks to the health, safety and security of the population. Government has a strong ally in the insurance industry’s efforts to reduce the costs of claims, but loss prevention is a major issue for everyone who manages some element of the nation’s business. As other Units in this course demonstrate, every organisation needs a strategic risk management policy that is both comprehensive and responsive to change in the organisation’s operating environment. Those responsible should be fully conversant with the implications for them of current and impending legislation. Government, in turn, will consult representatives of groups affected by proposed legislation and encourage those with relevant expertise to contribute to the planning for new measures. But this is only one of the influences on changes in safety legislation. In the UK, government has historically taken responsibility for safety legislation for a variety of reasons, but mostly in response to three categories of need: • identified needs that relate to the government’s own priorities and policy objectives, particularly commitments set out in the ruling party’s election manifesto and in the programme for each session of parliament (note that ‘identified needs’ may reflect ideological pre-commitments; that is, they may exhibit a doctrinal bias); • expressed needs which are public or sectional interest-calls for new measures that reflect both perceived fears and actual risks that it is felt government ought to deal with (note that ‘expressed needs’, like ‘identified needs’ may reflect ideological precommitments on the part of individuals or organisations, or simple prejudice); • demonstrated needs that arise from experience of events, and particularly from the findings of a post-disaster inquiry. Hence the somewhat cynical tag ‘tombstone legislation’ that some attach to the resulting new controls. Although helpful to any analysis of the wide range of safety legislation enacted by government, these categories are not mutually exclusive. Often all three needs will contribute to a new legislative measure being introduced to Parliament, where the strength and thrust of expressed public opinion will influence decision-making, as will media interest. The widespread call for a ban on hand-guns in the wake of the 1996 Dunblane school massacre in Scotland, for example, reflected both a ‘demonstrated need’ (Thomas Hamilton, the mass-murderer, appeared to have

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easy access to hand-guns), and the ‘expressed needs’ of the victims’ families, their friends and fellow-citizens and various public interest groups. It is clear that a determined campaign grounded in such demonstrated and expressed needs may well persuade an initially reluctant government to revise its political and financial priorities. There is, of course, a continuing responsibility for public protection whichever political party is elected to form the government. Thus, prompted by the experience of the consequences of the major fire at Woolworth’s in Manchester, England, in 1969, a Home Office Minister said:

(Belstead, 1980) In the United Kingdom, central government makes a major contribution to the safety of places where people work through the regulatory and advisory efforts of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which was created in 1974. Jones (1995) described the Executive’s mission thus: Put simply, HSE’s role is to make sure that those who are directly involved through work activities in creating, controlling and mitigating risks discharge their responsibilities adequately. The HSE is a Category 2 emergency responder under the CCA 2004, and it can have important investigation and enforcement duties after incidents. One particularly important example is the successful prosecution of the train operating company First Great Western after the Southall crash on 19 September 1997 (Uff, 2000). The more serious charge of corporate manslaughter failed for legal technical reasons; much public disquiet followed (Bergman, 2000). In response to that outcome and Law Commission recommendations made in 1996 the Government has made proposals to strengthen the law on corporate culpability; these may give the HSE more responsibility for prosecutions. During the 1990s legislation to protect the natural environment was an increasingly important component of central government’s disaster prevention and mitigation efforts. The Environment Agency was created in 1995 as a non-departmental public body to provide environmental (air, land and water) protection and improvement, with an emphasis on prevention and education, plus enforcement where necessary. The Agency has a duty to respond to all incidents that have caused or threaten to damage the environment, often working closely with public health authorities. The 2000 floods were widespread and severely tested the Agency’s capabilities. It was learned that some clarification of the respective roles of the Agency, local authorities and the emergency services was needed, together with: “a higher degree of contingency planning in the public sector and by utility companies” (Environment Agency, 2001: iii). Under the CCA 2004, the Environment Agency is a Category 1 responder and has all the planning duties that this entails.

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A great deal of the day-to-day work of Government is, of course, not of the eye-catching variety. For every measure that a government introduces as part of its political policy, there will be dozens of others of an apolitical nature, designed solely to promote the interests of good government, which the Government of the day may well not itself have initiated but which comes to fruition during its term of office.

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A full consideration of government’s role in developing and enforcing safety legislation is beyond the scope of this Unit. It would also require some in-depth study of the nation’s governmental and political processes to show how decisions are shaped by more general political considerations.

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Furthermore, international comparisons would show that differences in national priorities and approaches for disaster management are shaped by much more than the quantifiable risks that each country faces. For instance, the Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede (1994) has described national differences in organisational decision-making styles and reactions to uncertainty such that ‘Individualist’ or ‘Collectivist’ national governments would be expected to approach disaster management differently. As Perry (1995) notes, Hofstede characterises Japanese culture as ‘collectivist’ and this may explain some of the problems that were encountered in dealing with the Kobe earthquake (Bawtree, 1995) . While the British government’s approach to Health and Safety legislation is quite well documented, rather less attention has been given to fire safety which is also important, as the next section sets out to show.

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2.6 Fire Safety Legislation There is a long history of fire safety being promoted by legal controls. Everton (1993) notes that in the 15th Century a duty of care for others was placed on fire users who would be liable for damage caused by the escape of fire. But the Great Fire of London in 1666 stimulated the growth of the fire insurance industry and convinced Parliament that more controls were needed. Legislation to prevent fire spread, through the control of building works, was introduced in London and subsequently nationally. Such measures continue to regulate the design and construction of buildings today, and they cover other risks to public health and safety as well as fire. Building regulations are only half of the story as there was a parallel stream of piecemeal development of legislation on fire safety within buildings or premises in use. As Everton (1993) describes, places of work, such as factories and places of public entertainment, particularly cinemas and theatres, gradually became the subject of fire precautions legislation of some kind. The aim was to save life through fire precautions and escape routes but not directly to safeguard the property. Often these measures were introduced after a tragic fire had demonstrated the need, and so they became known as ‘tombstone legislation’. In 1970 a committee of government officials reviewed the fragmented range of fire safety laws but rejected the idea of embracing them all within one comprehensive Fire Safety Act. Instead they recommended consolidation into two measures based on the two streams discussed above. Revised building regulations would deal with new and altered premises, but new legislation was needed for premises already occupied, and so the government introduced the Fire Precautions Act (FPA) 1971. This legislation provided for the progressive consolidation of measures dealing with fire safety in occupied buildings, and for inspection, certification and regulation through a single enforcing authority, which in the event was to be mainly through local fire authorities. Public concern following a fire at the Rose and Crown hotel in Saffron Walden on Boxing Day 1969, where eleven people died, led to hotels being the first category of premises to be designated for certification under the FPA 1971. Later, certification was applied to factories, offices, shops and railway premises; and in 1989 regulations made under the FPA 1971 imposed new fire safety requirements on underground railway stations, following the King’s Cross tragedy (see the Module 4 case study).

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their chimneys swept. It soon emerged that the FPA 1971 was improving the safety of people in certain classes of premises put to particular uses, and situations where they have little personal control over the fire hazard. This benefit was gained at considerable cost to owners and occupiers of regulated premises and to the government and local authorities responsible for enforcement (Home Office, 1980). The government published a consultative document, or Green Paper, which proposed various changes in the fire service and in the enforcement of fire safety legislation. Instead of the fire service producing detailed certificates for premises, the paper envisaged a shift to self-regulation by occupiers; the fire service’s role would become more advisory than regulatory. Those responsible for occupied premises were to be encouraged to adopt risk-management techniques. After wide consultation some of the proposals were adopted but not the self-regulation concept. The legislation was changed in 1987 to exempt low-risk commercial premises from the full certification process. Instead the occupiers of exempted premises were placed under a new statutory duty to provide adequate means of escape and firefighting. Thus some flexibility was introduced that was expected to reduce enforcement costs. Continuing concern about the FPA 1971 being too prescriptive and inflexible was highlighted when, in 1989, the United Kingdom was required to begin giving legislative effect to a series of European Council Directives on a range of safety-at-work topics. By 1992 it was clear that the fire aspects of the Directives would be harder to implement under the FPA 1971 than would the other requirements using the more flexible Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act 1974. A greater degree of self-compliance is possible under the HSW 1974 and the requirements are based on the employer’s own risk assessment, which is the approach of the EC Directives. The legislative work to give effect to the fire safety aspects of the Directives was not completed until 1997 with the introduction of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations.

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The FPA 1971 did not apply to private dwellings, even though the majority of fire casualties each year occur in private homes. Fire statistics for the United Kingdom are published annually and the figures for 1994 showed that: ‘[A]s in previous years dwelling fires were the major cause of fire deaths, accounting for 13% of fires but 70% of deaths’, in a total of 676 fire deaths (Goddard and Poole, 1996). Building regulations control the fire safety of new and altered buildings and there are specific controls on multi-occupancy houses, for instance. However, the main way in which the British government seeks to reduce the incidence of fire casualties in private homes is through fire prevention publicity and education, which promotes, for example, safer cooking practices and the use of smoke alarms. Safety of electrical appliances and other domestic items that might cause fire is also subject to legal regulation, but the government has been reluctant to go further in limiting individual freedoms. Smoking in bed is dangerous, but there is no law against it in Britain, partly because it would be impossible to enforce but also because it would be a politically contentious instance of state interference with individual rights (exercised in that most private of social domains, the British home). Internationally there are examples of other governments having struck this balance differently. For example, some have a law that requires that householders keep

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A further challenge to safety legislation, and the FPA 1971 in particular, was the government’s deregulation initiative in 1993, under the then President of the Board of Trade, Mr Michael Heseltine. The aim was to ease the burden on business of complying with statutory regulations

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and especially to sweep away unnecessary ‘red-tape’ restrictions on new enterprises. A vigorous attack was instituted and included a comprehensive review of workplace safety regulations about which the Minister of State at the Department of Employment said: ‘There is certainly no plan to sacrifice the high standards already in place — in fact, the aim is to improve them by judicious pruning’ (Hansard, 24 November 1993).

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As Everton (2001) explained, the 1997 Regulations soon had to be amended to fulfill European obligations. They placed a general duty on all employers to make a fire risk assessment themselves and the amendment extended this requirement to premises already certificated by fire authorities under the FPA 1971. Thus some employers faced two control regimes and, “the fire authorities have to enforce two systems that are in many respects quite unlike each other” (Everton, 2001:28). By summer 2002 the Government was working on new legislation that was expected to be flexible, goal-based rather than prescriptive, focussed on self-compliance and proportionate to assessed risks. Such a regime was introduced with effect from April 2006, by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which puts specified fire risk assessment and prevention duties on the persons “responsible” for most premises, other than domestic homes. Thus many building owners or managers will have these new responsibilities and be subject to enforcement by the fire authority, but the fire service will no longer have to issue fire certificates. This section has shown how the Government in Britain has sought to control the potent risk of fire by legislation and other means, reacting to disastrous events as deemed appropriate and always with an eye to the economic implications. The story of fire safety legislation is a record of continuous development, led by the Government, but aided by informed public and professional debate so that changes are agreed and in accord with publicly determined policies. The key feature of fire safety legislation has been to safeguard the lives of occupants of premises by ensuring the means of escape. This has wider importance because fire escape routes can be equally valuable for other hazards. Sound planning for crowd safety at, for example, pop concerts often begins with, or is heavily influenced by, the requirements of the fire safety legislation. Some would say this is due to the detail demanded by fire safety regulations, and they applaud that rigour. However, as we have seen, concerns about the costs of complying with such requirements have prompted government to seek a less prescriptive and more flexible approach. Events will test whatever new legal framework is adopted.

2.7 International Collaboration Britain is fortunate in not being likely to suffer the range and severity of natural disasters that afflict many other countries. British technology and expertise does, however, have a lot to offer by way of advice on the pre-planning to mitigate and minimise the consequences of such disasters as floods and earthquakes (Blaikie et al., 1994). Government plays a part in the dissemination of such assistance through a range of schemes and aid organisations, often under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). But increasingly we also see that representatives of foreign governments and institutions are attending courses in this country and that experts from Britain are being contracted to give advice overseas.

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International aid to stricken countries is also often given under the auspices of the UN and organised by central government. But it is frequently delivered by specialist charities and has a strong element of voluntary effort. Government policy on the extent to which national resources rather than voluntary donations should be given to international disaster relief is a political question worthy of its own study unit! Although set up primarily for military and political co-operation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is committed to improving public protection measures in a peacetime environment. In January 1994, NATO launched the Partnership for Peace (PfP) initiative to strengthen international confidence and stability by forging new relationships with nations of Eastern Europe who were formerly potential adversaries. These contacts have also been used to address the natural and technological risks faced, for example by sharing information on standards for industrial plant safety and staff training.

The European Union (EU) has also been active in civil protection since a 1985 meeting of ministers agreed to co-operate in this area. Resolutions have been adopted which set up assistance mechanisms covering the training and preparation of those involved in civil protection and arrangements for co-operative intervention when a disaster occurs within the community or in other countries. For example, flood victims in Britain have received EU financial aid through distribution arrangements made by central government. Under the Ministerial agreement any actions by the European Commission are intended to support and encourage efforts made in this field at the national level. All Community-level initiatives in civil protection are agreed by a permanent group of national representatives and developed in accordance with the principle of strengthened subsidiarity introduced in 1993 by the Maastricht Treaty. Furthermore, any particular effort is subject to Ministerial agreement which must be unanimous. In October 1994, a Ministerial resolution endorsed recent administrative actions on civil protection, called for strengthening of the mechanisms for mutual assistance in the event of a disaster, and for a number of initiatives to be taken to promote co-operation between member states on civil protection training and information sharing. One of these initiatives was to be regular meetings of senior national government officials responsible for civil protection. The first such meeting was held in France in 1995. That meeting noted the diversity of national arrangements for civil protection because of the differences in the risks faced and in governmental systems (compare, for example, the flooding risk in the Netherlands with that in the United Kingdom). It agreed that flexibility should continue to be the essential characteristic of EU co-operation on these matters. Information exchange would be a major activity to increase the effectiveness of actions at the national level, and co-operation between national training agencies would be enhanced by provision of financial support.

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In autumn 2005 NATO sent a relief mission to help the earthquake survivors in Pakistan’s remote Kashmir mountains (see the Nato website). Also in December 2005 some 2000 civilian and military personnel in 11 countries took part in a computer-based simulation that looked at ways of improving civil and military co-operative responses to crises. This Swedish lead exercise was the fifth in a series.

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Within the European Union there has been continuing debate on whether the EU should extend its powers to deal centrally with a number of topics including civil protection, or leave control of these matters with national governments. This question was raised at an inter-governmental

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conference in July 1996 which reviewed the Maastricht Treaty and the obligations on member states. Here, it was clear that the British government’s policy on civil protection was being shaped by more fundamental issues, namely the basis of national membership of the EU and the powers of the Community to initiate legislation.

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It should be noted that some commentators have called for the EU to create a central emergency response body similar to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the USA. Set up in 1979 to replace the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, FEMA is a centre of expertise on all-hazards disaster prevention, mitigation and recovery (Tierney, Lindell and Perry, 2001:203). However, public dismay at FEMA’s poor response to the New Orleans flooding in 2005 (The Times, 10 September2005: 4) has only added to the earlier criticisms of that organization (Tierney, et al. 2001). Thus it is far from clear that such a structure would add to the effectiveness of national disaster response capabilities in the EU. Furthermore, it could be regarded as an instance of unnecessary and unwelcome extension of the European Commission’s responsibilities. Thus whatever the technical argument, such a proposal could fail for political reasons. There are two distinct aspects to the British government’s role in respect of international work on disaster management. One is the provision of aid or advice to stricken or vulnerable countries, either directly or through membership of international organisations. The second aspect is the impact on national domestic contingency planning of EU membership.

2.8 Overview When a disaster occurs the first duty of central government is to assess the situation and activate appropriate response monitoring and co-ordination arrangements. Problems arose after the Kobe earthquake in Japan because government officials took too long to appreciate the full extent of the disaster. Also, the response was hampered by poor communication between local and regional level authorities, as neither was fully aware of the role of the other (Bawtree, 1995). In Britain, Parliament will expect an early report, and to be kept fully informed. Thus Ministers and their officials will aim to give such a report quickly and to monitor events closely, which could include organising a ministerial visit to the scene. (Depending on the severity of the disaster, members of the Royal Family may also attend the scene (see Jones, 1976: 167–70, on Aberfan)). The media will expect and get ready access to central government’s views, because informing and reassuring the public via the media will be a Government priority, as will the containment of wild speculation as to the cause and consequences of the event. (See Regester and Larkin (1997) for an overview of media management techniques). We have seen that in Britain, central government does not take early charge of the management of the incident. The focus of central government’s contingency planning is to ensure that resources and expertise needed for the initial response are available and can be managed at the local level. Arrangements also exist for further support to come from neighbouring local authority areas, and that could include a neighbouring senior police officer taking over the command and control of the incident, if the area police command is no longer effective. Only in the direst circumstances is it expected that the government would introduce some form of regional or national command.

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While government is monitoring developments, it will try to anticipate needs and aim to be responsive to requests for help, in whatever form those dealing with the disaster require it. Military assistance is just one of the options, as is international aid which might, for example, bring in specialist equipment. During the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis the Army was brought in to improve the logistics and the slaughtering, burning and burying of animals was accelerated greatly (NAO, 2002). Several government departments may become involved as the situation develops and each has plans and trained officials ready to make their contribution. In particular, local authorities hit by the disaster may well call on central government for extra money to deal with the consequences.

Lastly, central government has the continuing responsibility for determining what level of national expenditure will be devoted to disaster prevention and preparedness work, including training and the dissemination of good practice. National political considerations as well as the nature of governmental and local administrative machinery do, however, shape the outcome. International comparisons show interesting differences, and exchanges of information on good practice are useful. Care is needed, however, when judging potential effectiveness. Direct comparisons without regard for cultural, organisational and other differences could yield misleading conclusions. Furthermore, disasters are fortunately rare occurrences and the unique features of any one may negate generalisations from past experience. Central government faces that difficulty under the constant threat that its critics will be wise after the event. “I told you so” is a common refrain amongst opposition politicians and media commentators.

2.9 Guide to Reading You should now read the supplied copy of O’Brien and Read’s (2005) academic journal paper. The authors give a thoughtful critique of the UK government’s centralised, top-down concentration on institutional resilience. You should also read the four short articles taken from the fourth quarter 2005 edition of Survive Magazine. The articles are intended to give some general information about emergency planning and response in the UK and on possible future threats.

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When the crisis is over and recovery is under way, it will often be a central government responsibility to ensure that an inquiry takes place and lessons are learned to minimise the risk of a recurrence and to mitigate the effects. But the decision to set up an inquiry may well be made earlier, while the tragedy is unfolding, because of parliamentary, press and public demands. Subsequently, legislative changes may be deemed necessary.

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2.10 Further Reading Visit the Cabinet Office website for the latest information on Government actions and publications: www.ukresilience.info. Similarly the Emergency Planning Society (EPS) for the local government practitioners’ perspective: www.emergplansoc.org.uk. An overview of the history and practice of civil defence may be obtained from the website of the Institute of Civil Defence and Disaster Studies (ICDDS): http://www.icdds.org.

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2.11 Study Questions You should now write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the questions below. We believe this will assist your comprehension of the material in this Unit and aid your progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your own course notes and should not be forwarded to the University. 1. What factors limit government’s use of legislation to prevent disasters? 2. What is a realistic approach to civil defence preparedness when war is a remote possibility? 3. How have recent events shaped the UK Government’s policy on emergency response? 4. How might a country’s social, economic and political predispositions and aspirations

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affect its capacity for, and approach to, civil crisis management?

2.12 Bibliography Bawtree, D. (1995) ‘Learning from Kobe Quake’, Civil Protection, 37 (Winter). Belstead, Lord (1980) Introductory Address for the Fire Service Research and Training Trust Lecture. Bergman, D. (2000) The Case for Corporate Responsibility: Corporate Violence and the Criminal Justice System, London: Disaster Action. Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I. and Wisner, B. (1994) At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters, London: Routledge. Blueprint (2000) ‘Mr O’Brien’s EPS conference speech’, Blueprint: Newsletter of the Emergency Planning Society, No23 (September). Blueprint (2002) ‘EPS gives evidence at Defence Select Committeee’, Blueprint: Newsletter of the Emergency Planning Society, No30 (June). Bonner, D. (1985) Emergency Powers in Peacetime, London: Sweet and Maxwell. Civil Protection (1996) ‘Fire Reveals Siren Needs’, 41 (Winter): 3. Civil Protection (2001) ‘Emergency Planning gets major overhaul’, 52 (Summer): 20. Cabinet Office (2002) ‘The Civil Contingencies Secretariat’, www. co-ordination.gov.uk/role. htm:6/3/02 Cabinet Office (2005) Civil Contingencies Act 2004: a short guide (revised October 2005), London: Cabinet Office (www.ukresilience.info). Environment Agency (2001) Lessons Learned: Autumn 2000 Floods. Bristol: Environment Agency.

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Everton, A. R. (1993) ‘What Hand Dare Seize the Fire?’, Environment Law and Management, 5(6): 204–8. Everton, A. R. (2001) ‘ The Pillars of Justice’, Fire Prevention, 348 (September). Goddard, G. and Poole, J. (1996) ‘Summary Fire Statistics: United Kingdom 1994’, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 13/96. Hennessy, P. (2001) The Prime Minister: the Office and Its Holders since 1945, London: Penguin Books. Hofstede, G. (1994) Culture and Organisations: Software of the Mind, London: Harper Collins.

Home Office (1997) Dealing with Disaster (3rd Edition), London: Brodie Publishing. Isaacs, J. and Downing, T. (1998) Cold War, London: Bantam Press. Jeffery, K. and Hennessy, P. (1983) States of Emergency: British Government and Strike Breaking since 1919, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Jones, A. V. (1995) ‘Emergency Planning: A Regulator’s Perspective’, in I. Mech. E. Conference Transactions (Conference on Emergency Planning and Management, 21/22 November), London: Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Jones, M. W. (1976) Deadline Disaster, Newton Abbot: David and Charles. NAO, (2002) The 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office. London: The Stationery Office. O’Brien, T. H. (1955) Civil Defence, London: HMSO. Perry, R. W. (1995) ‘The Structure and Function of Community Emergency Operations Centres’, Disaster Prevention and Management, 4(5): 37–41. Regester, M. and Larkin, J. (1997) Risk Issues and Crisis Management, London: Kogan Page.

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Home Office (1980) Review of Fire Policy: An Examination of the Deployment of Resources to Combat Fire, London: HMSO.

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Renton, Sir David (1969) Coping with Emergencies in Peace and War, London: The Conservative Political Centre. Rockett, J. P. (2001) ‘Foot and Mouth In Britain: the first 60 days - a problem of dystopia.’ Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 16(3): 18-24. Smith, M. (2006) ‘Ready, Aim... Misfire’, The Sunday Times, 1 January, 17.

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The Times (2001) ‘Foot-and-Mouth: Curious timing for three-pronged attack’, 10 August, 4. The Times (2005) ‘Bush dismisses emergency response chief in shake-up’, 10 September, 4. Tierney, K. J., Lindell, M. K. and Perry, R. W. (2001) Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response In the United States, Washington DC: Joseph Henry Press. Uff, J. (2000) Southall Rail Incident Inquiry Report, London: HSE Books.


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READING ‘Future UK emergency management: new wine, old skin?’ O’ Brien, G. and Read, P. (2005) Disaster Prevention and Management. Vol 14, No. 3, 353-361. Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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READING ‘2005: a year in review’ Ensom, J. (2005) Survive Magazine, Fourth Quarter, 22-23.

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READING ‘Terrorists turn to economic targets’ Ensom, J. (2005) Survive Magazine, Fourth Quarter, 16-17.

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READING ‘CCA: why businesses should take note’ Dale, A. (2005) Survive Magazine, Fourth Quarter, 18-19.

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READING ‘Katrina and the waves’ Survive (2005) Survive Magazine, Fourth Quarter, 4-7.

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UNIT 3 Disasters as Heuristics?


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3 Unit Three: Disasters as Heuristics? 3.1 Aims and Objectives of this Unit The aims and objectives of this Unit are implicit in its title, ‘Disasters as Heuristics?’ The Unit asks whether disasters, like the one that occurred at Flixborough in 1974, can spur the public and/or authorities to a new understanding of the world about them, especially the various man-made risks to be found in that world.

The Unit asks whether and to what extent the Flixborough disaster of 1974 affected the relationship between the community of Port Talbot in South Wales and the British Petroleum (BP) Chemicals plant of Baglan Bay, to the north west of the town. Specifically, it asks whether and to what extent the disaster affected the community’s ‘construction’ of the environmental risks and hazards presented by the plant. Did the disaster lead the community to ‘construct’ a different risk profile for the plant? If it did, how apposite was this new profile in light of the specific and somewhat unique circumstances of the Flixborough disaster? Did the Flixborough disaster perhaps lead the community to a misunderstanding of the threat presented by the BP Chemicals plant? Or did it highlight previously unidentified/unrecognised hazards?

3.2 Introduction Before looking at the possible heuristic role of the Flixborough disaster, we need some appreciation of its social, economic and political context. The prevalence and significance of that form of political activity known as ‘environmentalism’ is especially germane.

3.2.1 The Origins of Environmentalism The late 1960s and early 1970s were a time of increasing environmental awareness and activism. In the United States, three factors combined together to put environmental issues near the top of the political agenda. Firstly, amenity groups like the Sierra Club began to vociferously promote environmental conservation, as in the case of the Grand Canyon. Secondly, politicians — for whatever reason — began to champion environmental causes. The most significant piece of environmental legislation passed at this time was the groundbreaking National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Thirdly, a politicised and radicalised public seized upon the environmental cause as something worthwhile and significant. North America’s first Earth Day of 1970 served to coalesce and mobilise popular support for environmentalism.

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Nuttal’s Standard Dictionary of the English Language defines an heuristic as something that ‘leads to discovery’. An heuristic, in other words, is an artefact or event that facilitates understanding. It might be said, for example, that LEGO and Meccano (‘building toys’) have heuristic qualities: they help children to understand the dynamics of structures, and, as three dimensional ‘toys’, promote spatial awareness.

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America’s increased sensitivity to environmental issues happened almost overnight. As one academic noted: A miracle of public opinion has been the unprecedented speed and urgency with which ecological issues have burst into American consciousness. Alarm about the environment sprang from nowhere to major proportions in a few short years. (Erskine, 1972: 120) The environmental movement, of course, is not homogeneous. In their analysis of American

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environmentalism, Freudenberg and Steinsapir (1992) noted that while the national organisations were ‘predominantly middle class’, local groups ‘[Drew] their members from a broad cross-section of class and occupational categories’, and focused on ‘protection of public health rather than the environment’. Women often held important positions in such groups. Freudenberg and Steinsapir noted the success of groups on a wide range of issues, from the ‘cleanup of contaminated dump sites, to the blocking of proposed developments’ (p. 27).

3.2.2 The Role of the Media The role of the media in promoting environmental issues has been noted by Schoenfeld et al. Although speaking about the American experience, their observations may be applicable to the British case. Initially slow to report on the environmental movement and its issue base, the US press began to take note in the early 1970s: Prior to 1969–1970, newspapers were slow to play much part in recognising ‘environmentalism’ ... Early environmental reporters had trouble with both the substance and the style of environmentalism... Then Fortune magazine in 1970 anointed ‘The Environment’ as ‘The National Mission of the ’70s’ and ‘the environment’ and related terms increasingly entered the press lexicon for labelling the new way of looking at humankind–habitat relationships. By 1971, editorials on environmental issues were common. (Schoenfeld et al., 1980: 42–3)

3.2.3 Environmentalism in Britain It is probable that the Torrey Canyon oil tanker disaster of 1967 catalysed interest in the environmental debate. Certainly, the incident received massive media attention, some of which focused on the environmental impact of the oil spill (Jones, 1976: 174–6). It might be argued that the disaster had a certain heuristic quality, opening the public’s eyes to the potential adverse environmental effects of modern energy technologies, in this case the sea-borne importation of oil. The disaster itself began mundanely. As Jones (1976: 174) writes: There appeared to be no cause for alarm. There were no casualties, and the Dutch salvage team that had won the usual scramble for prize-money was standing by to tow the Torrey Canyon off the rocks on the next high tide.

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Prior to the disaster, Britain’s embryonic environmental movement had made little impact on the popular imagination (Jones, 1976: 174). All this began to change when the Torrey Canyon grounded on Seven Stones Reef near the Scilly Isles. By the tenth day of its grounding, the vessel, by now lying in three sections, had spilled 60,000 tons of oil into the sea. Much of it found its way to the beaches of Cornwall. In desperation, 160,000 lbs of explosives were dropped to fire the oil. While the military aspects of the disaster attracted much press comment (Jones, 1976: 175), the press also paid attention to the environmental dimension. On 27 March, the Daily Mirror opined that ‘The menace to Britain’s South Coast beaches already suffocated by oil over a sixty-mile stretch, is now graver than ever’. On 28 March, the paper talked about a ‘Vast Oil Threat to the South’ in a front page banner headline. Broadsheets like the Telegraph joined in — albeit expressing the same view in rather more temperate language. According to Jones (1976: 174) the Torrey Canyon oil spill catalysed Britains nascent environmental movement:

measure to the events of Easter Week 1967. The 1970s saw a steady growth in membership of UK environmental organisations. Between 1971 and 1986, the membership of Friends of the Earth increased from 1,000 to 28,000. Over the same period, the membership of the National Trust increased from 278,000 (excluding Scotland) to almost one and a half million (Robinson, 1992: 45). It should be noted that such groups could expect more support from the public at large, which tended to drift into and out of contact with the environmental movement. As Robinson (1992: 45) points out: [A]lthough many people can be conveniently compartmentalised into groups, many more remain as an amorphous mass acting as a potential well of support, and we should consider them part of the social movement ... the attentive public are irregular participants in the movement. Of course, there is disagreement over the amount of influence wielded by environmental groups. Certainly, the transnational corporations are immensely powerful. Through ‘regulatory arbitrage’ they are able to negotiate the most ‘convenient’ health and safety regulations, guaranteeing a profitable return on investment (Red Pepper, 1996: 5). But, if Lowe and Goyder (1983: 1) are to be believed, British environmental organisations have given them a run for their money: [S]ince the 1960s, environmental groups have emerged as a significant force, enjoying contacts with local government, Parliament and the Civil Service, and using the media to mount campaigns. Not only have they influenced legislation and official policy, but they have also gained considerable public sympathy. Indeed, it seems that environmental groups are part of a broadly based change in the way people perceive and evaluate their surroundings.

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In 1967 the prophets of ecology with their woe-begotten predictions were still voices crying in the wilderness. The fact that in less than ten years this attitude has been reversed, and that the Press has become an equally earnest watchdog of potential assaults on our environment, is due in large

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(It could be argued, for example, that Greenpeace influenced Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to dispose of the Brent Spar oil storage vessel on land rather than at sea.)

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3.3 Socio-Economic and Political Context of the Flixborough Disaster The British petrochemicals industry grew rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s (Wiseman, 1986: 14). It was in this context of rapid development that, ‘Many highly inflammable substances ... developed large markets in a short time’ (Tinker, 1974: 590). In the case of Nylon-6, the end product of the Nypro works at Flixborough, production growth reflected in part the high cost of natural yarns. The growth of the UK petrochemicals industry, however, was not matched by the development of more sophisticated and effective safety regulation. Although the potential dangers of manipulating volatile substances to produce artificial fibres (see Module 4, Unit 7) were recognised at the highest level, effective regulatory action was lacking. As Tinker noted in 1974:

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Neither when they [petrochemicals works] were first built, nor now that they are in operation, has any local or national government agency exercised effective control over their safety. To build a nuclear power plant, the electricity industry must provide a detailed safety evaluation to the Nuclear Inspectorate before it receives a licence. On the other hand, permission for ... hazardous process plants only involves satisfying a technically unqualified local planning committee, which lacks even the most rudimentary powers once the plant goes on stream. As the Chief Inspector of Factories wrote in his 1972 Annual Report, ‘we are faced increasingly with the risk of failures which could result in multiple deaths and injuries of near-disaster proportions. It is the responsibility of those who introduce these processes to eliminate these great — unacceptably great — risks before they are in operation.’ (Tinker, 1974: 590) The inherent dangers of large petrochemicals plants were magnified by the difficulties encountered in generating a robust safety culture within the plants: [C]hemical plant contractors ... freely admit ... that it is becoming increasingly difficult, as more and more big chemical plants are built, to convince every last man on the site that he is living with a potential bomb. Explosives plants convey their own, immediate sense of danger and nuclear plants are novel enough still to do the same. But it is not easy to maintain the same state of alertness throughout big, placid forests of fractionating columns and pressure vessels turning out something as innocent as paint, plastic sheeting or, as at Flixborough, the caprolactam used as raw material for nylon. (The Economist, 1974: 69) Prior to Flixborough, an air of voluntarism permeated the regulatory industry. In 1972, for example, the Department of the Environment (DoE) ‘Issued a circular “encouraging” those who handled hazardous materials on a large scale to notify the relevant local planning authorities’ (Tinker, 1974: 590). Should they be consulted by developers, the local authorities were in turn ‘encouraged’ to consult with the Factory Inspectorate before making a decision (ibid.). The Factory Inspectorate was, at this time, short of resources. As The Economist (1974: 69–70) put it: Factory Inspectors come low down in the pecking order in Whitehall; by the time their turn comes round the money has usually run out. Nothing has been done to meet criticisms about understaffing and gripes about not carrying sufficient muscle.

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One might say, therefore, that in the early 1970s, the British petrochemical industry’s regulatory environment bordered on the laissez-faire. While the Health and Safety at Work Act was on its way, it had not arrived by the time the Nypro works exploded on 1 June 1974 (Tinker, 1974: 590). A final point is that at the time of the disaster, the industry was ‘thinking big’. Given that a doubling of plant capacity could be achieved for an expenditure increase of only 0.6, and that there was heavy demand for chemical products (The Economist, 1974: 70), operators tended towards giantism in plant design (Wiseman, 1986: 14). Between 1956 and 1974, for example, the capacity of the average ethylene plant increased by a factor of over ten (Tinker, 1974: 590). The scaling up of plant seemed to have a number of advantages:

(Kennett, 1975: 142) Giantism, however, may compromise safety: [A] larger scale of operation and larger inventories of flammable materials may all contribute to the risks faced in the process industries. (Napier, 1974: 239)

3.4 The Flixborough Disaster While the disaster that occurred on 1 June 1974 has been covered in detail in the previous Module (Unit 4.7), a brief revision is appropriate.

3.4.1 History and Nature of the Nypro Site Although commonly known as the Flixborough disaster, the explosion at Nypro’s caprolactam/ Nylon-6 works in Lincolnshire happened on a site more or less equidistant from two villages, Flixborough and Amcotts. According to Clammer (1974: 691), ‘Amcotts [was] even closer to the plant ... and far more badly damaged as a result’. Strangely, however, Amcotts was ‘Largely forgotten in the general excitement’. The countryside around the plant was mostly flat, a factor that would have contributed to the effect of the explosion. There were no hills to attenuate the blast.

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Industrial experts argue that giant-scale operations ... are a good thing. They are cheaper to operate than numerous small factories dotted about, because they cut down transport and manufacturing costs. Raw ingredients can be bought more cheaply in bulk. They provide a job centre for the areas where they are located.

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The location of the plant in a mainly rural environment was puzzling, although this might be explained by the plant’s initial purpose, the production of nitrogen fertiliser. The plant produced nitrogen fertiliser from 1937 to 1941, when it was converted to produce ammonium sulphate. By 1967, the plant’s main focus was the production of nylon for the garment industry. This made its location decidedly incongruous. Apart from the occasional cement or steel plant, north Lincolnshire was very much farming country. As Clammer (p. 691) puts it, ‘Industry in south Humberside is a dispersed rural phenomenon’.

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As indicated above, the plant had been adapted over a considerable period of time to meet different needs. However, such evolution and adaptation is not unusual in the chemicals sector. As The Economist (1974: 69) noted at the time of the explosion: The difficulty in pinpointing responsibility for so devastating an accident lies in the Flixborough plant’s having been built originally for one production technique but subsequently modified to use another which, as it happens, gives off much more heat that has continually to be drawn off to keep the chemical reactions inside the plant at their proper temperature. It consisted, therefore, of a mix of old and new apparatus. But chemical plants are continually modified almost from the moment they are commissioned, and the Flixborough factory was designed and put up by some of the world’s most experienced contractors.

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As described above, the chemical reaction at the core of the plant involved high temperatures. In fact, the production process involved the heating of a substance with petrol-like properties (cyclohexane) to 155 degrees centigrade under high pressure (Kennett, 1975: 142). The resulting cyclohexanone provided the feedstock for the production of caprolactam, which in turn produced Nylon-6 (an alternative to ICI’s Nylon 6.6). The plant’s pattern of ownership was somewhat unique. Originally built by a subsidiary of Fisons, the plant was taken over in 1964 by Nypro (UK) Ltd — a company that brought Dutch State Mines (DSM) into the picture. DSM was the Netherlands’ equivalent of Britain’s National Coal Board — that is, a nationally-owned mining enterprise. By 1967, three parties had a share in Nypro. DSM owned 45 percent, Fisons 10 percent and Britain’s own National Coal Board (NCB), 45 percent. In 1972, DSM bought Fisons out. At the time of the disaster, therefore, a British nationalised industry, the NCB, owned 45 percent of Nypro. Given the expectation that nationalised industries should provide for the needs of the national economy and, indirectly, for the needs of the indigenous population, there was little comment to the effect that the disaster was manifestly not in the interests of the people of north Lincolnshire (Clammer, 1974: 692), nor indeed of those involved in Britain’s large garment industry. At the time of the explosion, it was feared that up to 40,000 workers might be affected by the loss of Nylon-6 supplies (Hill, 1974). The plant’s manufacturing technology was also unique. Nypro’s Flixborough works was the only one in the UK employing what was known as the ‘DSM process’ (the production of Nylon-6 from cyclohexanone generated by combining benzene with ammonia) (Kennett, 1975: 142). In producing Nylon 6.6, ICI, for example, used naptha and ammonia (Hill, 1974). This unique process was undertaken on a relatively small site. The Nypro works covered 40 acres, which ‘By chemical standards [made it] a tiddler of a plant’ (The Economist, 1974: 70). The small acreage resulted in the concentration of plant. This, however, was not considered a problem, it being assumed that ‘A fire or explosion in any one of [the plant’s] many units would not spread more than 50ft’ (The Economist, 1974: 70). Nypro not only concentrated its plant into a small area, but also modified the manufacturing process, speeding it up, and using benzene to start the chemical reaction. This may have affected safety margins:

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The plants operated by DSM in North and South America used a slightly longer system, but from 1973 the Flixborough plant involved a short cut, using benzene rather than cyclohexane to start the process. It is cheaper, but it is also highly toxic, inflammable and explosive. (Kennett, 1975: 142) Although five hundred and fifty people were employed at Nypro’s Flixborough plant, few of Flixborough’s 300 inhabitants worked there. Flixborough was far from being a ‘company town’. Anyway, those who wished to work in industry could choose between Nypro and the local steel plant at Normanby. None of the 28 people killed in the disaster came from Flixborough (Clammer, 1974: 691).

3.4.2 The Explosion

The explosion happened on a Saturday — a day of relaxation for most. It came as a shock to some, as may be gauged from this statement by a witness in Scunthorpe: It parted the clouds and went up like a mushroom as though an atom bomb had exploded. A housewife in Flixborough was equally shocked: It went up like an H-bomb in mushrooms with two circles. I never expected anything like this. I never realised there was such a danger. According to one Nypro worker, the scene inside the plant bordered on the infernal: I heard a bang, quickly followed by a large explosion. Everything went black as hell. I was picked up and thrown thirty yards. We were wandering about in a daze. (Kennett, 1975: 139) The housewife’s comment, that she did not understand the explosive risk presented by the plant, is especially noteworthy. Before the advent of the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazard (CIMAH) regulations in 1984, operators were under no obligation to inform the public about their operations and attendant risks. The housewife’s story was corroborated by one of Nypro’s chemists, a Mr Hugh Scullion: Many people round here just did not realise the potential hazards they were living by. They thought it was still a fertiliser factory, which part of it was some thirty years ago. What they were really doing was, in effect, like boiling petrol [in fact, benzene] ... . We knew something like this was bound to happen one day.

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The fine detail of the disaster may be found in Module 4, Unit 7. What follows is something of the human angle on the disaster, allowing people to speak about it in their own words.

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(Chartres and Osman, 1974) Another Nypro employee, however, had no inkling that ‘something like this was bound to happen’: I considered that the worst which could happen within the section if an escape of cyclohexane occurred would be a large fire which would be extremely difficult to extinguish, and the section could possibly be destroyed. But in my wildest nightmare I never dreamt that the plant could disappear in one almighty blast, nor do I believe anyone else did. (Taylor, 1975: 10)

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There is little doubt that the explosion traumatised the community, and generated a certain amount of anger. When a senior council official left a public meeting early to meet a dignitary, one of the residents present commented: There was a national emergency yesterday but its all finished now, isn’t it? The local Member of Parliament (John Ellis, Brigg and Scunthorpe) reflected upon the feelings of his constituents in the Commons: The costs in terms of grief and misery my constituents have had to suffer ... is too high for a socalled civilised society to bear. (The Times, 4 June 1975)

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The residents of the flatlands around the plant had good reason to be miserable. Out of Flixborough’s 79 houses, 72 were damaged. One thousand other homes lying within a three mile radius of the epicentre of the explosion were damaged (Brown, 1990).

3.4.3 The Aftermath The event was reported widely. According to Springett (1994), the television coverage was particularly affecting: Even though the Flixborough explosion occurred 20 years ago, the television pictures of the disaster remain seared into the memory. The disaster was covered in the press and was discussed in Parliament. The major conflagration raged for 24 hours, and small explosions occurred throughout the following week. The scale of the disaster, in terms of capital destroyed — £30,000,000 to replace the plant (Springett) — and human dislocation — 3,000 people were evacuated — made it difficult to ignore. Local reaction to the disaster was swift and (superficially) unequivocal. Perhaps mindful of the inertia that confronted the residents of Aberfan after the tip disaster, the people of Flixborough demanded that the plant be demolished and no further plant be built: After Aberfan, parents protested the decision to leave remaining coal tips where they were; at Flixborough, a local committee was set up to prevent another monster being built in place of the twisted metal ruin. (Kennett, 1975: 143) In the event, Nypro did build a new plant, but one in which ‘[N]o great quantities of flammable organic liquids would be processed at elevated pressure and temperature’ (Taylor, 1975: 22). The disaster shook the health and safety establishment — already nervous about the pace of development of the petrochemicals sector (see above). In 1973, the Chief Inspector of Factories made a prophetic statement: We may well see a continuing fall in the fatal accident rate, while at the same time we are faced increasingly with the risk of failures which could result in multiple deaths and injuries of neardisaster proportions. (Kennett, 1975: 142)

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In 1974, the Nypro explosion killed 28 workers and damaged over one thousand homes. If the explosion had occurred on a weekday, hundreds might have been killed. The petrochemicals sector presented truly high consequence risks. After the Flixborough explosion, the Chief Inspector put out another warning: We are running instead of walking. We have to feel our way with these new technologies. (Kennett, 1975: 143) There was comment in the broadsheet press to the effect that the industry may be developing too fast, and that giantism may compromise safety:

volatile energy in one tank in one place. Should the chemical industry perhaps be advised to think small instead of big? (The Guardian, 3 June 1974) Writing in 1975, Kennett (p.143) expressed the view that the disaster would have reverberations throughout high-consequence risk industries: Industry and technology move forward quickly, sometimes without full realisation of possible hazards to society. Plants and factories cannot be built in deserts ... . After Flixborough new criticisms will inevitably be made of oil refineries, chemical plants, even airports and big garages as potentially dangerous. The question, however, is not whether MPs like John Ellis (Brigg and Scunthorpe), authors like Kennett and organs like The Guardian and The Economist were now alert to the explosive dangers of petrochemicals complexes, but whether the residents of Port Talbot, and particularly of the Sandfields Estate, had been sensitised to the explosive risks of the massive BP Chemicals plant built on Baglan Moor. Of course, it was quite possible that, unlike those who lived in the shadow of the Nypro works, the residents of Port Talbot had long known about the explosive potential of the plant. In which case, the Flixborough explosion would not have performed a revelational, heuristic role, but rather a potential reinforcing one.

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The chemical industry ... deals continuously with very large amounts of energy locked up in compounds which are known to be volatile and dangerous unless they are treated with respect ... . What matters ... is the design of the system. It ought to be made impossible for chemicals which will form a critical mixture to come together accidentally. And if they do, it ought to be made impossible for the energy to spread. And did Flixborough contain too much locked-up chemical energy? Was it simply too big? Is it not perhaps irresponsibly dangerous to concentrate vast amounts of potentially

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3.5 BP Chemicals at Baglan Bay In the mid-1970s, investment in UK petrochemicals production was accelerating (Cranfield, 1974: 47). In March 1974, BP Chemicals International had just finished the latest expansion of its Baglan Bay plant. Altogether, the company had spent $300 million on the plant. $24 million of this had been spent on pollution control.

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3.5.1 History and Nature of the British Petroleum Baglan Bay Site BP, a private company, began work on the site in the 1960s. The site, which extended over 1,000 acres of flat land at the eastern end of Swansea Bay, was bounded on one side by the Sandfields council estate, a primary school and sports ground. Work had begun on the housing estate in 1950. The purpose-built petrochemicals complex produced large quantities of ethylene. Caprolactam was not produced.

3.5.2 Heuristic Impact of the Flixborough Disaster 3.5.2.1 Introduction Petrochemicals plants present both fire and explosive hazards (Napier, 1974: 239). The larger the plant and the greater the volume of on-site storage, the greater the risk (ibid.).

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There follows an analysis of the public’s perception of the risks presented by the Baglan Bay plant before and after the Flixborough disaster. Two newspapers have been used to assess the public’s risk perceptions. 3.5.2.2 Methodology Perhaps because of increasing national and international interest in the environment, both the Western Mail and the Port Talbot Guardian devoted many column-inches to the alleged risks of the BP Chemicals plant at Baglan Bay. Usefully, from the point of view of this analysis, complainants (and defendants) were often quoted verbatim in the newspapers. Assuming the reportage to be accurate, the two newspapers thus provide a reasonable record of some of the statements made pre- and post-Flixborough by the residents of Port Talbot about the BP plant. Both produced in broadsheet format, the Western Mail was available throughout Wales, while the Port Talbot Guardian was the town’s local newspaper. The former was a daily, the latter a weekly newspaper. There follows a review of the Western Mail’s coverage of the plant between January 1974 and December 1974, and of the Port Talbot Guardian’s coverage between January 1973 and December 1974. Unfortunately, a few editions of the Western Mail were not available for review. In their stead, editions of the South Wales Echo, a sister paper of the Western Mail, have been used. The two papers often ran the same stories. (Unless otherwise stated, the quotations are taken from the Western Mail.) The major caveats of this methodology are, first, that it relies on second-hand, mediated and potentially biased accounts of events in Port Talbot between 1973 and 1974, and second, that the newspapers’ coverage may have been less than comprehensive. In defence of the methodology, however, it should be remembered first, that both newspapers devoted considerable space to environmental issues, and second, that the verbatim reporting of comments, statements and speeches does provide a truthful account of some of the discourses of risk pertaining to the plant (assuming, of course, that witnesses were quoted correctly).

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3.5.2.3 Data The risk debate as reported by the Western Mail was as follows. Prior to the Flixborough disaster, the risk debate pertaining to the BP Chemicals plant had two major themes: environmental pollution and the health risk to workers presented by vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) — a feedstock gas produced at the plant. It had been alleged that VCM caused cancer of the liver. The pollution debate revolved around four aspects of the plant’s operation: its alleged dust and odour emissions, light pollution and generation of ‘excessive’ noise (15 February 1974). In response to a campaign orchestrated initially by a local clergyman, and carried on by the Baglan Action Group (BAG), ‘Formed to fight pollution’ (20 February 1974), BP promised to distribute 8,000 newsletters to local homes describing its anti-pollution measures.

At the beginning of 1974 the Western Mail reported that the deaths of three workers in America exposed to VCM gas were being investigated. On 31 January, the Western Mail announced that ‘Medical records of about 700 men at BP in South Wales are to be checked after it was found they have been in contact with [VCM]’. The themes of environmental pollution and workers’ health dominated the public debate about the plant from January to May 1974. On 9 May, the paper reported that the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) had urged local residents, ‘[T]o demand that BP Chemicals at Baglan Bay publish their pollution figures’ (9 May 1974). BAG’s Secretary supported the BSSRS call for more information on pollution to be supplied to residents. Assuming the Western Mail’s reporting to be a reasonable reflection of the public mood, the Flixborough disaster of 1 June 1974 changed the discourse about the plant and its perceived risks. According to the Western Mail, until the Flixborough disaster, the explosive risks of the Baglan plant had not been uppermost in the public’s mind: Until the Flixborough disaster at the weekend, the Baglan Action Group had channelled their protests towards noise and pollution at the plant. (4 June 1974) The Flixborough explosion made a significant impact on BAG, raising the spectre of a similar event in Port Talbot. As the Group’s Secretary put it:

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One of BAG’s concerns was the economic impact of pollution, BAG’s acting secretary alleging that pollution had ‘devalued property’ (20 February 1974).

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I think everybody was a little stunned and shocked when the news came out. But what has alarmed us is that the experts have said this sort of thing could happen again. (South Wales Echo, 4 June 1974) The above comment bears comparison with some of the statements reproduced in 3.4.2, where it is clear that there was a degree of ignorance amongst the residents of Flixborough about the explosive hazards presented by the Nypro plant.

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It seemed to the Secretary of BAG that the situation at Port Talbot was potentially more serious: There were acres of farmland surrounding Flixborough, but at Baglan Bay there is a school on the perimeter of the site, with 1,200 children. If a similar explosion occurred at Baglan Bay, it would rip the school from its very foundations. (South Wales Echo, 4 June 1974) BAG were not alone in calling for a review of the plant’s explosive risks. The Port Talbot Environment Society, Port Talbot New Tenants’ Association (PTNTA) and the Aberavon North Ward Labour Party all pressed for an Inquiry. ‘Because of the concentration of housing and schools nearby ... People have the right to know what the dangers are’, said the Chairman of PTNTA (5 June 1974).

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In mid-June, BAG published a report on the risks presented by the petrochemicals complex. ‘In the light of the Flixborough disaster the dangers of explosion and fire are obvious’, it said (15 June 1974). Thus it can be seen that as far as BAG were concerned, Flixborough had a ‘revelational’ quality. It ‘made obvious’ the ‘danger of explosion’. For BAG, Flixborough served as an heuristic. As has been shown above, prior to Flixborough BAG focused on hazards like dust, light, noise and odours. After Flixborough, there was concern about explosive hazard too. The risk debate as reported by the Port Talbot Guardian. On 6 February 1973, BP Baglan’s new ethylene plant caught fire during commissioning. Flames ‘soared 150ft. above the works’. Fourteen workers were injured. All were treated for shock. In addition to works appliances, five County fire engines attended the scene. The Works General Manager feared that the blaze ‘would have serious implications on our production capacity’. The local population seemed ignorant of the cause and nature of the problem: Thousands of people on the Sandfields and Baglan Estates watched as columns of yellow flames belched skywards. Many believed the fire was all part of the commissioning work. (9 February 1973) The blaze was the lead story on the paper’s front page. It emerged that the fire had been caused by a component failure. The failure had allowed ‘large volumes of flammable hydrocarbon gases at high pressure’ to escape (23 February 1973). There are similarities between this incident and the later Flixborough explosion, where a flammable mixture escaped under pressure (Kennett, 1975: 139). At Flixborough, however, the gas exploded with enormous force (Perrow, 1999: 110). By September 1973, discontent with BP Baglan’s environmental performance prompted a rates strike by three residents on a local private housing estate. One of the strikers complained that pollution from the plant was affecting property values: Our lives have become intolerable as a result of the noise and pollution coming from the BP plant over 14 months and which has continued despite complaints. When our rates were increased under the new assessments it was the last straw, because the conditions have reduced the value of our properties.

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Another striker complained about the ‘inhuman’ noise pollution produced by the plant (21 September 1973). Expressions of discontent continued throughout the year (16 November 1973) and into 1974 (25 January 1 February, 22 February 1974), a local councillor complaining at the end of February that ‘The noise nuisance is as bad now as it was 12 months ago’ (22 February 1974). In contrast the British Steel Corporation (BSC) at Port Talbot were planning to site the plant’s new coke ovens 6,000 ft. from the nearest housing (21 September 1973). (Of course, while this might have attenuated some light and noise pollution, the effect on general environmental pollution might have been negligible.) Publicly, BSC portrayed themselves as ‘pro-environment’. At the end of 1973, the Director of the Port Talbot works was quoted as saying: It is right and proper that we should invest heavily in pollution control equipment for the preservation of the environment.

But some remained critical of BSC’s environmental performance. In a letter to the newspaper on 8 March 1974, an employee at BP Baglan reminded the public that ‘So far as pollution is concerned ... what BP has done in two years to control it [pollution] took the Steel Company of Wales [BSC] 22 years’. While BP were spending money on environmental improvements, the plant suffered a second major fire. At the end of February, the styrene plant caught fire releasing a ‘large quantity of smoke’ which ‘drifted like a huge pall across the nearby Sandfields Estate’. Eight County fire appliances attended the blaze, which burned for 35 minutes. The headmaster of the local comprehensive school, on seeing the ‘dense black pall’ ordered that all the school’s windows be closed. But despite the ferocity and trans-boundary impact of the blaze, there was little comment on the explosive risks presented by the plant (1 March 1974). The debate remained focused on light pollution, noise, odours and dust from the plant (8 March, 15 March 1974), until, that is, the Flixborough disaster in June. The disaster focused attention on the BP plant’s explosive hazards (21 June 1974). It also ‘freed up’ the local political empasse that had existed between BAG and BP’s management. Although BP had invited BAG to the plant for discussions, BAG had refused to go. After Flixborough, however, BAG met BP’s management on ‘neutral territory’ at a local leisure complex (28 June 1974). The twohour meeting saw some ‘frank speaking’. A further meeting was arranged. BP also planned to meet the New Tenants’ Association and Port Talbot Environment Society at a later date (28 June 1974).

3.6 Conclusion

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(7 December 1973)

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Bearing in mind the caveats outlined above on the objectivity, comprehensiveness and inclusivity of the press, there is a certain amount of second-hand evidence to suggest that the Flixborough disaster performed an heuristic role for the people of Port Talbot. Before Flixborough, the public considered the chief hazards presented by the BP Baglan Bay petrochemicals plant to be noise, dust, light and odours. Certainly, BAG focused exclusively on these ‘non-explosive’ hazards. The plant’s two major fires did not alter this discourse.

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After Flixborough, the focus moved from noise, dust, light and odours to explosive hazard. It is unlikely that this shift was accidental, given that the discourse changed immediately after the Flixborough explosion. Perhaps the most pertinent question, however, is not whether but why Flixborough performed an heuristic role for the people of Port Talbot. The Nypro plant was, after all, very different to BP’s petrochemical complex: • It was different topographically. The Nypro plant was built on a small site. Explosive mixtures and processes were in close proximity. The BP plant was built on a large site. In addition, ‘Large storage tanks were far enough away from the parts that could be dangerous to avoid a Flixborough type disaster’ (Port Talbot Guardian, 21 June 1974) • The Nypro plant used different chemicals to the BP plant

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• The Nypro plant was not ‘purpose built’ for the production of Nylon-6. It had been adapted over the years. The BP plant was a purpose-built installation, as yet unmodified (most plants are modified over time) • The patterns of ownership were different. Nypro was owned by (British and foreign) state-run companies. BP Baglan was owned by a private (British) company Given such topographic, chemical-engineering and other differences, one might reasonably assume that the Flixborough experience would hold few — if any — lessons for the people of Port Talbot. Yet, as has been shown, Flixborough dramatically altered the risk discourse of the people of Port Talbot, and brought BP Chemical International’s management and local pressure groups into consultation.

3.7 Guide to Reading A good overview of petrochemical disasters is given in chapter four of Perrow, 1999. Two articles on petrochemical plant safety are supplied as supplementary reading. These cover the introduction in the UK of the ‘Seveso II’ legislation and a case study of public warning in the chemicals industry. Voke, R. (1997) ‘Seveso II’, International Disaster and Emergency Response (IDER) Conference [Proceedings], 7–9 October, The Netherlands Congress Centre, The Hague. Lambourne, R. (1997) ‘Public Warning Systems and the Chemical Industry’, IDER Conference [Proceedings], ibid.

3.8 Study Questions You should now write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the questions below. We believe this will assist your comprehension of the material in this Unit and aid your progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your own course notes and should not be forwarded to the University.

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1. Why do some hazards, like noise pollution, get more public attention than others, like the risk of fire and/or explosion? 2. Why did the two major fires at BP Baglan not motivate BAG to explore the plant’s fire and/or explosive risks? 3. Given the topographic and other dissimilarities between the Nypro works and the BP Baglan works, how do we explain the (apparent) heuristic quality of the Flixborough explosion for those in Port Talbot who lived near the BP plant?

3.9 Bibliography

Chartres, J. and Osman, A. (1974) ‘Angry residents will fight any attempt to rebuild death factory’, The Times, 4 June. Clammer, J. (1974) ‘Flixborough: a rural-industrial disaster’, New Society, June 20. Cranfield, J. (1974) ‘UK petrochemicals set for massive growth’, Petroleum International, July. Erskine, H. (1972) ‘The Polls: Pollution and its Costs’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 36: 120–35. Freudenberg, N. and Steinsapir, C. (1992) ‘Not in Our Backyards: The Grassroots Environmental Movement’, in R.E. Dunlap and A.G. Mertig (eds) American Environmentalism, USA: Taylor and Francis. Hill, P. (1974) ‘Man-made fibres after the Flixborough disaster’, The Times, 4 June. Jones, M. W. (1976) Deadline Disaster: A Newspaper History, Newton Abbot: David and Charles. Kennett, F. (1975) The Greatest Disasters of the Twentieth Century, Marshall Cavendish. Lowe, P. and Goyder, J. (1983) Environmental Groups in Politics, London: Allen and Unwin. Napier, D. H. (1974) ‘Background to a Disaster’, Chemistry in Britain, 10(7): 239. Nuttal’s Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1959) London: Frederick Warne.

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Brown, P. (1990) ‘16 years on, council acts on Middlesborough ICI plant. Homes go to avert “Flixborough” rerun’, The Guardian, 12 February.

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Perrow, C. (1999) Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Red Pepper (1996), June, p. 5. Robinson, M. (1992) The Greening of British Party Politics, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

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Schoenfeld, A. C., Meier, R. F. and Griffin, R. J. (1980) ‘Constructing a Social Problem: The Press and the Environment’, Social Problems, 27(1): 38–56. Springett, P. (1994) ‘Covering catastrophes’, The Guardian, 21 April. Taylor, H. D. (1975) Flixborough: The Implications for Management, Britain: Keith Shipton Developments Ltd. The Economist (1974) ‘The Flixborough Fire’, 8 June. The Guardian (1974) 3 June. The Port Talbot Guardian (1973) various dates. The Port Talbot Guardian (1974) various dates. The Times (1974) ‘Rigorous and far-reaching inquiry into chemical factory explosion’, 4 June. The Western Mail (1974) various dates. Tinker, J. (1974) ‘Flixborough and the Future’, New Scientist, 6 June. Wiseman, P. (1986) Petrochemicals, Britain: Ellis Horwood.


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READING ‘SEVESO II, How will it affect Emergency Planning?’ Richard Voke From International Disaster and Emergency Response: IDER ’97 Conference Proceedings

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READING ‘Public Warning System and the Chemical Industry’ Robert Lambourne From International Disaster and Emergency Response: IDER ’97 Conference Proceedings

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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4 Unit 4: The Economics of Disaster Sea Empress 4.1 Aims and Objectives of this Unit In February 1996, the oil tanker Sea Empress ran aground near the entrance to Milford Haven harbour in South-West Wales, a principality in the west of Great Britain. Some of her cargo of crude oil spilled into the sea and there was a major pollution threat as well as the danger to the crew and ship. The local coastguard alerted the relevant authorities and national contingency plans for shipping emergencies and oil pollution were implemented. These include an agreed sharing of responsibilities whereby central government deals with spilt oil at sea and local authorities are responsible for the on-shore effects.

This Unit has two main objectives. First to describe the local authority role in the Sea Empress incident, and second to review the financial implications for those directly and indirectly affected. The information given should enable you to: • examine how events developed from the local authority perspective • see how response priorities and actions were decided • appreciate the resource implications of such an incident • consider the adequacy of current UK arrangements for dealing with both the physical and financial consequences of marine oil pollution How the ship came to run aground and the handling of the salvage operation are not matters for this Unit, nor are the at-sea efforts to deal with the spilt oil, but some description of those events is needed to set the beach-cleaning and the economic effects in context. This Unit was prepared by Roger Miles who was a consultant to the Welsh Office for a study of the Sea Empress incident. The views expressed were those of the author in 1997 and may not reflect Welsh Office policy or the views of the local authorities involved.

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This incident became the third largest oil spill in UK coastal waters and one of the 20 largest ever in the world (MPCU, 1996). Some 200 kilometres of coastline were affected but the massive cleanup operation achieved the important early objective of the main tourist beaches being usable for the April (Easter) holiday period; cleaning of other beaches and coves was still in progress one year after the incident. Environmental damage from both the oil and the clean-up measures themselves was a vital concern throughout this work.

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4.2 Introduction In the United Kingdom local government authorities have accepted a voluntary responsibility for cleaning beaches affected by maritime oil spills, however caused. But since the Torrey Canyon incident in 1967, central government has progressively taken statutory powers to reduce the risk of oil pollution and has taken charge of dealing with off-shore oil spills and the at-sea recovery.

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An expert body, the Marine Pollution Control Unit (MPCU), was set up in 1978 to lead central government’s planning for and response to such emergencies (Civil Protection, 1991). The MPCU is tasked to provide guidance to local authorities on their contingency planning and: In the event of a major spill MPCU will help to co-ordinate shoreline operations, particularly the identification of the most appropriate clean-up methods, and will direct operations offshore. (MPCU, 1996: 7) The National Contingency Plan for dealing with oil and chemical spills from ships at sea is a responsibility of the MPCU and it envisages that early in a major incident the MPCU and the local authorities concerned will agree to set up a Joint Response Centre (JRC) to manage the on-shore response.

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When the Sea Empress incident began, two levels of local government were involved. The Dyfed County Council was responsible for preparing and exercising local contingency plans and the six district councils within the county area were responsible for shore cleaning and waste disposal. However, an earlier decision of central government that would totally reorganise local government in Wales was about to take effect. Thus on 1 April 1996, when beach-cleaning was still a major task, Dyfed County Council and the district councils were replaced by three single-tier or unitary authorities, namely Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion County Councils. The main burden of continuing the work fell to the new Pembrokeshire Council. For a number of reasons the impending local government reorganisation had a considerable impact on the response to the Sea Empress emergency, including how the JRC was set up (MPCU, 1996) and how the media and public relations were handled (Caldwell and Morgan, 1997). Various statutory requirements also impacted on the management of the response to this incident, particularly health and safety considerations for those involved in the clean-up and regulations that applied to the disposal of oiled waste from the beaches. Also of economic significance were government decisions to impose restrictions on commercial fishing for food safety reasons. Other pressures came from environmentalists and, of course, the media, who dramatically presented the impact of the oil on the natural environment. The area includes one of only three Marine Nature Reserves in the United Kingdom and a large part of the affected coast is within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which is scientifically important as well as attractive to the public. Large numbers of official and other visitors usually have to be accommodated by those dealing with an emergency and this incident was no exception. As in many other disaster responses, this situation required inputs from a wide range of organisations to bring together all the necessary resources. These again included valued contributions from voluntary organisations. This Unit asks you to consider what lessons can be learned from the handling of this incident for the long running debate about whether or not local authorities should have a statutory duty to clean their coastlines after an oil spill. Some local authorities have long argued that their voluntary role is too ill-defined and that clean-up work is inadequately resourced without a statutory duty and funding for it in their annual grant from central government. Others are apprehensive about the legal implications of a duty to carry out a very difficult task; they fear being held liable for not having ‘cleaned every pebble’ on a beach.

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Various compensation arrangements were current at the time of the Sea Empress which would offer local authorities ways to recover clean-up costs from the oil industry. Funding from other sources was also possible and so your study of this incident should consider whether and, if so how, decisions may have been affected by questions about, ‘who will pay?’ Also, did short-term and longer-term economic consequences influence the response? International comparisons will be made with other major oil spills and with the response to the July 1995 grounding of the bulk carrier the Iron Baron in Tasmania. Although only 325 tonnes of heavy fuel oil were spilt, this was one of the largest incidents ever dealt with under Australia’s national plan for oil pollution of the sea. The environmental consequences were a major issue and there are other similarities with the Sea Empress incident. In particular, a comprehensive review of the spill response was instigated by the Australian government in addition to the normal accident investigation (Review Group, 1996).

4.3 Plans and Preparedness The oil industry came to Milford Haven in 1960 because the estuary offered the new supertankers a sheltered, deep water harbour; it soon grew into a major business. A review by Baker (1976) described the ecological state of the area after 15 years of industrialisation and concluded there had been little overall biological damage despite the rapid expansion of the oil port. She attributed this generally satisfactory situation to ‘efficient harbour administration, the co-operation of the oil companies and a well organised clean-up system’ (Baker, 1976: 65). Also there was an unusually large amount of biological data on Milford Haven available throughout the development because of the area’s environmental importance and long-standing interest to natural scientists. Other speakers at the same meeting noted that oil pollution risks were reduced by the small number of muddy shores and the extensive tidal range that would flush the rocky shore naturally. Furthermore, there was confidence in the contingency planning for oil pollution and particularly in the good liaison with local authorities, which had established that amenity beaches would be cleaned immediately but that biologists would be consulted before other areas were cleaned, if at all (Cowell, 1976). The Harbour Authority had a plan that detailed how it would work with local authorities, the emergency services and other interested bodies to be prepared for a spill. This plan covered small and medium spills but a major spill would need national resources as provided for in the MPCU’s national plan (see Section 4.2).

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This Unit describes the contingency planning that was in place before the Sea Empress incident began, summarises the main events of the salvage operation and the response to the oil spills, and then discusses issues that were important for the local authorities involved. Particular emphasis is given to the economic consequences of the incident.

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The role of local government in emergency planning and crisis response is not easily summarised because, like many local authority functions, it is partly mandatory and partly discretionary. As Elcock (1994: 3) states, ‘The place of local government in the British Constitution is both ambiguous and ambivalent.’ A thorough but lively account of the long-standing tensions between central and local government is given in Elcock’s book which includes a short summary of the statutory basis for the duties and powers that local authorities have for undertaking emergency

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planning work. In particular, Elcock points out that since the Local Government Act 1972, county and district councils have had shared or concurrent responsibilities for many functions, including coastal protection (Elcock, 1994: 42). The national arrangements whereby central government promotes and partly funds emergency planning are described in Unit 2, where you will see that particular emphasis is placed on the role of county-level emergency planning teams in developing Integrated Emergency Management to deal with any crisis, whatever the cause. Thus the Dyfed County Council’s Civil Protection Planning Unit had both general emergency plans and specific plans for an oil pollution incident.

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The latter had been partially tested only four months earlier when on 29 October 1995, the Borga, a tanker carrying 112,180 tonnes of crude oil, also to the Texaco refinery, grounded in the Haven. She was refloated after several attempts and although her double-bottomed plating was damaged there was no rupture and no pollution (Hooke, 1997). An indication that the Local Authority’s initial reaction to the Sea Empress incident was coloured by that experience is given by the Dyfed Deputy Oil Pollution Officer: At first, the Sea Empress running aground seemed like a re-run of the Borga incident four months before. The outcome was to be far different. (Evans, 1996: 10)

4.4 The Economic Context Oil began to overtake coal as the major fuel in the 1920s; along with its economic importance came international concerns about needing regulations to prevent deliberate discharges of oily wastes at sea and to minimise operational pollution as a consequence of industrial activities (Pritchard, 1987). Before the tanker accidents of the 1960s and 1970s, governments had as Pritchard shows tended to ignore accidental pollution and to concentrate on the operational pollution issues which were more amenable to regulatory action. The Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967 was the inspiration for new measures to prevent and to mitigate pollution and to provide compensation. Pritchard reports that the British and French costs for the Torrey Canyon clean-up were between 14 and 16 million US dollars and that after the Amoco Cadiz grounded off Brittany in 1978 the clean-up and compensation costs were well over US$100 million. Pritchard argues that changes in oil pollution control policy will come from a combination of evidence of environmental damage and public pressure but that resistance to changes will be driven by the economic value of the oil industry and the costs of preventative and mitigation measures for what is regarded as an acceptable level of risk. Such thinking is informed by the fact that after an oil spill between 30 and 60 percent evaporates, depending on the conditions and the type of oil, and more is removed by natural weathering and biodegredation (Laws, 1993: 451). This means that relatively little oil is actually cleaned up by human intervention in many cases, and that scientific advice should be an important contributor to incident management, especially as available remedial measures are of limited efficacy and are costly to implement (Laws, 1993).

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Although they are under pressure from market forces of excess production capacity in Europe and the high costs of transporting their products, the three oil refineries in Pembrokeshire are major enterprises and very important to the local economy. The fragile balance of economic and environmental interests was upset by the Sea Empress incident and, as Hill and Bryan (1997) show in the paper supplied with this Unit, there was notable damage to environmentally sensitive tourism and fishing industries. They also emphasise the threat to longer-term employment prospects from the public reaction to this incident; especially the consequences for the proposal to convert Pembroke power station to burn Orimulsion, which is the trade name for a liquid fuel derived from bitumen and occurring naturally in Venezuela.

4.5 The Incident The operations to save the ship and to limit the oil loss were the high profile top priority and have been extensively reported and examined (MPCU, 1996; MAIB, 1997). Many accounts have been given from different perspectives and one detailed example is given in the initial report of a committee set up by the UK government to evaluate the environmental impact of the Sea Empress oil spill and the clean-up work (SEEEC, 1996: 6). It summarises the main events as follows: On the evening of Thursday 15 February, the Sea Empress – laden with more than 130,000 tonnes of Forties Blend crude oil intended for the Texaco refinery – ran aground in the entrance to Milford Haven on the rocks at Mill Bay. The captain reported an initial loss of around 6,000 tonnes of crude oil. Although quickly refloated, the tanker listed badly and was anchored just south of Blockhouse Point to await another tanker into which oil could be transferred. During strong winds in the night of Friday 16 February, the Sea Empress grounded again with further leakage of oil. The ship was refloated at high tide on 17 February but went aground that evening off St Ann’s Head, causing a fresh release of oil and a release of vapour. In continued strong winds, the tanker went aground again on Sunday morning – but with no reported loss of oil at that time. Oil was lost, however, at each subsequent low tide, with the largest releases probably occurring around midday and midnight on Monday 19 February (the latter being estimated at 30,000 tonnes). The Sea Empress was finally refloated on the high tide on Wednesday evening (21 February) and moved to the Herbrandston jetty where the remainder of the crude oil was transferred to another tanker and discharged at the Texaco jetty. The greatest release of the heavy fuel oil occurred that evening while the tanker was alongside the jetty. The Sea Empress left Milford Haven on 27 March and was placed in a dry dock in Belfast on 2 April; a further small quantity of fuel oil was lost at the start of and during this voyage.

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Earlier, Manners (1982) had noted that any tanker incident arouses public concern about the oil industry and particularly the environmental risks of offshore developments. Hence other local authorities with marine oil interests followed the developments in West Wales very closely. Lancashire has a developing offshore oil industry and sent an observer who stayed to assist in the response management work (Brown, 1997).

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Several attempts to refloat and move the ship failed and there were successive spills of oil into the sea. Precise amounts are not known but about 40 percent is thought to have evaporated quickly (Caldwell and Morgan, 1997: 5). The MPCU report states that: Of the 72,000 tonnes of oil lost from the SEA EMPRESS it is estimated that 3–5,000 tonnes came ashore as oil or an oil/water emulsion, together with around 360 tonnes of heavy fuel oil ... (MPCU, 1996: 32) Overall much less oil was spilt than might have been, but this was still a major incident by world standards.

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The circumstances of the incident and the details of the subsequent salvage were examined by the government’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch and their report (MAIB, 1997) found that the initial grounding was due to pilot error. This report states that: The main factors, apart from the bad weather, which resulted in the salvage operation taking so long, were insufficient tugs of the appropriate power and manoeuvrability, together with a lack of full understanding of the tidal currents in the area. (MAIB, 1997: 2) Various legal proceedings were being considered at the time this Unit was prepared.

4.5.2 Some Expert Comments An account of the incident from a shipping perspective (Hooke, 1997) stresses the limited options that were available to the salvors as they worked to save the vessel. For example, when bad weather was forecast their only option was to turn the ship to head into the wind, in Hooke’s opinion. The official inquiry agreed that to turn and re-anchor the ship, ‘was correct based on good seamanship practices and the information available’ (MAIB, 1997: 98). Unfortunately, the weather soon deteriorated, control of the ship was lost and she ran aground again. Over the next four days the salvors struggled to free the ship and it was not until the 21 February that she was brought into a berth (MAIB, 1997). In general, the shipping experts are agreed that bad weather played a major part in the Sea Empress incident. A paper by two environmentalists (Caldwell and Morgan, 1997) highlights the biological importance of the area as against the national economic interests that brought the oil industry to Pembrokeshire. They argue that the Sea Empress has demonstrated that preparations to protect the environment from the risks of the oil industry have so far been inadequate. They also assert, however, that care of the coast and the oil industry could be made compatible. To achieve this they make four recommendations which can be summarised as follows: 1. Clearer public accountability is needed for decisions that put the environment at risk. 2. All development proposals and changes in operational policies and practices should be subject to environmental impact assessments and routine verification.

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3. All the main agencies involved should undertake a searching review of their environmental management duties. 4. Improvements in safety and environmental protection must be continually sought by adopting latest technology (e.g. allowing only double-hulled tankers to use the Haven). Thus Caldwell and Morgan are calling for a reappraisal of policy in line with the approach advocated earlier by Pritchard (1987).

4.5.3 Impact of the Spill At the end of 1996 a succinct summary of the effects of the spill was provided in the Annual Report of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds as follows:

(IOPC Funds, 1996: 95–6)

4.6 The Response The techniques and management procedures that were used to deal with the spillages from the Sea Empress were the most wide ranging clean-up operations ever undertaken in the UK. They followed established practice that has developed since the UK government initiated research in 1959, after incidents in the port of Southampton area. These had prompted local authorities to press for government action and for advice on the best ways of removing oil (Wardley-Smith, 1983).

4.6.1 Techniques The best option for many spills is to do nothing and leave the oil to disperse and degrade naturally (MAFF, 1997). But the situation and type of oil may demand intervention by one or more of the available methods which are reviewed by Clark (1992) and in more detail by Laws (1993). The main methods are: • Mechanical containment and recovery using booms and surface skimming equipment deployed from vessels. This is only applicable in relatively calm conditions. The mouths of rivers can be boomed to limit oil entry but this is of little use where the tidal range is great. A variety of mechanical devices have been developed which run a continuous belt of absorbent material through surface floating oil and then through rollers to squeeze the oil out into tanks. Vessels with such equipment are useful in sheltered waters but not the open sea (Clark, 1992).

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The coastline within Milford Haven was heavily oiled, and outside the Haven much of the oil drifted south and then eastwards parallel to the south coast of Pembrokeshire, affecting this coastline as far as Pendine Sands in Carmarthen Bay. Some oil reached Skomer Island north-west of the Haven, but no oil was observed north of St David’s Head. Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel received light oiling, and some pellets of oil reached the Irish coast. No oiling of the coast of mainland Devon and Cornwall was reported.

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• Chemical dispersants can be sprayed by air, or from vessels, to speed up the natural action of the sea to break down the oil into small droplets, which are dispersed and diluted by the movements of the water. The smaller droplets are then more readily degraded by micro-organisms. Dispersants benefit birds by removing oil from the surface but may cause problems for fish (especially shellfish) by increasing the concentration of hydrocarbons in the water. Modern dispersants are less toxic (Laws, 1993), but their use is still regulated (MAFF, 1997). • Materials that will absorb oil, e.g. straw mats, are too bulky for large-scale use and the subsequent waste disposal problems further limit their usefulness.

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• Burning the oil in situ is an option for limited circumstances only because of the resulting atmospheric pollutants and other problems. Also it can be difficult to keep it burning as was found in the Torrey Canyon incident despite the addition of aviation fuel and use of napalm (Laws, 1993). • Inorganic materials (e.g. chalk) may be spread on floating oil to sink it to the sea-bed where microbial organisms will degrade it, but so slowly that this apparently good method is not recommended; it also increases sub-surface hazards to marine life (Laws, 1993). • Surface cleaning chemicals can be used on walls and other structures but in many situations manual scrubbing and washing with water will be preferred. • Beached liquid oil can be recovered by scraping into trenches and using suction pumps. Oiled solid materials such as pebbles can be washed in situ, moved to the surf-line for tidal washing or removed for treatment and disposal. • Bioremediation is a relatively new approach for use at sea and on-shore. Nutrient fertilizers are added to accelerate natural degradation by micro-organisms. It was used successfully on some beaches affected by the Exxon Valdez spill (Laws, 1993) and trialled during the Sea Empress clean-up (SEEEC, 1996: 10).

4.6.2 Previous Experiences For many, oil pollution first emerged as an issue with the 1967 Torrey Canyon wreck, when 118,000 tons of Kuwait crude were lost in the western approaches to the English Channel, near the Scilly Isles (Civil Protection, 1991). This experience gave rise to serious debate about using chemical dispersants as against the merits of leaving oil to disperse and degrade naturally. Public distrust of chemical agents was aroused by the biological damage to the coastline that was caused when inexperienced workers applied concentrated, highly toxic detergents to the oil on some beaches (Manners, 1982). Unfortunately, the debate focused on the chemical agents themselves rather than their improper use. Clark (1992) notes that the decision that Cornish beaches hit by the Torrey Canyon oil should be cleaned with toxic detergents was influenced by the economic value of the tourist industry, which was £60 million per annum compared to the £6 million annual value of the local fishing industry. Spraying at sea killed large numbers of fish, but eventually it emerged that the fishing industry was not as badly damaged as had been feared.

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On 6 May 1978 the Elani V lost a large amount of heavy fuel oil off the coast of East Anglia and dispersants were ineffective once the oil had cooled and congealed; also mechanical containment measures failed (Manners, 1982). The Suffolk County Council called for better compensation arrangements after this incident in which disposal of the wreck posed further problems; she was eventually towed out to sea and sunk with explosives. Some of the oil lost from the Sea Empress was fuel oil and so was expected to pose greater problems than the lighter crude oil.

Empress response. In January 1993, the Braer lost 85,000 tonnes of crude oil when stranded on the west coast of Shetland, in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. This experience was fresh in the minds of many involved with the Sea Empress response and the different parts played by the weather in these two incidents is noteworthy. The light crude oil that was spilled from the Braer soon dispersed naturally in the severe weather and rough seas, so that a major clean-up was not necessary (Davies and Topping, 1997). The Australian experience of the Iron Baron grounding in July 1995 is notable as the first major test of that country’s National Plan for oil spills after a comprehensive revision in 1993. The response was considered to have been generally well handled with many agencies co-operating. The response was limited by the weather conditions and dispersants not being effective; at its peak the response involved 500 people and the clean-up continued until October 1995. A shortage of skilled staff to deal with various aspects, including the significant wildlife issues, was a problem. Another difficulty was the media complaining that they were given only good news rather than detailed, expert briefings. Cultural issues were also important because there were Aboriginal sacred sites in areas where the coastal clean-up was undertaken, and local residents depended on the sea for their recreation and food. It was concluded that consultation with the local community should have been better (Review Group, 1996). The main lesson from comparisons with earlier incidents is that each spill will present a unique combination of problems because of differences in the type of oil, the volume and how it is spilled, the weather, sea conditions and geographic and environmental factors (Manners, 1982). Thus the response to any new incident must be planned and subsequently evaluated according to the particular circumstances prevailing at the time, but there is a substantial body of knowledge, specialist equipment and practical expertise to call upon (Wardley-Smith, 1983). The particular circumstances and the effectiveness of the response will determine the extent of the damage and not simply the amount of oil spilled. However, it is also clear that media treatment of the response will determine the public’s opinions of it, and so effective press briefing should be a management priority.

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The Exxon Valdez lost about 35,000 tonnes of crude oil after going aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1989. The weather was good and the relatively heavy Alaskan crude formed a large slick on the calm sea. The shore was extensively affected and a massive clean-up was mounted, primarily by washing the rocks with hot water sprays. This aggressive treatment of the adhering oil also killed shoreline organisms and severely damaged the natural ecosystem (Laws, 1993). Apart from the controversy over the intensive beach-cleaning techniques that were used in preference to dispersants, inadequacies in contingency planning were exposed and subsequent analyses have criticised several aspects of the management of the response (Browning and Shetler, 1992). The lessons learned from this incident undoubtedly shaped some of the thinking for the Sea

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4.7 The Response at Sea In accordance with the National Plan, the MPCU took charge of dealing with the oil at sea and their specialised aircraft were used to survey the pollution and to spray dispersants at the earliest opportunity. An independent review commissioned by the Welsh Office concluded that: The Government policy of maintaining a large scale aerial dispersant spraying capability as the first response for incidents of this nature was more than vindicated, given the extent to which this option reduced shoreline impact. (Maritech, 1997: 79) The mechanical removal of the oil from the sea surface is, in principle, the optimum approach to any spill as it minimises the environmental effects; but in practice it is very difficult on the open sea and is severely constrained by weather conditions (Manners, 1982; Wardley-Smith, 1983). During this incident, ‘some 24 vessels with a total complement of 130 personnel recovered an estimated 3% of the oil lost from Sea Empress’ (Maritech, 1997: 35). Some environmentalists and other critics of the response to the Sea Empress incident were concerned that large capacity oil recovery vessels were not permanently on stand-by in Milford Haven. However, that view must be seen in the light of the established expert opinion and experience as to the limitations of such methods, let alone the huge costs that would be involved. It has been estimated that if large, specialised recovery vessels had been available shortly after the incident began, then the oil recovered might have been increased from 3 percent to 5 percent at most (Maritech, 1997: 36). A variety of oil recovery vessels did contribute to the work, including French and Dutch vessels chartered by the MPCU. Furthermore, good use was made of in-shore fishing vessels to trawl oil slicks away from beaches and out to the larger recovery ships. This novel technique recovered very little oil but attracted considerable interest and favourable comment. It gave local fishermen a positive role, and there are limits on dispersant spraying close to the shore for ecological reasons. After an oil spill, considerable technical work is needed to quantify the fate of the oil by calculating differences between the records of the cargo, the amounts recovered and estimates of the effects of evaporation and other factors, based on research and experience. The Overall Commander of the Sea Empress response was the Chief Executive of the Coastguard Agency, and Table 1 is his summary of the results of such work (Harris, 1997). Table 1: Fate of Sea Empress Oil

Fate

Amount (in tons)

Percent

Evaporated Dispersed (natural & chemical) Recovered at sea Impacted the shoreline Total spilled Pumped out when alongside Recovered in dry dock

28,000 35,000 3,000 5,000 71,000 58,600 400

40 50 3 7 100

Total cargo

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Scientists contracted to the MPCU were closely involved in the management of the clean-up and in assessing its effectiveness. Based on their earlier research on this particular type of oil they have estimated that the split of natural and chemically induced dispersal was 10 percent dispersed naturally and 40 percent chemically (Lunel et al., 1997: 192). Hence the view that in this case the dispersant spraying operation was very effective and an appropriate response to this incident (Maritech,1997). Overall it would seem that the at-sea response measures did reduce considerably the amount of shoreline pollution. Dispersants were used appropriately and did not exacerbate the inevitable environmental impacts of the oil spilled. It was fortunate that this particular oil (Forties Blend) is highly amenable to both natural and chemically induced dispersion, and so the extent of the shoreline impact was reduced.

A considerable amount of environmental monitoring was started shortly after the incident began (SEEEC, 1996) and was continuing at the time this Unit was written in late 1997. As well as providing knowledge of the long-term effects of the incident, this work should add to assessments of the ecological impact of the response and clean-up measures. However, there is already a view that the response was managed with sensitivity to environmental concerns, so that a base for ecological recovery has been established (Maritech, 1997).

4.8 The Shore Clean-up The National Plan includes the setting up of a Joint Response Centre (JRC) as a means of integrating the responses of central and local government to oil pollution which impacts the coastline. Normally, the local authority should take the chair of a JRC but this did not happen in this case, because of the problems of local government reorganisation (Caldwell and Morgan, 1997). Some senior officials were close to retirement and others were heavily involved in the transfer of responsibilities. The Harbour Manager who took the chair of the JRC has been complimented for bringing together the disparate groups of central and local government officials, conservation and oil industry representatives, and other advisers who contributed to the work (Maritech, 1997). However, it has been argued that this was an expedient reaction to the ongoing local government reorganisation and that it had adverse consequences for the efficiency of the response management in two respects.

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Nevertheless, there were significant effects on the marine environment, and fisheries in particular. Birds also suffered and by 1 June 1996, ‘more than 6,900 oiled birds of at least 28 species had been recovered dead or alive’ (SEEEC, 1996: 3). A cleaning station was set up by a charity, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), and more than 2,000 cleaned birds were released. This will have been even more of an achievement if a good number of these birds survive and breed, but experience suggests that their chances are low. It seems that often the cleaning and release of oiled birds has more public relations value than ecological significance (Maritech, 1997).

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First, a local authority senior officer leading the JRC might have been able to secure the extra staff and resources that it soon became clear were needed. Secondly, leadership by a local figure-head would have strengthened the media and public relations effort. The outgoing local authorities

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relied on the expertise of the MPCU in the short term, and the elected members and officials of the new authorities had a low profile initially. In particular, the latter did not act to correct some public misperceptions about the response to the incident (Caldwell and Morgan, 1997). Fears that environmental concerns were not being given sufficient attention and idealistic views on response options were not answered with firm, authoritative realism. It is important to be clear that the JRC was only responsible for the on-shore aspects and not as its name might imply the overall management of the incident. In fact, three management groups were involved. Apart from the JRC there was the salvage co-ordination cell and another group directed the off-shore pollution response operations (MPCU, 1996). Communications between the three groups were not always as good as some participants wished; also staff shortages limited both record-keeping and the availability of senior people for the strategic thinking needed to direct an operation of this scale and complexity (Maritech, 1997).

4.8.1 Resources Management At the height of the on-shore cleaning task some 900 people were involved, including many temporary, unskilled labourers, working at many locations with a variety of techniques and equipment. What to do, where, how and when was often decided and changed daily. For example on 27 February, the wind changed and pushed more than 1,000 tonnes of oil emulsion ashore in the Tenby area; work was reduced elsewhere and resources redeployed to Tenby which is a major tourist centre (Maritech, 1997). It appears that early on there was insufficient attention to health and safety matters for the clean-up workers and that their supervision was of variable effectiveness (Maritech, 1997). These are important matters because the main beach-cleaning techniques are labour intensive and costly. Simply feeding the large numbers involved was a major task. Early on, as often happens in emergencies, a voluntary organisation, the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), provided catering at the JRC and several other sites (MPCU, 1996). Similarly the local authority called on amateur radio enthusiasts belonging to the RAYNET organisation to assist with communications to the beaches (MPCU, 1996: 76). Considerable ingenuity went into getting what was needed: e.g. a freezer lorry for storing dead birds. Cement mixers were used on beaches to wash large pebbles. Also vacuum tanker vehicles or ‘gully suckers’ from the local authority highways department proved very useful for collecting liquid oil from beaches. A crane was brought across fields to lift sacks of contaminated material from an inaccessible beach. At another cove accessible only by about 150 steps down from a coastal path, a human chain of 120 people moved several thousand bags by hand (MPCU, 1996: 67). Over 200 kilometres of very varied coastline was affected: oil could be scraped from sandy beaches but had to be washed and scrubbed from rocks, shingle and cobbled areas. Often solid material had to be removed in bulk, although some was washed mechanically in situ or moved to where the surf could wash it naturally. The techniques employed met the priority objectives, and a review concluded that there were only minor instances of over-cleaning, where the residual oil could have been left to natural processes (Maritech, 1997).


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4.8.2 Media and Visitors Press and public relations were directed by the Coastguard Agency in Southampton but a local Press Office was set up to channel information from the JRC to the media. Unfortunately the local incident managers did not keep the Press Office sufficiently informed of latest developments and the media lost confidence in the ability of the Press Office to provide them with accurate, timely information. The incident managers could have adopted a more positive stance towards the media and made more proactive efforts to advise and reassure the public about the progress of the response to the incident (Maritech, 1997).

4.8.3 Waste Disposal Beach-cleaning produces a vast amount of contaminated waste that must be disposed of carefully as oil could leach from piles left on the ground and pollute water courses (Clark, 1992). The Environment Agency’s declaration that sand contaminated with oil was ‘controlled waste’ meant that polluted materials removed from beaches had to be transported by registered waste carriers and recovered or disposed of at licensed sites. These requirements posed a particular problem for those directing the beach-cleaning because they applied to temporary holding areas (Brown, 1997). The local authorities would have had severe difficulty in coping with all the waste but for the efforts of the local refinery (Texaco) in taking liquid waste for processing and solid material for treatment by land farming. Texaco will be able to claim compensation for the extra costs of this work. By the end of 1996 it was estimated that some 18,000 tonnes of oil/water mixture and 13,200 tonnes of oiled beach material and other solid waste were collected during the clean-up operations (IOPC Funds, 1996). About 5,000 tonnes of solid waste was transported to landfill sites but over 7,800 tonnes went to Texaco’s landfarming operation and 20,000 tonnes of liquid waste went for refinery processing (Maritech, 1997).

4.9 Funding and Compensation Internationally agreed arrangements provide for those harmed by an oil spill to be able to claim compensation from special funds set up by the industry under inter-governmental agreements. These are in addition to the civil liabilities insurance carried by the industry (IOPC Funds, 1996). The Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967 was the stimulus for two voluntary compensation schemes to be established by the tanker and oil industries as interim measures before two inter-governmentally agreed conventions were implemented under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). These four schemes ensure that tanker owners will, through their insurers, pay the first layer of compensation and that oil receiving companies in signatory countries will share the costs of oil spill damage by contributing to the compensation fund set up by the 1971 Convention.

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There were a great many official visitors to the incident, including the Prince of Wales on 29 February 1996 and several visits by government ministers. Many requests for visits from interested organisations were refused because of the extra work for the staff dealing with the incident (MPCU, 1996). Early on a team of expert observers from the European Commission arrived and the last one left on 12 March 1996.

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The Sea Empress’s cargo was larger than the Torrey Canyon’s, but the latter spilled more oil and had a greater impact as 20,000 tonnes were stranded on beaches in France and Guernsey, and 18,000 tonnes on the Cornish coast where the clean-up bill was reported to have been £4.7 million (Civil Protection, 1991). The government reply to a Parliamentary Question on 24 February 1997, gave low and high estimates for the likely claims on the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund for the Sea Empress disaster and the totals ranged from £34 million to £49 million. The estimated claim from local authorities for their clean-up operations was £8 million but a further £1 million was expected to be spent on removing oil washed up on the shore.

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The Fund’s upper limit was £57 million and so it was limiting payments to 75 percent until uncertainty over salvage costs was settled (HC Written Answers, 24 February 1997, Cols 49– 50). During 1996 some small claims were paid in full where ‘more than 75% was necessary to avoid immediate financial hardship’ (IOPC Funds, 1996: 99). By the end of the year payments of £7.4 million had been approved and over £5 million paid in compensation. Then late in 1997 it emerged that the Fund’s limit was unlikely to be exceeded, and the 75 percent cap was lifted. The government’s policy is that agencies involved in clean-up can claim compensation from polluters for dealing with spills. Thus the MPCU will seek recovery of its costs for the Sea Empress incident, which at the end of 1996 were estimated to be £10 million (MPCU, 1996: 77).

4.9.1 Concluding the Response An expert body, the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), sends technical advisers to oil spills to represent the tanker owners, their insurers and the IOPC Fund whose executive decides on compensation claims. One key question for these advisers and other concerned parties has been when should costly cleaning operations stop? The main amenity beaches were clean for the spring holiday period but work continued through the summer, managed by a scaled down JRC. Then storms at the end of October, ... resulted in oil being re-exposed at a number of sites and released from others. Clean-up work was initiated immediately. There were a substantial number of boats moored in Tenby Harbour at that time and almost all of these were re-oiled. Flushing the harbour at low tide was carried out to remove the oil which had accumulated in the sediment. (IOPC Funds, 1996: 96) Expert assessments were made in the spring of 1997, after winter weathering had further reduced the impact of the oil, and by July it was considered that the JRC could be closed (Maritech, 1997). Although keeping the JRC open was seen by some environmentalists as reassuring to local public opinion, others argued that its closure would signal progress towards the end of the problems caused by the incident, and would encourage payment of compensation in full. The delays in paying claims for work done posed particular difficulties for local authorities because of the strict statutory controls on their funding (Elcock, 1994). Local authorities have large annual budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds but are not allowed to plan for a deficit or to hold very large cash reserves. Also their borrowing is controlled closely. Thus delays in payment of compensation could lead to higher local taxes having to be imposed to balance the accounts.

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Furthermore, as Hill and Bryan (1997) noted, the clean-up work took resources away from other local authority activities and so involved politically sensitive judgements. Lastly, it seems that the delay in achieving full recovery of costs is prompting some local politicians to be more sceptical over the continuation of the voluntary acceptance of clean-up responsibilities.

4.10 Economic Impact

The application was withdrawn because of the increasing delays to the project. We have not taken this decision lightly but against a background of increasing commercial risk. (The Times, 1997: 2) This would seem to be a significant example of how public concerns for the environment can have economic consequences (Manners, 1982). Although the prospect of 1,600 jobs has been lost, there was the risk that tourists would be deterred by this technology and the increased hazard for the environment.

4.10.1 Tourism By the end of 1996 compensation claims had been made by 226 operators in the tourism industry and payments totalling ÂŁ410,000 had been made to 85 claimants (IOPC Funds, 1996). Each claim has to be assessed against set criteria and inevitably this process takes time. Claims can be made up to three years after the damage occurred and there is a six-year limit on civil liabilities action in the courts. Thus it will be some time before these costs of the Sea Empress incident can be assessed fully. There are indications that the damage to tourism has not been as great as was feared by the accommodation providers and others that were surveyed by Hill and Bryan (1997). After the incident there was a vigorous campaign to promote tourism and the summer weather was very good in 1996 and 1997, so that holidays in the UK were popular. The Wales Tourist Board (1997) produced a digest of studies of the impact of the Sea Empress incident and showed that the effects were far from uniform across the industry. A postal survey of 2,000 people who had requested details of holidays in Pembrokeshire in 1996 (1,000 before and 1,000 after the Sea Empress incident) found that of the 53 percent who responded, one in five was deterred by the oil spill. But slightly more of the post-Sea Empress enquirers (26.3 percent) took a holiday in the area than did the pre-Sea Empress enquirers (23.5 percent), which suggests the incident may not have greatly affected the decision to book. The hotel sector in South-West Wales apparently suffered a 2.5 percent downturn of business in 1996 which was estimated as a

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Since the economic analysis by Hill and Bryan (1997) was completed, a very significant decision has been made about the Orimulsion power station proposal. On 12 September 1997, newspapers reported that National Power had dropped the scheme which would have created 1,600 jobs but was strongly opposed by environmentalists who feared that the clean-up after an Orimulsion spillage would be more difficult than dealing with crude oil. They had called for a public inquiry and the UK government had agreed in June 1997; some commentators felt it could run for two or three years. A National Power spokesman was quoted as saying:

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£2 million loss of turnover in Pembrokeshire, but other accommodation (e.g. self-catering and camping/caravans) seems to have done better. A national interview survey of 70,000 households indicated that some 6 percent more people visited Wales in 1996 compared with 1995, and that the increase for Pembrokeshire could have been higher (unfortunately, sampling error makes this local area data unreliable). Firmer data on day visitors to 11 large attractions (e.g. castles and museums) in Pembrokeshire show an overall increase of 3 percent in 1996 compared with the previous year. Figures collated in 1997 by Pembrokeshire County Council from their Tourist Information Centres (TICs) are summarised in Table 2. They record numbers of enquiries at the TICs and support the view that tourism was buoyant in 1996 and improved in 1997. Table 2: Pembrokeshire TIC Statistics

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Visitors

1993 1994 1995 1996 (Whole years)

1997 (Jan – Aug)

Domestic Overseas

350,418 18,362

358,905 32,308

408,008 55,378

243,393 32,537

278,691 41,032

Totals

368,780

391,213

463,386

275,930

319,723

Thus national and local efforts to overcome the effect of the Sea Empress incident on tourism may have had some success, but the effects of good weather and other factors cannot be separated out.

4.10.2 Fishing Local fishermen imposed a voluntary ban on fishing in the immediate area from 21 February 1996. Then on 28 February the United Kingdom government department with responsibility for Wales, the Welsh Office, acted on advice from the government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to impose a Statutory Order on landing fish and other seafoods from the area. Further bans followed, covering various fishing activities over a wide area. MAFF officials continuously monitored the contamination and some of the bans were lifted in May 1996. Others were progressively lifted, and by September 1996 only a localised ban on shellfish remained within the Haven. Nevertheless, the local fishing industry was severely affected and the last ban (on certain shellfish) was not lifted until 12 September 1997. Fishermen can continue to submit claims on the insurers and the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund until three years after the damage occurred. But whether the industry can win back lost markets remains to be seen.

4.11 Statutory Duty The debate as to whether or not local authorities should have a legal duty to deal with the on-shore effects of oil spills is as old as the threat posed by large tankers. That the arguments are finely balanced is shown by the lack of agreement among affected local authorities themselves for the reasons noted earlier. However, after the Braer incident in 1993 Lord Donaldson’s inquiry recommended that a statutory duty should be imposed on local authorities (Donaldson, 1994). Consideration of that

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recommendation was under way when the Sea Empress incident occurred. Almost one year later, the government announced it would include in the Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Bill a power to introduce such a duty by regulation but that it would only use this power after consultation with local authorities (House of Lords Report, 13 January 1997). Postscript. The new government that was formed in May1997 abandoned that course of action; instead oil spills and coastal clean-up have been included under the generic duties placed on local authorities by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (see unit 5.2). Also the Marine Pollution Control Unit has become a Branch of the re-organised Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and that Agency is a designated Category 1 responder, as specified by the Civil Contingencies Act. Some local authorities are concerned that they may not receive adequate funding for their responsibilities under the new legislation. The next major incident will be an interesting test case.

The Sea Empress incident occurred in an area that was well prepared for an oil spill emergency and very extensively informed as to the environmental consequences because of the great interest in its ecology. However, it was a large incident and so the well-established National Plan was implemented to augment local response capabilities and to provide overall management. The salvage operation was hampered by the weather and other problems that have been examined in detail by the official accident inquiry. Over several days the salvage team struggled to gain control of the vessel and a large amount of oil was spilled. Relatively little oil impacted the shoreline for several reasons. The prevailing wind took the oil away from the shore initially and aided the natural dispersal and evaporation; also the aerial spraying of chemical dispersants speeded those processes very considerably. Some oil was mechanically recovered. Nevertheless, some 200km of shoreline was affected and a massive clean-up operation was mounted. This achieved its primary objective of clearing the popular beaches for the Easter holiday tourists. Work continued through the summer to keep the amenity areas clean. Other cleaning operations were mounted as was judged necessary and appropriate on environmental grounds. A great deal of local authority effort was expended and large compensation claims have been made. Payment has been slow because of caution about the total claims limit and difficulties arising from inadequate record-keeping in the early stages of the response. It is too early to assess the full impact of the incident on the environment and the economic consequences for the region. However, it does seem that the damage to fishing and tourism may not have been as great as was feared initially; also there has been some optimism about the recovery of the environment.

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4.12 Overview

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Like other major oil spills, this one has been closely scrutinised and important lessons of incident management have been relearned. The close involvement of scientific advisers aided both the response and the gathering of new knowledge. The Sea Empress incident has already raised many points that could lead to enhanced practice.

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4.13 Guide to Reading You should now read the supplied paper by Hill and Bryan, ‘The Economic Impact of the Sea Empress Spillage’. This is from the Proceedings of the 1997 International Oil Spill Conference, ‘Improving Environmental Protection: Progress, Challenges, Responsibilities’, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (7–10 April). The second supplied reading is the October 2005 issue of Ocean Orbit, the newsletter of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation. It indicates how the oil shipping industry has organised its own response to oil spills and presents an overview of world trends. (Students who are considering a dissertation on maritime pollution would be well advised to contact the ITOPF Information Officer!)

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4.14 Further Reading Other useful reading would be: MPCU (1996) The Sea Empress Incident. A Report by The Marine Pollution Control Unit, Southampton: The Coastguard Agency. Laws, E. A. (1993) Aquatic Pollution: An Introductory Text, Second Edition, New York: John Wiley.

4.15 Study Questions You should now write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the three questions below. We believe this will assist your comprehension of the material in this Unit and aid your progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your course notes and should not be forwarded to the University. 1. How did the actual local authority role in this incident differ from that envisaged in prior planning? 2. How well did the compensation arrangements for oil spills meet the needs of affected communities? 3. What general lessons of good crisis response practice were relearned in the Sea Empress incident?

4.16 Bibliography Baker, J. M. (1976) ‘Ecological Changes in Milford Haven during its History as an Oil Port’, in J. M. Baker (ed.) Marine Ecology and Oil Pollution, Barking, Essex: Applied Science Publishers. (Proceedings of the Institute of Petroleum Spring Meeting, Aviemore, Scotland, April 1975.) Brown, D. (1997) ‘Waste Not – Want Not: The Problem of Waste Disposal in Major Incidents’, Newsletter of the Emergency Planning Society, No. 11 (March): 3–4.

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Browning, L. D. and Shetler, J. C. (1992) ‘Communication in Crisis, Communication in Recovery: a Postmodern Commentary on the Exxon Valdez Disaster’, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 10(3). Caldwell, N. and Morgan, C. (1997) ‘Lessons from the Sea Empress’, The Gregynog Papers, 1(3), Cardiff: University of Wales. Civil Protection (1991) Feature article on emergency planning in Cornwall. Issue No. 21 (Winter) London: Home Office. Clark, R. B. (1992) Marine Pollution, (3rd Edition), Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Davies, J. M. and Topping, G. (eds) (1997) The Impact of an Oil Spill in Turbulent Waters: The Braer, Edinburgh: The Stationary Office. Donaldson (1994) Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas [Inquiry report], London: HMSO (Command No. 2560). Elcock, H. (1994) Local Government, 3rd Edition, London: Routledge. Evans, B. (1996) ‘The Sea Empress Drama – An Account’, Civil Protection, No. 39 (Summer), London: Home Office. Harris, C. (1997) ‘The Sea Empress Incident: Overview and Response at Sea’, in Proceedings of the 1997 International Oil Spill Conference; American Petroleum Institute, Washington, DC. Hooke, N. (1997) Maritime Casualties 1963 – 1996, 2nd Edition. London: LLP. IOPC Funds (1996) International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds: Annual Report 1996, London: International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF). Laws, E. A. (1993) Aquatic Pollution: An Introductory Text, 2nd Edition, New York: John Wiley. Lunel, T., Rusin, J., Bailey, N., Halliwell, C. and Davies, L. (1997) ‘The Net Environmental Benefit of a Successful Dispersant Operation at the Sea Empress Incident’, in Proceedings of the 1997 International Oil Spill Conference; American Petroleum Institute, Washington, DC.

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Cowell, E. (1976) ‘Oil Pollution of the Sea’, in R. Johnston (ed.) Marine Pollution, New York: Academic Press.

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MAFF (1997) The Approval and Use of Oil Dispersants in the UK, London: MAFF Publications. MAIB (1997) Report of the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents into the Grounding and Subsequent Salvage of the Tanker SEA EMPRESS at Milford Haven between 15 and 21 February 1996, London: HMSO. Manners, I. R. (1982) North Sea Oil and Environmental Planning: the UK Experience, Austin: University of Texas Press.

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Maritech (1997) Sea Empress Environmental Evaluation Committee: Independent Assessment of Clean-up Operations. Study Report for the Welsh Office. (July) MPCU (1996) The Sea Empress Incident. A Report by the Marine Pollution Control Unit, The Coastguard Agency, Southampton. Pritchard, S. Z. (1987) Oil Pollution Control, London: Croom Helm. Review Group (1996) The Response to the Iron Baron Oil Spill. Report to the Commonwealth Minister for Transport and the Tasmanian Environment Minister (January, 1996). SEEEC (1996) Sea Empress Environmental Evaluation Committee: Initial Report (July 1996). The Times (1997) ‘Power firm abandons “filthy” fuel’, 12 Sept. (page 2 of early editions only).

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Wales Tourist Board (1997) ‘An Approach to Estimating the Impact of the Sea Empress Incident on Tourism Flows to Pembrokeshire during 1996’ (an industry information paper supplied to Pembrokeshire County Council). Wardley-Smith, J. (ed.) (1983) The Control of Oil Pollution, London: Graham and Trotman.


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READING ‘The Economic Impact of the Sea Empress Spillage’

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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READING ‘Ocean Orbit’ October 2005 Issue (2005) The Newsletter of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation.

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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UNIT 5 Hazard Construction


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5 Unit 5: Hazard Construction 5.1 Aims and Objectives of this Unit The primary aim of this Unit is to examine the evidence for, and consequences of, hazard construction for Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management. The possibility that different hazard constructs may exist in parallel, and have to be reconciled, links to sociological theories such as ‘modernism’ and ‘postmodernism’ as cultural paradigms. A secondary aim is to raise awareness that such theories are actively being developed, and show where they may impinge on crisis management. By the end of this unit and associated reading you should:

You should be aware of: • the possibility that the risks inherent in materials and procedures are perceived and experienced differently by different parties • the desirability of achieving a more holistic understanding of risk • the existence of a sociological interest in crisis management, and the application of postmodernism to it You should be able to: • recognise differences between the hazard constructs of different organisations • recognise those features a given organisation may identify as relevant • recognise features a given organisation may exclude from their own hazard construct, but which may be of interest to others • consider measures which might minimise conflicts of interest and/or failures in communication between organisations with different hazard constructs Although mainly using industrial examples, this Unit should not be seen as only relating to major industrial sites. The concept of drawing self-determined boundaries around areas of concern, giving priority to items of professional (or personal) interest, and making a hazard construction based on the results, and then getting that decision accepted, is fundamental to the decision-making process. A financier making an investment, an aircraft captain taking a decision about taking off or landing in poor visibility, or a planner deciding whether to recommend granting planning permission for development in an area potentially liable to flooding, are all producing hazard constructs as a basis for the decision, and all take that decision within a cultural environment.

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• understand the concept of Hazard Construction

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5.2 Introduction In disaster prevention and crisis management, disputes sometimes arise over what is the best course of action. These often arise because people view the same set of circumstances differently, and so identify different (sometimes conflicting) priorities. This Unit sets out to explore some of the reasons why this should be, and this is an area where practical management and social theories meet. The main topic is Hazard Construction, which is the process whereby people identify what they regard as the key features of a complex situation, and combine them into something which appears to make sense. The thing which results is a hazard construct, or model of reality. Current UK legislation relies very heavily on the concept of Risk Assessment which, put very simply, consists of building a hazard construct based on the following questions:

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Risk: From What?

Risk: Of What?

Risk: To What?

Risk: So What?

They are basic, fairly simple questions, and it might be assumed that in any given situation, there would be a fair degree of agreement about the answers. They may seem so obvious that many assessors may not even consider that alternative sets of answers may be possible. In fact, to be regarded as ‘scientific’, an assessment should be repeatable – different people carrying out the same process should come to the same conclusion. In practice, however, different groups can come up with significantly different assessments. Each has produced a different hazard construction. An example of an official hazard construction by the Health and Safety Executive is ‘The Tolerability of Risk from Nuclear Power Stations’ (HSE, 1992). Originally published following a recommendation of the 1986 Sizewell B Public Inquiry, it was intended to convince the public that the hazard construct used by the nuclear industry and its regulators would ensure public safety. It was, however, acknowledged in the introduction: Many experts believed, and some still believe, that the quantification of risks is too uncertain and too difficult for people to grasp. Others openly said, and some still do, that most ordinary people only wish to believe that there is no risk at all from such undertakings, and are probably not interested in finding out what exactly the risks are. (HSE, 1992: 1) In other words, different groups can be expected to produce different hazard constructs, and the fact that there is still a public debate over nuclear power demonstrates that they have done so. Many of the nuclear scientists involved in the early development of nuclear power stations, although quite aware of the risks involved, sincerely believed that these would be relatively easy to manage in comparison to the developmental difficulties preoccupying the time. (Borodzicz, 2005: 5) Having produced a hazard construct, if it is to be of any benefit it has to be utilised. Whether or not this can be done depends on the structure of society. In a very structured society, different groups

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may well have different hazard constructs, but only the one of the ruling group counts for anything. In a completely open society every view must be taken into account. In the real world, neither extreme is generally regarded as desirable. One current theory about the structure of society is ‘postmodernism’ and this is very briefly explored, particularly as it has been applied to the Exxon Valdez tanker spill.

5.3 The Theoretical Basis 5.3.1 Social Theories of Hazard Construction Given the complexity of the modern world, people must somehow rationalise their surroundings into something manageable. The mechanism for this has been the subject of extended debate.

(Lippmann, 1922, in Protess and McCombs, 1991: 11).‑ Schwartz (1984: 422) calls the environment we operate in our ‘domain’, and the image we have of it a ‘mind map’, and claims: Any given domain can be represented in a variety of different ways, and each different representation will highlight some aspects of the domain, minimise others, and ignore others altogether. ... That different types of map constitute different representations of the same domain reveals three important points about representation in general. First, any domain can be represented in many different ways. Second, every representation is a distortion of the domain being represented, since no representation can represent all aspects of the domain. Finally, different types of representations will be useful for different purposes. (Schwartz, 1984: 422) More recently, ‘Schema Theory’ has been developed by social psychologists to describe how people understand cause and effect. Wilkins (1991) claims that people are what is termed ‘Cognitive Misers’, and the effect of this is that: According to schema theory, general knowledge and environment events are stored in long term memory as frames or scripts that can be retrieved and used as analogues of current events, and as such, serve as guides to action. They allow extrapolation from past experiences to current or anticipated reality.

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In 1922, Walter Lippmann put forward the concept of ‘pseudo-environment’, which he described as ‘a representation of the environment which is in lesser or greater degree made by man himself’

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(Wilkins, 1991: 139) Put more simply, in a concept which Wilkins links back to Lippmann – ‘we do not first see, then define, we define first and then see’. In effect, we see what our experience leads us to believe we should see, and our hazard constructs are based on what we expect. This may be termed a circumscribed or prescribed cognition. Whether called a pseudo-environment, a mind map or a schema, the basic concept is that when looking at any situation, a selective simplification of reality is constructed, based on past experience.

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Before new hazards can be recognised, they have to become part of a person’s experience. This could, for example, be by attending a training course, or involvement in an incident. Constructs by professional groups may selectively include only hazards which are of professional interest. The point was previously made that a scientific assessment should be repeatable. The social theories tell us this will hold good only for assessors with a similar background or professional interest. Within a professional group the assessment should be consistent, but between different groups it could be vastly different.

5.3.2 Postmodernism

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A dictionary definition of ‘modernism’ is ‘to subordinate tradition to harmony with modern thought’ (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1982), whereas ‘postmodernism’ is ‘a style or school of thought that rejects the dogma and practices of any form of modernism’ (Collins Concise English Dictionary, 1992). As an abstract concept, postmodernism is one of the latest ‘buzz-words’; it may simply be an attempt to find some way of expressing an idea which is ‘newer than new’. It begs the question of what the next development will be called. Nevertheless, just as the late 19th Century term ‘art nouveau’ (‘new art’) refers to what are now highly collectable antiques, postmodernism is seen as a concept with some definite characteristics. Lash (1990: 261–3) in his Sociology of Postmodernism builds up a description of it in stages. He starts out with the concept of a ‘traditional’ society, where: ... power is exercised unmediatedly by one agent over another. Relationships of power are effectively ‘exchange relationships’ based on the indebtedness of a subordinate agent to his/her superordinate. From this type of society grew the concept of a ‘modernist’ society where: ... the differentiation and autonomisation of the ‘de-limited fields’ – i.e. the legal, political, intellectual, artistic, academic, cultural, and religious fields – from the more general ‘field of power’. Lash traces this ‘modernisation’ of society back to the late 19th Century, so the terms ‘modernism’ and ‘art nouveau’ were in fact coined at the same time. In the context of this Unit, a modernist society may be seen as one where different groups develop different hazard constructs, but where they exist in parallel. It may result in a series of autonomous bodies acting independently, sometimes conflictingly. Lash characterises this type of society as one of struggle both for change, and for individual groups to achieve autonomy. One example could be the independent authority achieved by each of the emergency services, or of units of local government. Lash regards the growth of ‘postmodernism’ as a phenomenon of the late 1970s and 1980s, and describes it as: ... a process of de-differentiation and a reversal of autonomisation. This includes a process of de-differentiation of fields ... (and) a partial breakdown or de-centring of the grid of classificatory rules ... Postmodernism may be seen to refer to a world of ever growing complexity, where a simple mechanistic (or modernist) model, in which a small number of people all speaking the same professional ‘language’ can design a product or system is no longer valid. Instead there is a perspective where a large number of people, each with a different viewpoint, become involved. This results in a qualitative change, where the objective is no longer ‘hard’ but an invisible, intangible product, which brings with it uncertainty, as

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stakeholders of all kinds make their contribution to the outcome. The modernist view would be that an autonomous organisation (for example an industrial conglomerate) should be allowed to develop as it sees fit, provided the legal controls are right. Postmodernists may challenge this, and also the concept that continued progress is possible, or even desirable. One area of debate, which is too long to resolve here, is whether ‘modernism’ and ‘postmodernism’ reflect actual changes which have taken place in the structure of society itself, or are products of the changing ways sociologists study it. Whichever is the case, the concepts still have a powerful influence on social policy, and cannot be ignored.

5.3.3 Influences on Constructs When making a hazard construction, three major influences on the outcome are:

• legislation • guidance documents Experience is strongly linked to the professional role, and the training for it, so the accountant looks at costs while the operational manager looks to processes and procedures. The topics which they identify as relevant form the basis, and the things which could have an effect on those topics form the boundary to a hazard construct. Both may produce a very different hazard construct to a health and safety manager. Experience can be direct, so someone who was in a building which caught fire may subsequently produce a different hazard construct to someone who was not. Experience can also come from the news media, leading to a hazard construct which is heavily weighted towards those rare but highly spectacular events likely to feature in news reports. This can have the effect of excluding issues which are less spectacular, or have not happened yet, but which could pose a greater risk than those which were reported. The purpose of health and safety legislation is to ensure that hazard constructions (in the form of risk assessments) are adequate. Legislation may, however, limit the boundaries of the construct. For example, the 1997 Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations concentrated on means of escape and evacuation plans, so the possibility of firefighters wanting to get back in to the building could have been overlooked. In terms of major accidents, the ‘Seveso II’ directive (the EC Council Directive on the Control of Major Accident Hazards involving Dangerous Substances) was adopted in December 1996, and incorporated into UK law as the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999. These replaced the CIMAH Regulations and involved a major change in the content of official hazard constructs. An example was introducing the need to include possible ‘domino effects’, widening the boundaries of the construction to include neighbouring sites and activities.

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• experience

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The COMAH Regulations 1999 require the operators of the potentially more hazardous (top tier) sites to inform the local community of the possible hazards they face from the site. An ‘off-site’ emergency plan must be prepared and exercised but new in COMAH is the requirement to give attention to the recovery of the environment following any uncontrolled product release. Hence another aspect of the hazard is spotlighted.

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5.4 Are Differences in Hazard Construction Important? The case has been made that different groups and organisations may make different constructs, but are they sufficiently different to affect the outcome for risk, crisis and disaster management? It is considered that they are. In constructing a hazard model, judgements have to be made about the level of risk. Take, for example, the risk posed by a hazard such as exposure to radiation or chemical pollution (and hence the level of precautions which are justified to prevent exposure). Data are limited, and there are very few authenticated cases where a known exposure has resulted in a known effect. What usually happens is that researchers take such data as exist, and estimate what the effects of higher/ lower exposures might be.

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These estimates of harm are a hazard construction by the researchers, which incorporates certain assumptions which may or may not be correct. A common one is the ‘Non-Threshold Linear Hypothesis’– the concept that if a given level of exposure causes harm to a certain proportion of the people exposed, then a reduced level of exposure will harm proportionally fewer, but there is no level where there can be guaranteed to be no harm. As an example, suppose an imaginary substance was involved in an industrial accident. A container of it leaked, and it vaporised. At an airborne concentration of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) half the people exposed became victims. The concentration of 1,000 ppm would then be termed the ‘LD 50’ (the Lethal Dose for 50 percent of those exposed). The ‘Linear’ part of the hypothesis would predict that at one-tenth of that dose (100 ppm), the fatality level would be one tenth, or 5 percent, so the ‘LD 5’ would be set at 100 ppm. Extending the prediction, at 10 ppm 0.5 percent, or 1 in 200 of those exposed would die, and the ‘Non-Threshold’ aspect would go on to predict that if this substance became a general environmental pollutant, and very large numbers were exposed to very small doses, exposure would still cause a small number of deaths. So, at 1 ppm there would be 1 in 2,000, at 0.1 ppm, 1 in 20,000. A concentration of 0.001 ppm (1 part per billion) would be predicted to cause 1 death in a city of 200,000, or 278 deaths in a country of about 55.6 million, such as the UK. This concept is fundamental to much environmental protection work. Wildavsky (1995: 16) cites evidence accepted by the US Congress in 1960, which has gone on to become what he calls ‘the creed of environmental advocacy groups’. Based on testimony by Dr G. Burroughs Milder, who argued that once a chemical has been associated with cancer in one animal experiment, any other negative experiments should be ignored, the principles as set out by Arthur Flemming, secretary to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (in effect, the ‘official’ hazard construct), were: 1. Suspect chemicals should be considered dangerous at any dose unless scientists can prove that low doses do not cause cancer. 2. ‘Negative’ experiments associated with a chemical that show no increased cancer in animals do not prove anything, because the number of animals used might be too small to reveal a slightly increased cancer risk. Thus suspect chemicals can never be proven to have a safe dose. 3. Economic interests should not be considered when deciding whether to ban a suspect carcinogen.

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A somewhat controversial newsletter from the USA (Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, 1994) cited evidence from Bernard Cohen, Professor of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, on exposure to the natural radioactive gas radon, and the incidence of lung cancer. The theoretical basis for the Non-Threshold Linear Hypothesis was outlined as follows: A cancer is initiated by a single particle of radiation hitting a single cell nucleus, causing genetic damage. The risk is therefore proportional to the number of such hits, which is proportional to the dose. Having measured radon levels in 272,000 homes a major discrepancy was noted, with far fewer cases than the hypothesis would predict. A prize of $500 was offered to anyone who could explain it, but there were no takers. Dr Cohen is reported as saying: By far the most credible explanation for our discrepancy is failure of the linear no threshold theory in the low dose, low dose-rate region, where it has never been tested.

• diagnostic X-ray precautions limits • 90 percent of reactor accident dangers, including future radiation from Chernobyl • clean-up of government installations (e.g. Hanford and the Savannah River Site) now projected to cost $150 billion • routine emissions from nuclear power plants • fallout from bomb tests • carryover to chemical carcinogens The implication is that concern over these issues is simply a result of the particular hazard construction applied. Current assumptions by environmentalists and government regulatory departments alike rely heavily on the Non-Threshold Linear Hypothesis, and this is not a claim that those assumptions are either wrong or improper. Much more evidence would be needed, and it would be very unwise to abandon the hypothesis on the basis of the doctors’ newsletter. What it shows is that the decision that the hypothesis should be regarded as valid, and the suggestion that it is not, are both hazard constructs made by different groups of people looking at the same mass of evidence. A selective simplification of reality has been constructed, and different constructors have produced different constructs.

5.5 Applications of Hazard Constructs

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Perhaps even more controversially, it was claimed that if these conclusions are correct, the following problems need no longer be of concern:

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Hazard constructs can be developed for various purposes, and tend to concentrate on things which the constructor would like to change. One example would be Milder/ Flemming principles in the last section, another would be the construct developed by the general public, making sense of their environment, and deciding to protest against those aspects considered unacceptable (Irwin and Wynne, 1996).

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They can also be developed as an industrial management tool, where three potential uses are for: • planning • accident prevention • crisis management Each of these areas has different aspects, which may have a bearing on the hazard construct itself, and on the consequences of imperfections in it.

5.5.1 Planning

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The initial planning process is carried on in slow time, and many people are involved, including professionals, politicians, the news media and the public. Each group may have a different initial construct, which may become modified during the process. The hazard constructs tend to be on the worst case scenario, based on prudence and/or pessimism, in order to demonstrate acceptability (on the part of the developers) or unacceptability (on the part of protest groups). In theory, the number of variables in the hazard construct is virtually unlimited, and can cover the whole operation, in any operational state. In practice, this degree of freedom can become unwieldy, and certain limitations have to apply, such as the concept of the ‘Design Basis Accident’ used as part of the hazard construction in assessing the tolerability of risk from nuclear power stations (HSE, 1992: 23). For some categories of industrial development, Major Hazard legislation demands a formal hazard construction in the form of a ‘Safety Case’. This must identify all potential hazards, and the precautions considered necessary to deal with them. The concept was extended by the Cullen Report into the 1988 Piper Alpha oil rig disaster (Cullen, 1990: 387–8) which suggested that a safety case should demonstrate that: • the management system of the company is adequate to ensure safe design and operation of the installation; • the potential major hazards have been identified and the risks to personnel have been analysed and appropriate controls provided; • adequate provision has been made for the safe and full evacuation, escape and rescue of personnel. This recommendation is itself the result of a particular hazard construct. Because it is based on an off-shore installation, and the responsibilities of the rig operator, it concentrates on safety of the workforce, and does not include the possibility of harm to the public, hazards to rescuers, and potential harm to the environment.

5.5.2 Accident Prevention The need for a safety case may well bridge the gap between planning and accident prevention, but accident prevention usually has more limited boundaries. The premises, process and operations are usually predetermined, so the hazard construct tends to concentrate on the actions of the workforce, and consequences of breaches of rules and procedures. It also tends to be based on routine working situations.

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Unless measures are taken to widen the hazard construction this can have two drawbacks. First, it may not identify the most effective solution. For example, if during the hazard construction process, the need to work with a dangerous substance is identified, but process design is outside the scope of the safety supervisor, control measures may revolve around rules to ensure that proper protective equipment is worn, and the possibility of substituting a non-hazardous alternative may be overlooked. The second drawback is that the person developing the hazard construct will obviously incorporate all those hazards that have been identified, or at least all those considered significant. The hazard construct may not, therefore, allow for the possibility of failure, and be unable to cope with nonstandard situations (Reason, 1997).

5.5.3 Crisis Management

The second case is where an organisation finds itself in a crisis. If the cause of the crisis had been incorporated in previous hazard constructs, it might have been prevented. Without the incorporation of past crisis experience, the constructs themselves would be inadequate to meet the new threat. The people involved must go through a rapid hazard re-construction process, in circumstances which are very different to normal because of the effects of the crisis itself. The boundaries of the model will also have to be changed to include other organisations such as the emergency services, and the media. The current UK legal system requires evidence of a breach of a duty of care, before compensation can be claimed. The revised construct must also incorporate the fact that it will almost inevitably be the subject of detailed scrutiny, and must now incorporate such hazards as being sued for damages, or being charged with corporate manslaughter.

5.6 Differences in Hazard Constructs As Reason (1997) observes, ‘..accidents in hi-tech systems occur very rarely, but when they do happen, the outcomes are likely to be disasterous’. A major contributor to such disasters suggested by Reason (1997:19) is, ‘the tension between production and protectionˇthe trading off of protective gains for productive advantage and the gradual deterioration of defences during periods in which the absence of bad events creates the impression that the system is operating safely — the case of the ‘unrocked boat’.’

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This can be sub-divided into two distinct categories. The situation of an emergency service responding to an incident actually has many parallels with accident prevention, as the emergency services are developing a model to plan a safe and effective response. In effect, someone else’s crisis is their normal task, and their hazard construction is shaped accordingly.

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5.6.1 Example: Plastic Foam-sandwich Construction Buildings There are many plastic foam-sandwich buildings in the UK. Such materials has been in use for over 30 years and the majority of buildings do not catch fire. This leads to the first fundamental difference in the hazard constructions produced by the construction industry and the fire services. In Module 2 Unit 7, reference was made to the fire at the Sun Valley Poultry Plant, Hereford, in September 1993, and the consequences of it. One possible explanation for the set of circumstances

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leading up to the tragedy was the different hazard constructions developed by the different people involved. To recap briefly a poultry packing plant, built from plastic foam-sandwich panels caught fire. Large single story buildings of this type are commonly used for industrial purposes because they provide a big undivided floor space; they are ‘safe’ for the people who work there because good means of escape, in the event of an emergency, are simple to provide. However, depending on the exact nature of the foam used, the method of construction and the way the panels were fixed to the structure of the building, it is possible for the foam core to become exposed and to catch fire. Huge quantities of smoke can be produced, detached internal surface panels can make entry into the building for rescue and firefighting extremely hazardous, and there is the potential for very rapid structural failure.

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An insurance industry body, the Loss Prevention Council (LPC, 1994) listed six incidents between 1989 and 1993 of fires in plastic foam-sandwich buildings with insurance losses ranging from £4.9 million to £15.8 million, and this is not a complete list. The Sun Valley fire was by no means unique, but with the unfortunate loss of two firefighters, it was one of the incidents that led to the Fire Brigades Union report ‘A Fighting Chance’ (FBU, 1995). The FBU was campaigning for changes in the regulations governing the construction of large, uncompartmented, single story building such as the Sun Valley plant. The insurers similarly called for safer materials and better construction practices to reduce their claims exposure. The government decided that statutory requirements for safer types of foam panels should be introduced. It was also agreed that the Fire Service would change its operating procedures and adopt new tactics to ‘defensively’ fight fires in such buildings from the outside.

5.6.2 Example: The Exxon Valdez Incident The wreck of the tanker ‘Exxon Valdez’ on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989 was an event on a completely different scale to the previous example but one where the hazard constructions on the part of the various parties concerned may have made a significant contribution to the outcome. Browning and Shetler (1992: 480) point to: ... the discrepancy apparent between the planning assumptions of rational control and uncertainty reduction, and the unexpected occurrence and unprepared handling of a disaster such as the Exxon Valdez spill. They list as key players nine organisations, of which five came into being after the disaster itself. Each can be expected to have produced a different hazard construction. They go on to examine the incident from a ‘postmodernist’ perspective, and they suggest that the incident response can reveal some useful lessons for problem solving in emergencies. These are considered below. 5.6.2.1 The Exxon Company After the incident the Chief Executive of Exxon was reported as saying that the accident was an ‘Act of God’, or something which could not have been expected to happen. Clearly the possibility had not been included in the hazard construction developed by the company. Browning and Shetler point out, however, that organisational leaders would try to make this sort of a claim, because if something cannot be expected to happen, it cannot be expected to be taken into account. In effect, the fact that it did not appear in the hazard construction is excused by a claim that it could not reasonably have been expected to be. They note, however:

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... what we often fail to imagine as likely possibilities occur more normally and more frequently than expected. Such accidents seem to arrive as complete surprises, and only 20/20 hindsight reveals systematically ignored potential risks. (Browning and Shetler, 1992: 479) They ascribe this lack of foresight to a ‘Disqualification Heuristic’ – a term they credit to Clarke (1990). This is a process where past success causes the filtering out of bad news, and concentration solely on the good. In effect, 12 years of successful operation had blinded them to the possibility that they could fail. In a situation in which they also draw parallels to the Challenger space shuttle disaster, they claim: Self-delusion that their past record guaranteed the adequacy and competence of their procedures locked them into repetitive behaviour.

5.6.2.2 The US Coast Guard Another example of a flawed hazard construct came from the US Coast Guard. Browning and Shetler (1992: 479) cite an article by Meidt (1991) in which it is claimed that Vice-Admiral Clyde Robbins of the Coast Guard, when hearing of the grounding, exclaimed, ‘That’s not possible, we have the perfect system.’ Another representative of the US Coast Guard, Rear-Admiral J. D. Sipes is cited as saying, ‘Simply stated, such an accident was not anticipated, but more, to us it was inconceivable’ (Clarke, 1990: 13). When the system was first set up, it had been standard practice for a tug to escort tankers out of Prince William Sound. This practice had been discontinued, because in the past the tug had not been needed. As Browning and Shetler (1992: 479–80) point out: The lack of any accident was felt to be good evidence that such a precaution was unnecessary, rather than being interpreted as good evidence for its continuance. Although agreeing the ‘facts’ (the lack of any previous accident), the hazard construction based on the evidence was flawed. Apparently, the escort service has now been re-instituted.

5.7 The Application of ‘Postmodernity’ Browning and Shetler (1992: 478) use the Exxon Valdez incident to identify four postmodern characteristics of disasters: • simultaneity – two contradictory things happening at once (as when two parties develop incommensurate readings of the same situation);

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(Browning and Shetler, 1992: 479)

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• chaos – when a single apparently ineffective event has unexpected results which reveals system instability; • unintended consequences – this is self-defining, but the point is made that the consequences may not necessarily be undesirable. It could be the establishment of an unintended, unplanned, but effective, ad hoc working group co-ordinating activities of several organisations;

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• multiple realities – these are the different worlds constructed and then lived/experienced by those involved. These may result from differences in qualitative factors, such as scale or value. (One example could be differing beliefs as to what constitutes a ‘disaster’.) It is probably fair to say that it is not so much the characteristics themselves, but the recognition of their validity, which is postmodernist. Whatever the reason, what is being proposed is the acceptance of a potential set of vastly different hazard constructions by a variety of organisations and individuals, all of which need to be allowed for. The claim is made that ‘The Valdez spill has made complacency obsolete. Since the inconceivable has happened, it is no longer possible to believe that the “perfect system” exists’ (Browning and Shetler, 1992: 489) This is, perhaps, a little naive. It should make complacency obsolete, but almost certainly will not. Neither will it stop some people or organisations attempting to devise a ‘perfect plan’. In fact, future legislative changes are more likely to increase, rather than decrease, the need for specific contingency plans. A more valid claim could be that: Having complementary and countering input from many views and voices as an integral part of planning, prevention and response can productively exploit the problematics of simultaneity, chaos, unintended consequences and multiple realities in ways which would not be possible in a plan which attempted to reconcile them. (Browning and Shetler, 1992: 489) In other words, disagreement and dissonance, properly managed and channelled, may produce a more holistic, flexible and appropriate response to an incident than a prescribed response formulated by a limited number of official agencies and corporations. There is a down side to this. Certainly, in the very early stages of an incident which involves a significant emergency service response, and particularly where there may be people who require rescue, the traditional mechanistic, pre-planned response may be more appropriate (although the unplanned, ad hoc involvement of private craft in the rescue of crew from the Piper Alpha oil production disaster in the North Sea on the night of 6 July 1988 undoubtedly saved lives). Allowing different groups to arrive at, and present, their multiple realities implies a process which requires a fair amount of time to resolve. Where the postmodernist approach has most potential benefit is in the larger scale, longer incident, or in the aftermath and restoration phase of an incident with a fairly short acute phase. The Exxon Valdez incident is a good example of a situation where postmodernism could apply. In the United Kingdom, fortunately, incidents on this scale are rare. There is a tendency, too, for incidents which start out with a mechanistic response to be kept in the limited domain of a small number of response agencies, who assume ownership of the incident, and may be reluctant to allow alternative views to be presented. The conduct of a Public Inquiry, for example, although apparently permitting a full debate, is bounded by the terms of reference specified at the outset. These often prevent discussion on certain issues, either explicitly or by default. The application of postmodernism therefore requires that government and regulatory bodies must release the tight control which their current legal authority gives them.


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Perhaps the biggest problem which postmodernism brings is in raising expectations which cannot subsequently be met. Taking out the specific references to the Exxon Valdez incident, so as to leave it as an observation about disasters in general, Browning and Shetler claim: The simultaneity of differing viewpoints can be encompassed, even while not reconciled, with sufficient openness and sincere respect ... . High trust, even in low agreement, can connect the multiple realities they represent, in their mutual efforts towards recovery ... as well as in prevention and response planning for the future. They go on to say: The apparent chaos of many viewpoints and many voices allows a larger view of order to emerge, one without the disqualifying filters of the self-delusional, intentional bias that allows systems to lurch unforeseen and unintended toward normal accidents.

Browning and Shetler are suggesting that the concept of postmodernism should be applied to crisis management, but this could simply allow all the differing hazard constructs to be aired. It does not (and cannot) guarantee that any particular hazard construct will form the basis of future policy and/ or legislation. Hazard constructs can be based on many different foundations. Some may be based on objective analysis. Others may be based on emotion or subjective perception. All may be equally strongly held, but may well be irreconcilable. There is the very strong danger that strongly held multiple realities and simultaneity of perceptions will not lead to a high trust/low agreement situation, but to a refusal to accept that an alternative view may be valid. This leads to entrenchment, and refusal to accept any decision which does not fit the particular hazard construct which was developed. Thus, encouraging a wide ranging postmodernist debate over an issue may lead to conflict, with demands for second and third inquiries or inquests, where the result of the first was not considered by some groups to be ‘correct’. It can even be used as a justification for violent protest and civil disobedience. Postmodernism may have the potential to accommodate multiple alternative hazard constructs, but the question must be ‘Would the potential be realised?’ If society is truly postmodernist, the answer could possibly be ‘Yes’. If postmodernism is itself only a construct of sociological studies, the answer would be ‘No’. This aspect of the debate is still to be resolved.

5.8 Conclusion This Unit set out to make the case that people (and organisations) make sense of a complex world by developing a hazard construction, which is in effect their view or ‘model’ of the main features of their perceived world. The risks inherent in materials and procedures are perceived and experienced differently by different parties, who may go on to construct vastly different models based on the same information.

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(Browning and Shetler, 1992: 496)

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There is a perpetual debate over who should be asked to contribute to the overall composite hazard construction process, and the weight to be given to each different perspective. This links to a debate about the extent to which postmodernism can truly be applied to a legislative process. Immediately

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following a series of well-publicised incidents there is always a demand for more weight to be given to emergency precautions; after a period of comparative calm there is always a call for easing of controls as a cost-cutting measure. McLean and Johnes (2000:232) support that view and assert that: ‘Economists expect regulators to operate in the interests of the regulated industry, rather than in the public interest when that can be identified’. After the King’s Cross underground station fire in 1987, the government quickly introduced new safety regulations that London Underground Ltd found were costly to implement. By 1993 a government minister, Mr Neil Hamilton, was complaining that: ‘Our response to recent large scale disasters has been out of all proportion to the disasters themselvesˇ After all risk is an essential part of life.’ (quoted in McLean and Johnes, 2000: 232). Because of the unpredictability of human behaviour, zero risk cannot be achieved in complex socio-technical systems. The consequent ‘residual risks’ need to be taken into account in whatever risk assessment and management plans are laid. As indicated above, different parties may produce different constructs of risk and hazard. If some form of agreement or consensus is to be achieved, different hazard constructs must be harmonised in some way. Alternatively, if the concept of postmodernism is accepted, potential disharmony must be allowed for, and the potential for conflict minimised. It must also be recognised that events can demonstrate that the hazard constructs used in preplanning were incomplete. This means that plans should be flexible enough to cope with the unexpected, and that hazard constructions must be constantly revised and refined in the light of experience. Hazard construction is an ongoing process, not a once and for all exercise. Isomorphic learning is a precondition for effective risk, crisis and disaster management.

5.9 Guide to Reading You should now read the supplied article: Browning, L.D. and Shetler, J.C. (1992) ‘Communication in Crisis, Communication in Recovery: A Postmodern Commentary on the Exxon Valdez Disaster’, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters (November) 10(3): 477–98. Further to the description of the aftermath of the Sun Valley plant fire, you should note that a major revision of the Building Regulations was enacted in 2000. Also in May 2002 responsibility for this legislation, and the supporting guidance and codes of practice, was passed from the Department of the Environment to the Office Of the Deputy Prime-Minister (ODPM). The ODPM is also responsible for the Fire Services and the ODPM website (www.odpm.gov.uk) gives access to a great deal of material relevant to the issues raised by this case study.


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5.10 Study Questions You should now write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the questions below. We believe that this is an important exercise that will assist your comprehension of the material and aid your progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your own course notes and should not be forwarded to the University.

Question 1

Consider the situation of an industrial site carrying on a process which could present an explosive and/or a pollution hazard. Which organisations (or divisions within an organisation) may wish to agree memoranda of understanding between themselves, and what may they contain? Study guide: You could consider this from the viewpoint of: a) the emergency services and environmental control agencies b) the company concerned (assume it is a subsidiary of a multinational corporation).

Question 2 Consider the application of postmodernism to risk, crisis and disaster management. How can the differing hazard constructs of various organisations be accommodated in pre-incident planning, and post-incident recovery? Study guide: Because of the wide variety of situations this could cover, start by: 1. Establishing a brief scenario for an incident which could relate to your work or interests 2. Listing three or four different organisations or groups who may have views about the response 3. Working out what hazard construction those groups might develop.

Question 3

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One effect of differing hazard constructs is that one organisation (or part of an organisation) may see something as trivial, whereas another may see it as a major problem. In an incident which justifies an integrated response, this may lead to uncertainty over whether another organisation should be involved. One way of overcoming this is by drawing up ‘Memoranda of Understanding’, on which types and scales of incident would be of interest. In effect, this allows the lead organisation to predict what hazard constructs the other may make, and act accordingly.

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Identify a hazard construct used as a basis for planning a process, operation or procedure within your own organisation. This could, for example, be the hazard construct used to work out what precautions need to be taken when establishing a safe method of working, or the procedure for response to an accident. Identify any assumptions, such as what potential harm could be caused, who might be harmed, who might need to be warned that the operation was to be carried out, or who might need to be informed about an accident. Would the application of any alternative hazard constructs demonstrate that some of those assumptions are incomplete?

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5.11 Bibliography Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society, London: Sage. Borodzicz, E. (2005) Risk, Crisis & Security Management, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. Browning, L. D. and Shetler, J. C. (1992) ‘Communication in Crisis, Communication in Recovery: A Postmodern Commentary on the Exxon Valdez Disaster’, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters (November) 10(3): 477–98. Clarke, L. (1990) ‘Power and Organisational Risk Perception, with Special Emphasis on the Exxon Oil Spill’, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University, unpublished.

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Collins Concise English Dictionary, 3rd Edition, 1992. Concise Oxford Dictionary, 7th Edition, 1982. Cullen, The Hon Lord (1990) (on behalf of the Department of Energy) The Public Inquiry into the Piper Alpha Disaster (2 vols) CMND 1310, London: HMSO. Doctors for Disaster Preparedness (1994) ‘Risk Assumptions in Error’, Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Newsletter, xi(5) (September), DDP, 2509 N, Campbell Ave, Box 272, Tucson, AZ 85719. FBU (Fire Brigades Union) (1995) A Fighting Chance, FBU, Bradley House, 68 Coombe Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 7AE. HSE (Health & Safety Executive) (1992) The Tolerability of Risk from Nuclear Power Stations (2nd revised edn), London: HMSO. Irwin, A. and Wynne, B. (eds) (1996) Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lash, S. (1990) Sociology of Postmodernism, London: Routledge. Lippmann, W. (1922) ‘The World Outside and the Pictures in our Heads’, first published in ‘Public Opinion’ reprinted in Protess, D.L. and McCombs, M. (eds) (1991) Agenda Setting – Readings on Media, Public Opinion, and Policy Making, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, pp.5–15. LPC (Loss Prevention Council) (1994) Recommendations for Insulated Composite Panels, RC25, April. London. McLean, I and Johnes, M. (2000) Aberfan: Government and Disasters, Cardiff: Welsh academic Press.

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Meidt, R. (1991) Public Perception in Spill Response, Proceedings of the 1001 International Oil Spill Conference, San Diego, California. Reason, J. (1997) Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents, Aldershot: Ashgate Schwartz, B. (1984) Psychology of Learning and Behaviour (2nd edn), W.W. Norton. Wildavsky, A. (1995) (published posthumously) But is it True? – A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues, Harvard University Press. Wilkins, L. (1991) ‘The Risks Outside and the Pictures in our Heads: Connecting the News to People and Politics’, in Handmer et al. (eds) New Perspectives on Uncertainty and Risk, Australian National University, Canberra, with Australian Counter Disaster College, pp. 133–60.

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READING ‘Communication in Crisis, Communication in Recovery: A Postmodern Commentry on the Exxon Valdez Disaster’ Larry D. Browning and Judy C. Shetler From International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, November 1992, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 477-498. Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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UNIT 6 National Emergency Management: A Comparative Study


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6 Unit 6: National Emergency Management: A Comparative Study 6.1 Aims and objectives of this Unit

The nations chosen for the study are the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Japan and Australia. All four are developed nations, to a great extent dependent on international trade and have populations based in areas ranging from rural settlements to ‘megacities’. (A megacity is defined by the United Nations as having a population in excess of four million.) They are politically stable elective democracies currently under no direct threat of large-scale military attack. On first consideration, it might be thought that their requirements for planning against industrial, natural and incursive risks might be equally developed. However, we will see that this is not the case and that there are historical and other reasons for the varied approaches that the four nations take toward planning for disaster. A nation’s disaster prediction, mitigation and response mechanisms will reflect, in some degree, current cultural expectations and circumstances.

6.2 Background and Expectations The term ‘emergency planning’, though widely used, may indicate a range of action or anticipation of action, from the strictly local to the national or international. At the local level, emergency management systems may be brought into play in, for example, a bomb warning, a defined chemical release or localised severe weather, none of which may have an impact outside the immediate vicinity. Slightly larger events may require cooperation between neighbouring emergency and administrative units while, rising up the scale, national or international assistance or financial aid may be sought or required. Indeed, both the terms ‘emergency’ and ‘planning’ may in this context be misnomers. Fire, police, ambulance, coastguard and social services and environmental agencies deal on a day-to-day basis with events that, at the ‘micro’ level, are rightly regarded as emergencies. The United Kingdom’s general definition of the sort of event at which we should be looking was contained in the Home Office publication Dealing with Disaster (1997: 1):

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Emergency planning assumptions are notably parochial: even the term ‘emergency planning’ may have different connotations according to the region or nation in which it is developed. It may refer mainly to local and not infrequent incidents or to other events that are, or have the potential to be, national or international disasters. It may or may not include advance mitigation and prevention measures. Does it or should it, for example, include the shoring-up of steep hills or mountains alongside roads, or is this a function of ‘normal’ planning? This Unit examines counter-disaster arrangements in four developed nations and highlights the similarities and differences. It will raise questions not only about actual and desirable measures, but also about the place of contingency planning within each of the national and social frameworks.

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... any event ... causing or threatening death or injury, damage to property or the environment or disruption of the community, which because of the scale of its effects cannot be dealt with by the emergency services and local authorities as part of their day-to-day activities.

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This definition is far from all-embracing (it does not mention, for example, medical or environmental agencies, or regional or national authorities, and makes no mention of preventative measures – hazard mitigation – that are, in many parts of the world, regarded as integral to emergency management). It does not define the minimal event that would take us into emergency management. How heavy does a snowfall have to be, or how many people have to be on the overturned coach? Is a major motor accident in the metropolis not an ‘emergency’ in this sense because the local emergency services can deal with it, and does the same scenario become an ‘emergency’ when it is in a smaller local authority area? Thus Borodzicz (2005: 78) argues that: ‘a clear distinction should be made between emergencies, crises and disasters.’ His distinction hinges on the difference between a highly structured response to an emergency and the flexibility needed to deal with a novel, ill-structured crisis situation.

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Again, the term ‘planning’ is generally undefined. Does it include any or all of investigation, mitigation, plan-writing, training, public education and/or reconstruction? Who or what determines the form and limitations of the ‘planning’, and who is responsible for doing it? Is it in fact possible to plan for an unforeseen event – and if so, is this a wise use of resources? At the upper end, how large a disaster should we plan for? Would it include, for example, an asteroid obliterating a town? Should it cover acts of war? Given the limitations of space in this Unit, it is not possible to follow and examine the various answers that have been given to these questions at varying times and in various places. This Unit will take as an emergency or disaster: • at the lower end, an event that is beyond the powers of immediate local services to deal with; and • at the top of the scale, an incident or group of incidents which, though they may require international assistance, do not disable the national government or economy. Emergency management has often been defined as a circular process embracing prevention and mitigation; planning and training; response; recovery; and restoration (incorporating preventative and/or mitigative factors; what Toft and Reynolds (1997) would call ‘active learning’). It may be that prevention and mitigation – and, following an incident, restoration – are, in the longer term, of the highest value in that they act (or should act) to prevent or minimise the effects of an occurrence or recurrence. However, the concept of mitigation has very fuzzy edges (Wisner et al. 2004: 116). Restoration may cover any action from cosmetic repair to total relocation. Perhaps neither is a matter of crisis management in that both require longer-term thought and action. In this Unit we will concentrate on the practical actions of: • planning and training • response • recovery. An aspect of planning that should be taken into account is whether the system aims to control the population or to mobilise it. Is planning and action primarily or entirely initiated by response organisations, or are the people who are likely to be affected by disaster directly involved in formulating policy and countering the effects of the disaster? Some would say that dealing with

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any emergency is best left to the professionals, who at least have some experience; others that communities themselves are best placed to determine their needs and, with assistance as necessary, to deal with the effects. Best practice, we will see, may vary from nation to nation.

6.3 National Priorities and Emergency Planning 6.3.1 Japan

A new impetus followed the ending of the Second World War: the 1947 Disaster Relief Law was succeeded in 1949 by the Flood Control Law and, two years later, by legislation determining national payment for damaged civil engineering facilities. Postwar development has, on the other hand, sometimes added to the physical problems. The reclamation of low-lying coastal and swamp areas has invited vulnerability both to flooding and to ground liquefaction in earthquakes. A spur to improvement of counter-disaster preparations came about with the Ise Bay typhoon of 1959. Nearly six thousand people lost their lives in this single event, prompting a realisation that planning and reaction were still inadequate. The Disaster Countermeasures Basic Law of 1961 aimed to create a total disaster prevention, mitigation, relief and restoration system, integrated at national and local levels, with clear fiscal and financial responsibilities. The 1961 legislation was followed over the next thirty years by many specific laws concerning plans for disaster prevention, earthquake prediction and countermeasures, volcanic eruption prediction and landslide countermeasures. Major projects to develop earthquake countermeasures have been carried out and earthquake insurance can be obtained at reasonable rates because the risk is reinsured by the central government. There are more than 80 active volcanoes in Japan, of which a dozen are closely studied. After the massive earthquake disaster in Kobe city in January 1995, the Japanese Government undertook a major lessons-learning exercise, which has led to significant changes in their approach to disaster management. Key features of these changes will be discussed later in this Unit.

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Japan lies on the Pacific ‘ring of fire’. It is particularly susceptible to volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis (giant, fast-moving waves caused by seismic movement), river and sea flooding (the national rainfall is about twice the world average) and, being geologically unstable, lesser earth movements. As might be expected, the national government has – by necessity or otherwise – taken counter-measures very seriously. It enacted ‘Provision and Saving’ and ‘Disaster Preparation Fund’ legislation toward the end of the 19th Century, considerably predating formal preparations by the other three nations in this study.

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6.3.2 The United States of America The Californian coast of America lies on the far side of the ‘ring of fire’ from Japan and is subject to similar seismological events. The nation’s subcontinental size (at 9.4 million square miles it has about 25 times the area of Japan) renders it, in various parts, liable to the effects of tropical and other severe storms, extreme snowfall, flooding from massive rivers and, in the plains, tornadoes. In 1996 – a not untypical year – there were 97 Major Disaster declarations; in 2005 there were 47 federally-declared major disasters and 67 State emergency declarations.

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Nevertheless, it might be said that the United States’ central government was, until the late 1980s, more concerned with the Cold War and with wartime civil protection, than with peacetime civil disaster (Hodgson 1995: 242-265; Bourke 2005). From 1950 onwards there were two distinct streams of developments in legislation and organizations to provide war-related contingency planning and preparations for major peacetime emergencies, including the provision of disaster relief (Tierney et al. 2001:202). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was founded in 1979 to bring together the management of various federal natural and man-made disaster programs.

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An early product of FEMA’s work was to encourage an all-hazards approach to local emergency management that provided an integrated approach to all four phases of the hazard cycle: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery (Tierney et al., 2001: 207). The Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS) provided regional and local authorities with a framework for comprehensive emergency management. FEMA also funded the development of an incident command system to coordinate the emergency services. As Tierney et al. (2001:210) note, similar systems were adopted by the Australian and UK fire and emergency services. Another product of FEMA was a Federal Response Plan (FRP) which identified the roles of the various federal agencies in a disaster response. The FRP was first implemented fully after Hurricane Andrew devastated much of Miami in 1992. The intergovernmental response to Andrew was widely judged to have been inadequate but an evaluation panel that was set up did describe the FRP as ‘an important beginning’ (Tierney et al., 2001: 211). The Federal Disaster Preparedness and Response Act in 1993 formally shifted the emphasis of FEMA’s mission away from nuclear attackrelated activities to the all-hazards approach and tasked FEMA to set up disaster strike teams that could deploy at three hours notice to evaluate the situation (Evans, 1994). FEMA was soon heavily involved in the Northridge earthquake as discussed later in this unit. When the Office of Homeland Security was created in 2001 in response to the 9/11 disaster, FEMA cooperated on various contingency measures for terrorist attack. Then in March 2003 the larger Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed and FEMA became one of its four major branches. However, during criticism of the federal response to the September 2005 devastation of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, there were calls for FEMA to be made independent again; one issue was whether the FEMA Director should have direct access to the President as had been the practice before FEMA became part of DHS (see unit 5.9 on Katrina). A major difference between the United States and Japan is that the former is a federal state. Thus there is a constitutional separation between national and individual state legislatures; the Federal government is not only unable to dictate local legislative processes but is often viewed in a negative way. National government can offer advice and assistance, but there can be no compulsion for individual states to recognise or accept the national package. The Department of Homeland Security was given a power to declare ‘ an incident of national significance’ and to take greater control of decision-making; this was not used for hurricane Katrina in September 2005, when it would have been a first.

6.3.3 Australia At 7.7 million square miles, Australia may be regarded as similar in area to the United States. However, its geography and finances render it considerably different. Australia does not lie on any major earth fault. It has a national income of only a twentieth that of the USA. The probability of

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natural and industrial disaster is correspondingly lower, though concentration of population around the edges of the subcontinent increases vulnerability to coastal and urban hazards. Like the United States, it has never (since settlement) been the subject of incursion. Nevertheless, the thrust of Australian national counter-disaster planning was, well into the 1980s, centred around civil defence. Maj-Gen. K.W. Latchford, contributing to a major study by Langtry and Wade-Marshall (1986), encapsulated the then prime purpose in quoting a 1976 White Paper: The Natural Disasters Organisation and the State and Territory Emergency Service Organisations ... constitute the core civil defence structure in Australia. The main preoccupation in peacetime is in mitigating the effects of natural disaster but the primary role is to ensure the civil defence requirements in the organisations ... have the dual capability for meeting both the civil defence and natural disaster requirements.

... the Northern Territory Emergency Service developed from the existing civil defence organisation. This was brought about by a shift in emphasis during the 1970s from war-oriented civil defence to natural disaster-oriented emergency services. The major impetus for change was the impact of Hurricane Tracy in 1974. Following this event two national organisations were formed: the Commonwealth Counter-Disaster Task Force and the Natural Disasters Organisation. The first of these deals entirely with central government and civil service matters. The second, renamed Emergency Management Australia (EMA) in 1993 following the ‘Ash Wednesday’ bush fires of 1982/83, mirrors (to an extent) FEMA. Unlike its US counterpart, EMA has no legislative basis, having been formed by Cabinet Directive.

6.3.4 The United Kingdom The United Kingdom is probably the most geologically and meteorologically stable of the four nations. Sitting on no major geological fault, protected by its continental shelf and the great landmass of mainland Europe, it rarely experiences the extremes of climate or earth movement to which Japan, the United States and, to a lesser extent, Australia are liable. Occasionally, there is a local atypical event to remind the public that natural disaster is a possibility. Haining (1991), for example, lists six earthquakes or sets of earthquakes which affected the British Isles during the 19th Century, culminating in one estimated at magnitude 6.2 and having its epicentre near Colchester; in January 1975 a tremor shook five miles of coastline in East Sussex; and in April 1990 a movement estimated at magnitude 5.2 had its epicentre in North Wales. Nevertheless, it would be a truism to say that, generally, the United Kingdom is considerably less troubled by natural events than are the other three nations in this study.

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Like the United States, Australia is a federal nation: individual states and territories have their own legislative and other responsibilities and are not, in respect of emergency arrangements, subservient to the Commonwealth (national) government. So state and territory civil emergency management had already been able to grow from war preparations. Langtry and Wade-Marshall, in the same publication, point out that:

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Similarly Britain has thus far not suffered an industrial disaster of national proportions. It is interesting to note that, despite the impetus given to emergency planning by the Flixborough explosion in 1974, no major industrial incident in the United Kingdom has actually killed or severely injured

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any member of the public off-site. Although what effect stress and worry might have on the longterm health of an‘at-risk’ population is another matter (see, for example, Bennett 1999). Some may point to excellent mitigation effort and safety legislation; others may suggest a degree of luck.

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It may therefore come as little surprise to discover that until very recently there was no general counter-disaster legislation in the United Kingdom. Such authority and organisation as existed prior to the radically new arrangements introduced in 2001, was based largely on practice developed on the basis of statutory Civil Defence regulations, arising out of the postwar Civil Defence Act of 1948. Until the ending of the Cold War the major thrust of counter-disaster planning was centred on civil defence preparations but the shift to concentrating on peacetime emergencies accelerated during the 1990s. As Unit 2, ‘The Role of Central Government in Disaster Management’, indicates, a further historic concern was the effects of strike action: it was for this reason that the Civil Contingencies Unit within the Cabinet Office was originally set up; as an oversight body, not so much to direct government departments (which was not within its power) but to collate information on a crisis and pass it to government ministers and senior civil servants so that action could be, as far as possible, appropriate and coordinated. This included the important step of agreeing who would be the lead department for the handling of the particular crisis. It may be said that British emergency planning has coalesced from these two strands, of civil defence and public order, acquiring on the way some specific law to regulate safety arrangements at hazardous industrial sites, on public transport and at public venues such as cinemas and sports stadia. However, that would miss the important third element, which for the general public is the primary factor of the confidence they have in the skill and availability of the emergency services. In the UK a fire appliance and an ambulance are never far away. Furthermore it is known that when a major incident occurs then the emergency services can smoothly escalate the resources needed to deal with it. Peace-time mass casualties on the scale seen in natural disasters abroad are simply not expected.

6.4 Social and Cultural Expectations An interesting aside to the development of counter-disaster measures is the observation that Japan, though devastated by war, has generally developed its systems outside of and separately from civil defence considerations whereas Australia, never having been subject to massive attack, has nevertheless evolved its systems out of, or in tandem with measures for protection of the population against war. Britain took the same route to an even greater extent than Australia, though perhaps more understandably as a nation very much involved in the Cold War; and the United States, a major protagonist in that military/economic conflict, had since the late 1970s separated the two. However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon building (H.Q. of the United States Department of Defense in Washington D.C .in September 2001, caused the US Government to make Homeland Security a unifying priority within its declared war on terror. It may be that these approaches signify differing psychological, social and political conceptions. The differences could also be attributed to historical experience of disaster and to resultant differing perceptions of risk. Japan, for example, is a densely populated island (its population density is

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almost one and a half times that of the UK, more than ten times that of the USA and more than a hundred times that of Australia) lying on the Pacific ‘ring of fire’. The population lives, as it has always lived, with the risk of devastation by earthquake, volcano and tsunami. The population of the UK, at the other end of the spectrum of risk from ‘natural causes’, may – correctly or incorrectly – regard preventative and anticipatory measures as somewhat less vital. Here, ‘manmade’ disasters – including the threat of nuclear attack during the Cold War period – have received higher priority.

risk residents in the United States were less concerned about earthquakes than their Japanese counterparts (Palm, 1996). The same paper also notes differences in expectations and attitude. Japanese society is more ‘group-based’ whereas Americans tend to be more independent. (This resonates with Beck’s (1992) view that the inhabitants of liberal democratic states are becoming ‘individuated’. As the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher remarked on one occasion, ‘There is no such thing as society’.) Accordingly, the Japanese will look first to the local group for assistance following disaster; there is a fear of the group ‘losing face’ – which, in calling for outside assistance, the group could feel it was doing. Americans, however, are more likely to take independent action and large numbers of people self-evacuating for threatened areas and near-by (the ‘shadow effect’) has been a feature of many incidents in the USA (Tierney et. al. 2001). Linked with the American view of individual independence is a somewhat sceptical view of bureaucrats and bureaucracy. Whereas in the United Kingdom civil servants are generally highly regarded, there is in the United States a healthy questioning of their philosophy and actions (It is worth noting that some American citizens have moved beyond this ‘healthy questioning’ of authority into the realm of terrorism, as with Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a US Government building in Oklahoma City that killed many innocent civilians). In this respect, Japan is closer to the UK and Australia, than to the US. Although this disregard and questioning may be considered to present something of a bar to acceptance of emergency plans made by civil and public servants, it ensures that the public must be involved in the knowledge and making of those decisions. Whereas in the UK, an emergency plan is generally regarded as a confidential or semi-confidential internal document, such documents in the USA are open to public scrutiny. This can give the individual (and the community) a say in what is or is not to be done. Empowering the citizen, it is argued, gives her or him a stake in the decision-making process and encourages cooperation in both planning and response.

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A number of factors, however, may warp what we may logically see as real threats. Many authors have pointed out the difference between risk and the perception of risk. Following the Lockerbie aircraft bombing in 1988, and during the Gulf War, many Americans refused to embark on international air travel - although the risk of death when travelling by air is very small, and although the added risk was minute. The same people were generally unconcerned that driving a car to the airport would have been by far the most hazardous part of the journey. The individual’s perception of risk may well also differ according to the society in which he or she lives. A study showed that, after the Californian Northridge earthquake in 1994, and before that at Kobe in 1995, at-

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It would be a mistake to compare emergency management systems in the four nations without considering the relevant powers assigned to the various levels of government within them.

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In particular, it should be borne in mind that Japan and the United Kingdom are centralised democracies, with the vast majority of fiscal and legislative powers determined at national level (although, as evidenced by devolution, the trend in the United Kingdom in recent years has been to distribute political power to national sub-sets); on the other hand, Australia and the United States are federal countries in which the national government has relatively little say in the internal affairs of the individual states. A federal or commonwealth government may propose best practice (and may offer financial inducement) but states are free to determine whether and how to carry it out.

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Other values may play a part in expectations of safety and planning. These may include, for example, attitudes to death (it has been pointed out that American society is one characterised by fear of death, whereas Japanese acceptance of earthquakes may rest as much in a relaxed attitude to individual death as in acclimatisation to severe events). The importance and structure of the family may play a part: the Western trend toward small nuclear families and away from the extended kin group may increase self-reliance but at the same time render outside aid more necessary and expected. Economic expectations, though perhaps not so significant in this study where all nations have a relatively high average and reasonably well-distributed income, may play a considerable part in planning: the potential economic loss of a disaster may act as an engine driving both a political need and a willingness of the population to ensure – privately, through taxation, or both – mitigation against such loss. In summary, it would be a mistake to make a raw comparison of the efficacy and methods of counter-disaster preparation and management in the four nations without reference to the underlying needs – social, political and geographical – of the people and the area. As well as asking ‘Does this work?’, it is necessary to ask ‘Why was this measure introduced (or not introduced) in this particular society?’

6.5 Counter-Disaster Planning A common feature of all four national systems is that they work from the bottom up. That is to say that in each case the initial reaction is expected to come from the local authority and local emergency services. The general plan is for additional resources to be called in as and when necessary: it is the local services who make the initial declaration of disaster. However, this does not mean that response necessarily spreads from local area, to neighbouring area, to ‘county’, to state, to region, to combination of regions before reaching national (federal) and perhaps international level. Often, response can jump one or several steps: as at Lockerbie where, presumably because of the involvement of American citizens, the United States military and intelligence agencies were on the scene at a very early stage. That said, there are some considerable differences (and perhaps some surprising similarities) between the planned management systems of the four nations.

6.5.1 Japan The Japanese system for countering the effects of disaster relies on four levels of management. Working from the top down, these are:

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• National – the Prime Minister is directly responsible for overseeing the preparation and execution of the national Disaster Prevention Plan, and for co-ordination within and outside an emergency. There is a Central Disaster Prevention Council (CDPC), responsible for the preparation and promotion of the Plan. A major reorganization in 2001 gave a stronger role to the Cabinet with a new Cabinet Office as support; the CDPC was placed within the Cabinet Office, which now has a clear responsibility for coordination of the contributions of relevant government ministries and agencies. Under the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act, national and local government and designated public corporations are required ‘to develop disaster management plans and to carry them out appropriately’ (quoted from the Japanese Government’s website, 21/2/06).

• Municipal – the mayor of the city, town or village mirrors the responsibilities of the Prime Minister or Governor, and the Municipal Disaster Prevention Council those of its national and prefectural counterparts. There are some 3,300 separate municipalities. • Local – autonomous residents’ organizations; in 1990, they involved 40 percent of all households. The various disaster councils are primarily composed of elected and administrative officials. The Central Council, for example, has as its membership: • ministers of relevant government departments and agencies • representatives of the Hokkaido and Okinawa Development Agencies • representatives of the National Land Agency • the presidents of the Bank of Japan, the Red Cross Society, the Nippon Telephone Corporation and the Nippon Broadcasting Corporation Although this may be considered in the West to be a cumbersome and bureaucratic organisation, it is clearly one that carries ‘weight’ (influence). Combined with its direct responsibility to the Prime Minister, it should be capable of administering a very wide range of measures. The response to disaster starts at a local level; any decision on calling for outside assistance (i.e. to prefectural level) is a matter for the mayor and the municipal disaster prevention council. There appears to be no mechanism allowing for higher-level action without request. This might seem cumbersome, but judgement on the wisdom or otherwise of such a scheme should take account of the political and cultural system within which it resides.

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• Prefectural – In the 48 Prefectures across the country, the three ‘layers’ of national responsibility are mirrored by the elected Governor, the Prefectural Disaster Council, and the corresponding administration and public corporations for this regional tier of government.

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Since the 1961 legislation Japan has allocated a considerable proportion (around 5%) of its national budget to disaster mitigation, preparedness and resolution, with the emphasis on prevention and mitigation measures which in some other countries might be seen as outside the scope of ‘emergency planning’. In 1977 a researcher from the USA noted that evacuation and victim care were minor topics in the centralized pre-disaster planning (McLuckie quoted in Tierney et al. 2001:204).

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Central government payments following a disaster were provided for by the Disaster Relief Law of 1947 and this legislation permitted: • subsidies for the recovery of public (civil) engineering, education and welfare facilities, and agriculture, forestry and fishing • low interest rate loans for agriculture, forestry, fishing and the smaller business enterprises • reduction or exemption at personal level on income and residence taxes • in ‘disaster of extreme severity’, special measures for recovery projects

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There is wide-ranging public education, centering on an annual Disaster Preparedness Day on the 1st of September – the anniversary of the Ise Bay typhoon. The Central Disaster Management Council works on promoting use of two nationally developed plans, the Disaster Management Basic Plan and the Earthquake Preparedness Plan. The Council will also set up a national Emergency Response HQ for major incidents such as was done for the Nigata-Chuetsu earthquake in 2004. After Kobe the regional government, the Hyogo Prefecture, built itself a disaster management base in Miki city and put a renewed emphasis on evacuation drills and disaster education in schools Other works included earthquake resistant water systems and flood control systems. Information technology was used to improve road information data capture and to provide electronic bulletin boards for drivers. In January 2005, on the 10th anniversary of Kobe, Japan hosted the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction and the 4,000 delegates adopted the Hyogo Declaration as a framework for international effort up to 2015. The focus was on knowledge and technology application to disaster mitigation. Generally, Japanese emergency management can be characterised as a control system; there is a high level of central and expert decision-making, with limited scope for intermediate levels of command and the whole being remote from the general population. (The fact that, traditionally, Japanese decision-making is from the bottom up, does not alter this observation; decisions, when finally taken, are made at a high level.) However, the community level action seen at Kobe, particularly the huge effort by spontaneous volunteers, was a notable instance of social mobilization and resilience (Wisner et al., 2004: 299).

6.5.2 The United States of America Given the important separation of federal and state jurisdictions, it follows that the emergency management system in the United States tends, as might be expected in a more individualistic society, toward mobilisation and empowerment. There is a great deal of freedom of information, decisions are taken at local level by locally appointed or elected emergency managers, and the opinions of the public are routinely sought and taken into account. Everything is open to the closest media scrutiny (although this way not always be in the public’s best interests. See, for example, Bennett (2005)). What the Federal Emergency Management Agency can routinely do is to offer advice, finance and training at state and local levels. It has something in excess of two thousand full-time employees, runs a national Emergency Training Centre and, in time of emergency, has access to a further four

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thousand employees and volunteers. At state level it provides funds for emergency planning, assists with the design and equipping of emergency operations centres and sponsors exercises. At national level, it coordinates planning and exercising for nuclear power stations and takes a role in chemical and hazardous material transport and storage. In brief, it acts as an expert centre with resources and finance. By way of practical example, it provided over $100 million through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to improve school structures following the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

6.5.3 Australia The Australian system is (as might perhaps be expected in a similarly-developed federal nation) structurally similar to the USA’s. There is a central management agency – Emergency Management Australia (EMA) – offering national aid and training and running a training centre (the Australian Emergency Management Institute – AEMI), while individual states and territories carry primary responsibility for emergency planning and response. Reflecting the ancestry of EMA, it is funded through the Department of Defence. The Commonwealth Department of Finance administers Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements through individual agreements with the states and territories, while the Department of Social Security is responsible for payments to individuals for disaster relief, special benefits and other (‘Act of Grace’) benefits. As in the United States, the commonwealth government and agencies have some direct responsibilities; notably at international airports, nuclear facilities and for maritime disasters and chemical spills. One area of particular concern is the Great Barrier Reef, an area of great ecological significance running parallel to the coast of Queensland; about 2,000 ships, including 200 tankers, sail between the coast and the reef every year. Funding for EMA is around A$10 million (US$7.5 million) per year. Although this may be unfavourably compared with the Japanese funding, which in 1991 was US$23.5 billion, several factors act to prevent direct comparison:

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At state and sub-state (county) level, emergency coordination is carried out by Local Emergency Management (LEMA) Directors. Each is autonomous and, in a major disaster, must apply separately for assistance through FEMA to the national government. In such an event, the federal agency will offer assistance and national government may offer funding – generally at 75 percent of cost – to assist in the costs of restoration and the additional budgetary demands on the local emergency services. National payments are generally also made to local businesses and private individuals for rebuilding and personal property loss, generally on condition that rebuilding meets current mitigation standards and that adequate private insurance is taken out to cover any recurrence. Where individuals would be unable to repay a loan, the federal government is likely to make grants for personal disaster-related needs. Federal assistance is also available to provide post-disaster counselling, unemployment assistance and legal aid.

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• the Japanese figure includes mitigation and disaster relief. A closer estimate to funding for training, preparation and instant response might be 25 percent of this figure – around A$6 billion • the individual states, not EMA, that are responsible for the greater part of counterdisaster preparation • Australia’s population is around one-seventh that of Japan

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• the Australian mainland is not seismologically very active; there are no active volcanoes and the history of earthquakes indicates only relatively small tremors • Japan is more dependent on heavy and chemical industries than Australia, increasing the risk from ‘man-made’ disaster, and has a greater urban density (there are no megacities in Australia, though Sydney, with a population of 3.7 million, comes close: Tokyo, by comparison, has 8 million)

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Of the nine states and territories in Australia, all but three (the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and Norfolk Island) have specific legislation governing counter-disaster organisation. Typically, with or without legislation, the plans appoint individuals and groups at state, regional or divisional and local levels. Requests for assistance to national level will pass through and be made by the state disaster coordinator – most commonly the Commander of the state police service. Salaries of some state and regional officers are subsidised by EMA, who also provide a 50 percent subsidy for necessary search and rescue equipment, communications, accommodation, public awareness measures and exercises. In the event of disaster, states and territories receive state funding only when they pass a predetermined threshold expenditure level. In 1995, EMA published a set of National Emergency Competency Standards (NECS). The aim was to raise training levels to a common minimum level. Interestingly, the document differentiated between four differing approaches to emergency planning. These were: • the ‘comprehensive’ approach • the ‘all hazards’ approach • the ‘all agencies (or integrated)’ approach, and • the ‘prepared community’ Australian emergency planning depends very heavily on the use of volunteers, particularly in the Fire Service where some 220,000 citizens serve on a part-time basis, and also relies on mobilisation of communities and volunteer organizations. There is a ‘hands off’ approach at commonwealth level, but control is highly structured at the state/territory level. A feature of Australian emergency planning is that its management and practitioners stress the need for thorough risk assessment. It is interesting to speculate whether such assessment can in fact be exhaustively undertaken, or does focusing on identified hazards mean that others may be overlooked to the possible detriment of the generic response? In 2005 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) called for a greater focus on mitigation in preparing for bush fires, and looked at ways of improving co-operation between fire fighting resources. A national Bushfire Awareness and Preparedness day has been instituted and substantial funding provided for a three-year programme of initiatives to promote it; EMA is administering the fund.

6.5.4 The United Kingdom For the purposes of this discussion, Northern Ireland (where local emergency planning is organised by the central government Northern Ireland Office (NIO), and where, until very recently, the main focus of any emergency planning has been on containment of terrorism) will be omitted from

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discussion. It might also be borne in mind that emergency planning in Scotland operates under slightly different rules, with funding from the Scottish Office. The discussion will centre on emergency planning in England and Wales, though it is generally applicable to the situation in Scotland. For over 50 years emergency planning was based on secondary legislation arising from the 1948 Civil Defence Act and contained no specific provisions for action to be taken at national or local level. It applied only to local authorities, and permitted rather than directed, the use of civil defence resources on preparations for peacetime major emergency or disaster. During the 1990s the central government’s civil defence funding for local authorities was progressively reduced as the cold war threat receded and it fell to £15 million in 1994/5. There is a temptation to compare this with the Australian level at that time. Given Britain’s population – around three times that of Australia – it may be considered that, financially at least, UK emergency planning was very much a poor relation of its cousins in the other three nations.

National financial compensation to local authorities following a disaster, mirrors the Australian model. For each level of local government there is a threshold of emergency spending above which aid can be sought from central government under the Bellwin Rules; this scheme particularly applies to the costs of clearing up after exceptional weather. However, the Bellwin Rules are advisory to the government of the day; compensation levels and conditions may vary. National arrangements within the new legal framework still assign a lead role to the most appropriate government department. These arrangements are described in Unit 2. In terms of national oversight and preparation, the Cabinet Office provides the focal point and was increasingly resourced to do so in the run up to the Civil Contingencies Act 2004; its functions include promulgating best practice advice, running the national Emergency Planning College and organizing major exercises. The Office of the Deputy Prime-Minister (ODPM) has ministerial responsibility for regional and local government. This includes provision of the fire and rescue services and funding the civil protection work in local authorities, that is now required by the statutory duties. Since the Civil Contingencies Secretariat was set up within the Cabinet Office in July 2001, one of its most significant activities has been working with the ODPM to create a regional tier of crisis management in England. Based within central government’s network of regional offices this introduces an additional layer that was proposed in the 1990s but resisted by those who felt that the strategic manager (Gold Command) of an incident would prefer to have direct access to central government.

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As with the other three approaches already considered, it is anticipated that, in a major disaster, the immediate response will be taken by local agencies. The recent Civil Contingencies Act 2004 has formalized the local emergency planning committees that bring together the emergency services, local authorities and health authority at county or metropolitan area. The various bodies are independent of each other but each now has statutory duties to participate in risk assessment, planning and exercising activities. Under well established practice the area police chief takes responsibility for coordinating the emergency response, but will later hand over to the local authority to lead the restoration phase, except for any ongoing investigation.

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Another major component of the new Cabinet Office work is the creation of a national risk assessment process covering a five-year period and involving many organizations. At the local level there is now a statutory duty to conduct hazard assessments and plan accordingly. There is also a new

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formal process for ‘scanning the horizon’ to give early warning of potential national emergencies. An evaluation of the effectiveness of these new forecasting arrangements will not be possible for some time. Meanwhile, in early 2006, the Government and other agencies faced a stern test from bird flu that was approaching from Europe. An outbreak of this disease in commercial poultry would test how well the lessons were learned from the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak five years ago.

6.6 Case Studies

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A disaster occurs when preventative and mitigatory action has failed. Because mitigation can never be absolute (and some mitigatory efforts can be counter-productive; as when reinforcement of one section of coastline leads to erosion of another), disasters will continue to occur. What matters, in the end, is that the measures taken to mitigate the effects of the disaster and to initiate the recovery process are appropriate. In other words we need to consider how well things worked out in practice. Bearing in mind that the priorities of the planners and the authorities may differ from those of the community, and that national priorities can differ from local priorities – for whom did it work? This section briefly reviews the handling of three major emergencies that have had a lasting impact on the emergency preparedness of the countries concerned and have attracted considerable interest from researchers and other commentators. These brief accounts are intended to be indicative rather than definitive and a stimulus to further personal research. However, a word of caution is required; accounts and reports drawn up by responding organisations, particularly in ‘control model’ countries, can seek to give the impression that all went according to plan. The following could be seen to concentrate on apparent mistakes made. This should not be seen as being hypercritical of the response management or organisations; it is simply a necessity of condensation.

6.6.1 Japan: The Kobe Earthquake The Kobe earthquake struck at 05.45 hours on the morning of 17 January 1995 and was measured at 7.2 on the Richter magnitude scale. It was a lesser event than the 7.9 quake that hit San Francisco in 1906, and the 9.3 enormity of the Banda Aceh quake that caused the devastating Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December 2004 (Winchester, 2005: 364). The Kobe quake killed over six thousand people, seriously injured more than 35,000, caused the collapse of over 100,000 buildings and 310,000 persons lost their homes (Wisner et al., 2004: 293). Various estimates have put the cost at US$120 to 150 billion. Heavy structural damage spread more than 70 miles from the epicentre (Kobe itself was 15 miles away). Over three hundred thousand homeless people were evacuated to more than a thousand refugee camps; around a million people were without clean water. It is clear from the various reports of the response that some plans had previously been made but that there was too much reliance on the anti-earthquake measures engineered into the design and construction of modern structures. The more modern buildings had been strengthened against earthquake and many survived – though, as the collapse of the Hanshin highway demonstrated, there was a need in some cases for a greater degree of protection. The crustal faults had been mapped and, in that sense, the event was not totally unpredicted. Training had been given at all levels. However, we need to note the following points:

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1. Although modern buildings had generally effective earthquake protection, Kobe is an old city and contained many structures that were, for earthquake situations, structurally unsound. Private dwellings in poorer districts were particularly vulnerable. 2. The affected area was a narrow strip of land bordered on one side by the sea and on the other by mountains. The major transportation routes (the railway and bullet train, and the Hanshin highway) were put out of action through collapse of elevated sections, rendering rapid access extremely difficult. 3. Other main roads were not immediately closed to traffic. Access for emergency vehicles was severely hindered by congestion as people attempted to leave the scene by car.

5. There was poor communication between the Municipality and the Prefecture, showing that neither was sufficiently aware of the other’s role and responsibilities and suggesting a lack of the coordinated planning that is established practice at the local level in the UK (Bawtree, 1995). There was a report that the Prefectural Governor delayed for four hours before calling for military aid. Tierney et al. (2001:68) noted that compared to disaster relief efforts in many other situations, the military were an under-used resource in Kobe. This was apparently due to the public in Japan having a negative attitude to military involvement in civil matters (which may reflect post-Second World War efforts to de-militarise public life). 6. Lacking accurate field information, the Prime Minister’s office reacted slowly. When Directives from the Prime Minister and Cabinet were issued they were often not acted on because functionaries were unused to this sort of top–down, urgent executive action. If Directives were not countersigned by the right people, then those below them felt unable to act. In the words of Heath (1995: 13-14): ... Japanese bureaucrats are likely to wait until consensus is achieved, display bondloyalty to their specific employer, and seek means to avert and avoid loss of face. Such behaviour is likely to slow down response management and create consequent time lags. 7. Despite annual awareness exercises, public education was less than adequate in that the threat in this particular region was not seen to be immediate. A degree of unconcern, fostered perhaps by the Japanese attitude of acceptance of natural disaster, had been allowed to grow. The people were unprepared for the catastrophe and the authorities could not respond to address their needs.

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4. Although official response plans were in place, there were considerable delays in mobilisation. The Kobe city authority was unable to assess the situation because of staff not getting to work; the city’s emergency radio system failed and telephones and many roads were unusable.

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8. A remarkable aspect of the Kobe aftermath is the scale of the community self-help with residents helping to run their temporary accommodation, which was often in schools. Volunteers came from afar, including Japanese students from courses in the USA, and the unprecedented scale of this spontaneous volunteer effort became a study topic for Japanese researchers (Tierney et al. 2001: 214).

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9. A less publicized and negative aspect of the Kobe tragedy has emerged from more recent research. Wisner et al. (2004: 293-295) draw attention to work showing that large numbers of the casualties occurred in the poorest districts of the city, where a neglected underclass lived in very badly constructed wooden housing. (Note that similar issues of disproportionate impact on the poor have already been seen in analyses of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans; see unit 5.9). 10. Lastly in this list, Wisner et al. (2004: 296) make the important observation that 85% of all schools in Kobe were damaged, and so had the earthquake occurred during school hours, then the loss of children could have been truly awful.

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It seems that advance planning did not fully embrace the risks, nor did it provide for an effective response, and it did not take account of some of the normal processes operating within the society. In fact the scale and type of response that could be needed had simply not been contemplated. The decisive command structure needed for rapid action would have been effectively an assault on the normal consensus-seeking bureaucratic methodology of Japanese administration, and so would have been difficult to prepare or execute. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned is that emergency planning is a comprehensive process and elements cannot be undertaken in isolation; preparedness requires the informed agreement and commitment of all those who will carry out the management plan.

6.6.2 The Northridge Earthquake Like the Kobe event, the Northridge earthquake struck in the early morning: at about 04.30 on 17 January 1994. Its magnitude of 6.7 indicated a power of about 30 percent of that at Kobe. The area involved – the Northridge and Reseda townships and the Granada Hills, is a heavily populated part of Southern California, though it does not contain the extreme population density of parts of Kobe. Buildings in this area of the US were also more recent than many of those in the Kobe area. The lower magnitude coupled with differences in building density and construction will have contributed to the considerably lower loss of life – about 60 compared with six thousand. Disaster statistics are notoriously unreliable and even for a well-documented event in an advanced society there are variations. Early sources gave the Northridge deaths as 60 but later this was revised to 33 immediate deaths and a further 57 related deaths (Wisner et al., 2004: 65). Cost comparisons are also problematic but interesting. Various sources put the Kobe losses at between US$120 and 147 billion, whilst the smaller Northridge losses are given at about US$40 billion. The Japanese government made grants totalling US$32 billion toward ‘infrastructure reclamation’. Federal expenditure on Northridge was around $3.5 billion as at July 1996, while infrastructure and direct rebuilding costs were up to $20 billion. It has been suggested that a reason for the disparity in loss of life between the Northridge event and that at Kobe was largely due to the experience gained in tackling San Francisco’s Loma Prieta earthquake only four years earlier. However, that event, with Magnitude 7.1 – almost equivalent to Kobe’s – had resulted in a similar death toll, often quoted at around 62. American preparations seem to have been more thorough and more realistic. Japanese anticipation had leant toward a large event in the Tokyo rather than the Kobe area whereas that of the US was centred on the Los AngelesSan Francisco area, a region that had experienced five major quakes between 1987 and 1994.

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Preparations in the area were timely, practical – involving the local populace in a meaningful way – and realistic – incorporating normal management routines which had been practised in disaster scenarios. As Comfort (1994: 166) put it: The importance of common training, shared disaster experience, and a base of common information, observed in the California [sic] earthquake, is crucial to uniting a committed, practiced, knowledgeable group of emergency management professionals from diverse backgrounds and regions in action. The priorities on which Comfort focused were: • interactive communications and information processes • managing multiple organisations in the performance of diverse tasks simultaneously, and

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• mobilising available resources and knowledge across jurisdictional boundaries

Many other lessons were learnt. The seismic protection of the freeways, utilities and some buildings was insufficient. Disruption of the electricity grid caused power cuts into Oregon and Washington States; this was a complication that, with foresight, could probably have been avoided. Despite the availability of earthquake insurance, two-thirds of private homes were uninsured and some residents were still camping-out three months after the event. Although there had been extensive public information and education, it covered only actions for personal protection. One newspaper carried an account of an injured person who probably died as a result of available helpers being untrained in simple first-aid procedures. In a society noted for its citizens’ independence of action, a useful function of the state would be to train the public in survival techniques. Later research by Bolin and others has revealed that small communities differed markedly in their ability to cope during the response period. For example, one such community had no preestablished communications channels for requesting assistance and so aid from outside was slow in arriving. Another important research outcome has been recognition that there were difficulties in helping ethnic minority groups and that for these communities recovery has been a slower process (Tierney et al. 2001:148).

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The scale of response needed can be gauged from the facts that some 8,500 people were injured; millions were left without electricity, gas, water and telephones and elevated freeways collapsed, severely disrupting transport. Some 20,000 people set up camp in parks in Los Angeles and many camped out in their gardens, afraid of aftershocks. On all three of Comfort’s criteria the response management was good. The first response was rapid; the initial clean-up, for example, was completed in three days. Difficulties were encountered in the registration of victims and the distribution of aid, especially to ethnic minority groups.

6.6.3 The South Australian Bush Fires An interesting aspect of disaster mitigation is the acceptance that natural catastrophes are unavoidable. While this may be the case for an asteroid impact, for example, it is arguable that many disasterous events could be avoided through a better human accommodation with nature. This has two strands. One could be relocation of a population, for instance away from a flood-plain; the other option is modification of the natural environment – for instance by recontouring the water courses to direct floods away from the people.

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Australia has been hit by cyclones and has had major flooding emergencies like many other countries; in 1990 an area of Australia “twice the size of Texas was under water” (Wisner et al. 2004: 201). However, bush fires are another commonplace in Australia; they are started by natural events (lightning), intentional events (an Aboriginal history and tradition of landscape modification), accidents (electrical arcing in overhead lines, out-of-control campfires) and arson. Fires of devastating size are rare, but are to be expected. The following details are extracted from May et al. (1994): Year State affected

Affected Deaths Buildings Animal Economic loss area destroyed stock (AU$ millions, (square losses 1994) miles)

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Insured Total

1939 Victoria

2,000 71 NSW

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On the above evidence, it is clear that there was no lessening of the area involved in major bushfires in these years. Thus this hazard must be considered to be an ever-present threat to the community and the authorities. To add to the picture we should note that the 1994 New South Wales fires covered 75% of all bush land in the Sydney metropolitan area. Ten years later another fire near Sydney burnt some 1,400 hectares and 400 fire officers were involved in fighting it (Dixon, 2005). Once technicians could enter the area it took them only four days to restore the essential services: water, sewage, gas, electricity and communications. Local businesses took only three months to recover, and homes that had been destroyed were rebuilt within 12 months. The speed of the comprehensive recovery phase is an impressive feature of the Australian handling of such emergencies.

6.7 Other Comparisons Similar analyses of the mitigation and contingency arrangements of other countries would no doubt reveal interesting points for the development of a ‘best practice’ scorecard. However, the main lesson would be that each national system has to be tuned to the socio-economic and cultural conditions appertaining in that country. Some indications of what such further research might find can be gained from the following example:

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6.7.1 The Netherlands The emergency services in the Netherlands respond in broadly the same way as those in the United Kingdom. However, local government is organized differently and the local Mayor takes overall command when an emergency demands a crisis response. Thus City Hall will issue orders to the Fire and Police chiefs as part of its direction of the response. (Note that the Mayor often takes a similar lead role in other countries but has no operational role in the UK, except perhaps to organize a charitable fund for victim relief).

without waiting for a formal disaster declaration by the local authority. Rosenthal was critical of the concentration on rules, regulations and specific plans embodied in this legislation and doubted that it would provide for the unpredictable aspects of sudden disasters (Rosenthal, 1988:294). Over the years the Dutch have had to develop great fortitude and expertise to deal with flooding disasters; in 1995 flooding in the Limburg province led to 250,000 being successfully evacuated from their homes (Bezuyen et al., 1998). However, another crisis that has become an important case study is the 1992 aircraft crash in Amsterdam. Bos et al. (2005) recount how an Israeli EL AL Boeing 747 freighter crashed into a suburban area of high density housing, shortly after takeoff. There is a wide consensus that the immediate response was handled well by the municipal authorities and the emergency services. Later on the aftermath of this crash became a crisis for the national government. The crash killed 43 people and injured 26, but it also destroyed 266 apartments that housed a poor community with many non-Dutch speaking immigrant families. Some of these people were in the country illegally and so were reluctant to co-operate with the authorities. The Mayor in effect declared an amnesty and again it is generally thought that the municipality handled the special problems of these victims very sensitively. Two years later people living outside the crash zone, and workers who had handled plane debris started feeling unwell. Rumours circulated that the plane had carried an undeclared cargo of depleted uranium. Eventually the Dutch Government had to mount a public inquiry in 1999.

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Rosenthal (1988) describes how the Netherlands went through the process of changing from waroriented civil defence to a plan for complex disasters to be dealt with by coordinated interventions from regional or national levels. The Disaster Act 1985 defined a disaster as an event endangering the lives and health of a large number of people and which requires coordinated efforts from various fields of expertise. The Dutch emergency management system involves three levels of government: the national government, twelve provinces and several hundred municipalities. The 1985 legislation gave special powers to the provincial governor to overrule the local mayor,

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The inquiry committee concluded that: “..the cargo did not contain hazardous materials, but that other toxic substances had been released when the plane crashed and most probably had caused many individuals to get ill� (Bos et. al., 2005: 15). A fierce political row followed but no ministers resigned and gradually the controversy has faded. Nevertheless this disaster certainly does take a special place in the annals of Dutch disaster management.

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6.8 Conclusions

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Emergency management systems should be appropriate not only for the disasters with which they will have to deal but also for the society in which they are developed. It is unlikely that they could be ‘lifted’ from one nation and imposed without change on another. An important extension to this is to ask whether a national management system is itself appropriate: how well can the levels of government interact to meet the escalating demands of a mass casualties disaster? A system that allows individuality of response at area level can have many advantages of speed and flexibility in mounting rescue operations. However, decisive strategic leadership is also needed so that the deployment of further support and specialist resources can be well organized; bringing in aid should not add to the confusion but nor should it be delayed by bureaucracy. Inevitably politics will feature at some stage and those in authority will know they will be held to account for their actions; it follows that media management is an important component of an effective crisis response. One lesson of the case studies in this unit is that disasters do impact differently on different sectors of the community. Within a city, where the affected people may range from the very poor, often unused to making decisions, to the very rich, accustomed to being the decision-makers and having resources to act, for example to self-evacuate, there could be very different public information needs. Volunteers often achieve a great deal in the early rescue stages and mutual support can be a major factor in the recovery of some social groups. Thus alongside the organisational advantages of a unified system there needs to be sensitivity to recognize the needs and capabilities of minority groups within the afflicted community. A further conclusion is that counter-disaster planning and response can never deal with every eventuality. A disaster by definition is unexpected; it is the asteroid that falls on your head when you are putting planks over the hole that has mysteriously appeared in the road. Although the Environment Agency plan for the ‘hundred year flood’, prevention and mitigation measures are sometimes overwhelmed by sudden events. It follows that response methods must be – to a large extent – generic. Even a specific earthquake or industrial hazard plan can do no more than approximate to reality because, though the threat might be known, the exact size and location of the event will not. Within any generic plan there is considerable scope for specific actions to be misdirected or frustrated by hidden complicating factors. It is clear that effective generic planning will give attention to the training and exercising needed for rescue and aid organisations to know each other and the procedures that they will have to adopt in any crisis situation A further reason for failure may be the difficulties encountered in the continuing education and exercising of potential participants. Again by definition, disasters are rare; if they were not, we would do something more about them. Without a sense of urgency, it is hard to convince people of a need to rehearse on a continual basis. Interest wanes and other more pressing tasks take over the time and effort that would be spent in considering the unthinkable or unlikely. To quote from Heath’s (1995: 14) study of the Kobe incident: ... enervation of preparedness is likely to reduce the ability to respond quickly, as respondents, bystanders, and victims experience moments of suspended belief which freeze communication, decision making and even behaviour.

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Counter, of course, to the suggestion that national legislation should give more specific direction to the local population is the record of impressive volunteer actions and community responses to crisis situations. Thus we might reflect that the generic model should include planning that aims for social mobilization rather than social control.

What difference has flowed from the UK government adopting the term “resilience” since 2001?

6.9 Guide to Reading The first supplied reading is a trenchant personal assessment of Kobe by David Bawtree, who at that time was the UK Government’s independent Civil Emergencies Adviser; a role that required him to give firm advice direct to the responsible minister, the Home Secretary. Bawtree, D. (1995) ‘Learning from Kobe quake’, Civil Protection, No. 37 (winter). The second supplied reading by Porfiriev gives a thoughtful account of a disaster in a remote region where communications and logistical difficulties were major problems; the lessons to be learnt are ably drawn out and may generalize to many other situations. Porfiriev, B. (1996) ‘Social Aftermath and Organizational Response to a Major Disaster: The Case of the 1995 Sakhalin Earthquake in Russia’ in Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Vol 4, Number 4, December, pp218-227. The third supplied reading is a short but effective demonstration of how lessons can be learned from study of crisis events in other countries; in this case the management of some severe European riverine flooding is examined from an Australian perspective: Keys, C. (2005) ‘The Great Labe-Elbe river flood of 2002’, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 20 (1), 53-54.

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A difficulty in comparing national plans and responses to major emergencies and disasters is encountered in terminology. One nation’s rail crash disaster might be another’s routine traffic accident: definitions of emergency planning and disaster management vary not only from nation to nation but even within single countries. This presents not only a problem in direct comparison of planning and action but also, for example, comparison of national policies and spending levels. Although this unit has made some attempt in this direction, it is not possible to be precise because it is often unclear how the money is actually spent. At the ‘macro’ end, one might ask where mitigation measures become a part of emergency management; at the ‘micro’ level, there will be considerable differences in the target groups for education and training. Many arguments that are heard between experienced planners and responders at conferences arise from differing understandings of the terminology used, or a desire for the terminology to be used differently.

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6.10 Suggested Further Reading The journal article by Bos et al. (2005) was referred to for its interesting analysis of the Amsterdam air crash, but the second half of this paper is an equally valuable study based on the sinking of the Estonia car and passenger ferry in September 1994 with significant loss of life.

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Similarly this unit has drawn on Wisner et.al. (2004) for specific points, but the whole of this text is a major contribution to the study of international effort to mitigate and respond to natural disasters. They discuss how things have progressed since their influential first edition in 1994 but also highlight how man-made environmental changes are increasing the vulnerability of some groups of people.

6.11 Study Questions You should write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the questions below. We believe that this exercise will assist your comprehension of the material and progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your course notes and should not be forwarded to the University.

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1. ‘Organisational structures vary, but the principles are the same.’ Identify key principles which seem to be necessary in a national emergency management strategy. 2. Using your knowledge of your own nation’s counter-disaster preparations, suggest ways in which they might be improved.

6.12 Bibliography Beck, U. (1992) Risk Society, London: Sage. Bennett, S. A. (1999) ‘The Role of Social Amplification and News Values in the re-presentation of Risk Research: A case study’. Risk Management: An International Journal. Volume 7, Number 1, pp 9-29. Bennett, S. A. (2005) ‘Disasters as Heuristics? A Case Study’. Australian Journal of Emergency Management. Volume 14, Number 3, pp 32-36. Bezuyen, M. J., van Duin, M. J. and Leenders, P. H. J. A. (1998) ‘Flood management in the Netherlands’, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 13 (2), 43-49. Borodzicz, E. P. (2005) Risk, Crisis & Security Management, Chichester: John Wiley Bos, C. K., Ullberg, S. and ‘t Hart, P. (2005) ‘The Long Shadow of Disaster: Memory and Politics in Holland and Sweden’, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 23(1), 5-26. Bourke, J. (2005) Fear: A Cultural History, London: Virago. Comfort, L. K. (1994) ‘Risk and Resilience: Interorganizational Learning Following the Northridge Earthquake of 17 January 1994’, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 2(3). Dixon, D. (2005) ‘Needs of an actual community post disaster - Hornsby Ku-ring-gai’, Australian Journal of Eemergency Management, 20 (3) 33-38.

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Evans, H. H. (1994) ‘The Federal Emergency Management Agency’, Civil Protection, No.30. Haining, P. (1976, reprinted 1991) The Great English Earthquake, St Edmundsbury Press. Heath, R. (1995) ‘The Kobe Earthquake: Some Realities of Strategic Management of Crises and Disasters’, Disaster Prevention and Management, 4(5). Hodgson, G. (1995) People’s Century, London: BBC Books. Home Office (1997) Dealing with Disaster, 3rd edition, London: HMSO. Langtry, J. O. and Wade-Marshall, D. (1986) A Vulnerable Country? Civil Resources in the Defence of Australia, Australian National University Press.

Meguro, K. (1996) ‘Kobe: One Year After the Earthquake’, Incede, 4(4), Tokyo: Tokyo University. Palm, R. (1996) ‘Earthquake Hazard Response in the United States and Japan’, Incede, 5(2), Tokyo: Tokyo University. Rosenthal, U. (1988) ‘Disaster Management in the Netherlands: Planning for Real Events’, in Comfort, L.K. (ed.) Managing Disaster: Strategies and Policy Perspectives, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. Tierney, K. J., Lindell, M. K. and Perry, R. W. (2001) Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response In the United States, Washington: Joseph Henry Press. Toft, B. and Reynolds, S. (1997) Learning from Disasters: A Management Approach, Leicester: Perpetuity Press. Winchester, S. (2005) A Crack In the Edge of the World: The Great American Earthquake of 1906, London: Viking. Wisner, B., Blaikie, P., Cannon, T. and Davis, I. (2004) At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters, London: Routledge.

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May, P., Rynn, J. and Hatchard, T. (1994) ‘Recent Natural Disasters in Australia’, Incede Newsletter, 3(3), Tokyo: Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo.

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READING ‘Learning from Kobe quake’ Bawtree, D. (1995) Civil Protection, No. 37 (winter), 10-11.

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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READING ‘Social Aftermath and Organizational Response to a Major Disaster: The Case of the 1995 Sakhalin Earthquake in Russia’ Boris Porfiriev (1996) Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management. Published by Blackwell Publishers Ltd. Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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READING ‘The great Labe-Elbe river flood of 2002’ Keys, C. (2005) Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 20(1), 53-54.

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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UNIT 7 The Lockerbie Disaster: Experience of a Victim’s Family


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7 Unit 7: The Lockerbie Disaster: Experience of a Victim’s Family 7.1 Aims and objectives of this Unit The aim of this Unit is to provide the reader with a subjective critique of the performance of the emergency services and all other parties involved in a major disaster. It is written not by an academic, but by the father of a young woman killed in the air disaster over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in December 1988. The testimony of the young woman’s father begins at ‘7.5.1 Author’s Note’, and ends at ‘7.7.7 Victim Support Unit/Relative Liaison’.

The testimony should be seen as the father’s subjective ‘construction’ of the disaster. Others touched by the disaster may have constructed it differently. The Unit aims to inform those who might play a part in disaster management, or those with only an academic interest, about: • how a major disaster is handled in the United Kingdom • how such events affect those ‘left behind’ • how relatives’ emotional needs may be accommodated within a disaster response The Unit’s premise is that an effective disaster response will accommodate not only the needs of those directly affected (the victims) but also the needs of those indirectly affected (victims’ relatives, friends, acquaintances and carers). The Unit argues that it is no longer acceptable that the effectiveness of a disaster response be judged only on such criteria as whether or not the perpetrators are caught, whether or not professional negligence is proved, or how quickly ‘normal service’ is restored. A comprehensive and holistic assessment requires that a disaster response also be judged on whether those indirectly affected are treated humanely, sensitively and with equanimity (see McLean and Johnes, 2000). In offering a subjective critique of the response to the Lockerbie air disaster, the Unit asks the student to evaluate current disaster response praxis in his/her own country in light of the various humanitarian criteria described below.

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The testimony has not been altered in any substantial way. The only input from the course staff has been the correction of a small number of grammatical errors.

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7.2 Introduction Thankfully, few of us will ever be touched, either directly or indirectly, by a major disaster. This is why what follows is of immense value to all those who wish to understand what it is like to be affected by disaster, either out of humane curiosity, or a wish to sensitise disaster response practices to the needs of victims’ relatives, friends, carers and acquaintances.

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Simply guessing at the emotions of others is not good enough. We can only learn the true nature of suffering by listening to those who have the moral courage and strength to relay their experiences and feelings to us. But even listening is not sufficient. Complete and true understanding requires firstly, that disbelief and suspicion be suspended, and secondly, that we immerse ourselves in the testifier’s world: To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it, and to re-assemble it as seen from his. For example, to understand a given choice another makes, one must face in imagination the lack of choices which may confront and deny him ... The world has to be dismantled and re-assembled in order to grasp, however clumsily, the experience of another ... (Berger and Mohr, 1975)

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7.3 The Lockerbie Disaster On 21 December 21 1988, a Pan-Am flight out of Heathrow Airport near London exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Over 250 people were killed. It was Britain’s worst-ever air disaster (Civil Protection: 3). During the early stages of the investigation, the Department of Transport announced that there was ‘Conclusive evidence of a detonating high explosive’. On a 747 ‘Jumbo Jet’, luggage is packed into metal bins and then rolled into the plane’s holds. The ‘high-performance plastic explosive’ had been packed into a suitcase in a bin loaded into the forward luggage hold. The forward hold is located just in front of the aircraft’s massive wing. On detonation at 31,000 feet, the 10 lb or so of explosive amputated the forward cabin and nose section from the aircraft. From the moment of detonation, the aircraft was doomed (Magnuson, 1989: 6). The explosive had been packed into a cassette recorder. The force of the detonation was likened to a ‘very large shotgun’ being fired at the skin of the aircraft at close range. The bomb created a ‘starburst’ hole in the fuselage. A ‘loud bang’ was heard on the cockpit voice-data recorder. (Identifying this noise was made difficult by the failure to fully erase previous recordings.) Shock waves started by the bomb helped ‘shake the aircraft to pieces’. About three seconds after the blast, the forward cabin and nose section separated from the aircraft. This guaranteed catastrophe. As the main fuselage disintegrated, passengers were thrown out into space. Their clothes were torn from their bodies by the airstream. The main fuselage entered a vertical dive at about 19,000 feet. The heavier parts of the aircraft hit the ground at speeds approaching 650 knots (Donovan, 1990). On impact, those pieces containing fuel exploded. Debris was scattered over a very wide area. In the town of Lockerbie itself, 188 firefighters attended the disaster scene. The police assumed overall control of the investigation. An incident control room was set up. At a briefing given on 22 December, ‘The need to preserve all evidence was underlined — in particular that bodies and aircraft debris should not be disturbed until recorded by the official accident investigation team. It was also reaffirmed that movement in and out of designated sectors was under police control’ (Civil Protection: 3).

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During the criminal investigation, teams of police officers, fire officers and accident investigators combed the surrounding countryside for ‘bodies, personal belongings, aircraft wreckage and debris’. In all, 850 square miles were searched by 2,500 people.The operation was not entirely problem-free; ‘Difficult terrain and a shortage of up-to-date maps complicated the efficiency of the operation. Out of date maps, for example, did not show recent forest plantations’ (The Guardian, 1990; Civil Protection: 4). While the fire brigade was short of hand-held radios, unrequested resources from neighbouring forces caused congestion at the disaster scene. Deploying 2,500 people in an organised manner over hundreds of square miles is a difficult task, even if sufficient numbers of radios are available. Out-dated maps, and people arriving from all directions would not have helped.

7.4 Terrorism — Nature and Prevalence

The Lockerbie disaster satisfies all four criteria (albeit in varying degrees). The bombing was premeditated. It generated fear amongst relatives, the travelling public, different national polities and their respective governments. It was intended to unnerve those not directly affected, and was executed against a symbolic target: Pan-Am was a prestigious American-owned air carrier. The 747 is an American-designed and manufactured aircraft with a formidable safety record (Freedland, 1996). Through acts of terrorism, individual, familial and/or community morale may be eroded — or even annihilated. Terrorism’s efficacy as a tool of war lies in its capacity to traumatise at the personal level, and destabilise at the societal level (see the Reading at the end of this Unit). The 1970s and early 1980s saw an increase in the number of attacks against aviation targets. While US carriers were seldom targeted in the 1970s, the situation changed in the 1980s: ‘Nineteen eighty-five was a pivotal year for Federal Aviation Authority security: the drawn-out hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the attacks on the Rome and Vienna airports and the bombing of TWA Flight 840 on departure from Athens ... [highlighted] the common threat of state-sponsored terrorism’. Such events prompted the FAA to initiate ‘“[E]xtraordinary” security measures at certain locations throughout the world’ (Steele, 1991: 43). Despite these ‘extraordinary security measures’, however, the Pan-American 747 was brought down by a bomb planted in a suitcase. The high performance explosive went completely undetected at one of the world’s largest airports. Following the atrocity, Time Magazine conjectured, ‘The trail of blame [leads] straight into the office of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’ (Church, 1991).

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For an act of violence to be ‘terroristic’, it must be (a) premeditated, (b) intended to generate extreme fear, (c) ‘directed at a wider audience than the immediate victims’ and (d) ‘focused on random and/or symbolic targets’ (Wilkinson, 1996).

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Although of little comfort to the relatives, friends and acquaintances of those murdered at Lockerbie, terrorism was less prevalent in the late 1980s than in the 1970s. According to one ex-CIA employee writing in April 1997, ‘A careful analysis of data gathered by the CIA and the FBI [shows that] ..., public fears and government comments not withstanding, terrorism is not on the rise ... Terrorist incidents, both domestic and international, have fallen to levels not seen since the 1970s’ (Johnson, 1997: 26).

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Also of little comfort to relatives is the knowledge that it is possible to strengthen aircraft to withstand moderate explosions — but at a cost: Theoretically, it is possible to construct a plane which would still be able to land after a bomb blast. But because it would be much heavier, that plane would carry fewer passengers, require more fuel and so demand much higher air fares (The Guardian, 1990).

7.5 Lockerbie — A Subjective View of the Disaster Response The subjective account of the disaster and its aftermath as it affected the family of one of the victims commences here. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of SCSPO.

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7.5.1 Author’s Note This material is, in the main, a record of my own family’s experiences. In situations where we were not involved I have called upon the experiences of others. The more formal parts of the material have been supplied by Pam Dix of Disaster Action, whose brother died at Lockerbie, and to whom I am also indebted for advice and editing skills. Disaster Action was formed in October 1991 by the coming together of relatives of those killed in disasters such as the Zebrugge car ferry capsize, the Piper Alpha oil rig fire, the Lockerbie bombing, the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, the Marchioness Thames pleasure boat sinking, the King’s Cross Tube station fire, and other catastrophes. Disaster Action’s aims are: • to help provide support for survivors and bereaved relatives and friends affected by disasters; • to seek to prevent further disasters by raising awareness and by seeking to bring about changes in the law.

7.5.2 Background to the Lockerbie Air Disaster At three minutes past seven on 21 December 1988, a Pan-Am Boeing 747 travelling from London’s Heathrow airport to Detroit, via New York, was ripped apart six miles up above the Scottish border town of Lockerbie. The 259 passengers were hurled out into the freezing darkness, while the wreckage of the plane came down on the town and surrounding countryside, killing a further eleven people. The passengers and crew comprised people from 21 countries, with an average age of 27. Lockerbie remains the largest disaster in the UK since the Second World War. The centre section of the fuselage, with approximately 30 tons of aviation fuel, landed on a part of the town adjacent to the main Carlisle to Glasgow road, the A74, causing an explosion which ‘vaporised’ several stone houses and their occupants. The rear section came down on a housing estate but, fortunately, landed across a row of gardens and caused no fatalities. Ambulances arrived from all over the area, but there were no survivors from the plane and few casualties.

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A search was initiated over an area of 845 square miles, using the armed forces, police and mountain rescue volunteers. Debris was found as far away as Newcastle and the beaches of Northumberland 70 miles away. Six hundred and fifty-eight bags of body parts were recovered, and 17 bodies were not identified.

7.5.3 The Experiences of the Victim’s Family On 21 December 1988, I drove my 19-year-old daughter from our home in Oldbury near Birmingham down to London’s Heathrow airport and kissed her good-bye. She was enjoying a year out before taking up her musical studies at Lancaster University. She was a young woman with everything before her. She sang with the Birmingham Bach Choir and with the National Youth Choir, and had been the worship leader in our church. She had sung a number of times on BBC radio and just loved music.

Christmas concert of the New Jersey Choral Arts Society. Little did I know, as I hugged her and told her that I loved her, that the bomb which would hurl her into eternity and rob us of the joy that she brought into our lives, was already ticking away in the baggage hold of the aircraft. I drove back to the Midlands and had tea with my wife and 15-year-old son. I was busy putting my books on the new shelves I had built when the phone rang. It was an elderly widow from the church where I was the minister. She had a soft spot for our two children. ‘Did your daughter get away safely?’ she asked. ‘Yes thanks,’ I replied. ‘Oh, good, because there’s been a terrible plane crash up in Scotland.’ It was five minutes to nine. I switched on the television just in time to catch a news flash. I called my wife and my son and we stood in front of the set. They told how PanAm flight 103 had come down in Scotland. ‘That’s our daughter’s flight!’ gasped my wife. The announcer continued, but we hardly heard him. My son was sitting on the sofa and shouting ‘No! No! No! No!’ My wife was sitting on the sofa’s arm, crying our daughter’s name. I stood in silence: I had no words to say. You don’t think about it at the time; you don’t analyse your reactions. It is only as you look back that you understand. ‘What do I do? Where do I go?’ I’m a slightly gone-to-seed mountaineer. I wanted to get my boots on, pack my rucksack and drive up to Scotland to look for my daughter. What would you have wanted to do? What would you have felt? The three of us gathered together with our arms round each other, and lifted our hearts to the God that we loved and served. We asked him to help us. A list of phone numbers came up on the screen. We jotted them down and I began trying them. All lines were busy. I persevered for about an hour without success. In the end, I phoned the local police station, told them that our daughter was on the Lockerbie plane and that I couldn’t get through. Within two minutes, they connected me.

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My daughter had spent the previous four months working as a nanny in America, and had returned home for one week to collect her school music prize and meet up with all of her old friends. She was eager to get back to the USA to enjoy her first American Christmas and to sing in the

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I phoned the Pan-Am desk at Heathrow, just to check that she did get on the plane; still, deep down, hoping for a miracle. All this time we were in a trance-like state. The only thing that seemed real was the pain and the sick feeling inside. All sorts of thoughts went through my head. I had served my apprenticeship in the aircraft industry and knew that the Boeing 747 was one of the

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safest aircraft flying. I knew that it could, more or less, glide if it lost all of its engines. Where would I try to land if I were the pilot? It seems crazy now, but I even imagined that he might have managed to land on the M6 motorway. I got the map of southern Scotland out. ‘Perhaps he managed to bring it safely down in shallow water in the Solway Firth just south of Lockerbie. Yes, that’s what I would have tried to do.’ These are things that happen to other people. ‘This can’t be happening to us.’ You know that there is no hope, but you just don’t want to believe it.

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Traditionally, throughout the world, grieving, mourning and coping with disaster has been associated with the community. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, The Philippines and other rural parts of Asia where I have been, it is still the community which carries the grieving family through. In my opinion, our Western, twentieth-century over-emphasis on the importance of the individual and the accompanying breakdown of society at a local and personal level — along with the de-spiritualising of life — has had a profound effect on people’s ability to cope with grief and disaster. In this we were, perhaps, untypical. We were deeply involved in an active and caring church community. Within ten minutes of the news flash, friends and church members were phoning and knocking at our door as the word got round. It caused the tears to flow, but it was a tremendous help. Some just came, prayed with us and went; some came and sat silently weeping for a few minutes and left without saying a word. Others stayed longer and tried to comfort us; yet others came and fell apart, and we had to comfort them. One young couple came and for four days, non-stop, made endless pots of tea and answered the door to the constant stream of visitors. Within two hours of the news flash, we had between 20 and 30 people in our house. I dealt with the phone. Soon calls and faxes started to come in from more distant friends and colleagues, from Asia and America. Now, all of this might not have helped everyone. Some people might just want to run and hide. For us, these were the people that we loved and who were close to us, sharing our beliefs and interests. We have never been offered counselling of any sort, but I am convinced that the best help comes from those with whom we associate and who share our interests. It might be the family, the church, the mosque or the fishing club, but we are linked in with them in some way and we draw strength from them. Somehow we got through Christmas. I took all of my Christmas services. I preached, with tears in my eyes, about ‘The empty chair in heaven’. We found strength from somewhere. Perhaps the hardest was Christmas afternoon, when the three of us sat around the Christmas tree and opened our presents. ‘To dad with love...’ ‘To mum with love...’ ‘To Marcus with love...’ Our presents to her had been in her baggage and were now scattered somewhere across the Scottish countryside. [None of them were recovered.] We became addicted to watching the news. (After over eight years, I am still a compulsive news watcher. Subconsciously, I think that I am still hoping for some extra piece of information. That is always the number-one need: INFORMATION.) We were greedy for information, no matter whether it was good or bad. We had decided that it would serve no useful purpose to go up to Lockerbie. ‘Better let the professionals get on with it.’ We had our family and friends around us, but we were desperate for news. The first people to contact us officially were Kenyon Emergency Service Undertakers. It was the next day, the 22nd, when they rang. We didn’t know who they were — we thought that they

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were the police. It took about twenty minutes to give a full description of our daughter: what she weighed, the colour of her hair, what she was wearing. It was a gruelling business, especially for my wife. Also on the 22nd we had a phone call from one of Pan-Am’s London executives. Each of them had been given two or three families to contact, to be their link with the airline. These people had no training whatsoever for dealing with the bereaved. You don’t need to be trained in grief counselling if you are a marketing executive. But our man was great. He didn’t impose himself on us; he just made himself available on the phone, day and night. He didn’t try to comfort us. He would call me a couple of times a day if I didn’t call him. ‘How are you doing?’ Somehow, he always seemed to say the right thing. He was our link with this awful thing that had happened to our daughter, and he kept us as informed as he could. We became very good friends.

By now, calls were coming in constantly and I spent much of the time answering the phone. I went into ‘automatic’ mode and logged them: 426 calls in about four weeks. I just thought that we might want to say ‘Thank you’ to all of these people one day. There were calls, telegrams and faxes from all over the world. The chairman of one of the missions and third world relief boards that I sit on had faxed to colleagues right across the globe. At breakfast each morning, we would open the mail. There were 20 or 30 letters and cards each day. Some of the people who came and some of the letters we received spoke as though our daughter had never existed. They were embarrassed and didn’t know what to say, so they steered clear of mentioning her. These hurt us the most. The ones that helped us most were those which talked about her and things she had said or done. It’s true that these were also the ones which made us cry most, but they were welcome, healing tears. There were four things that we kept on asking ourselves. It seems that these questions are normal for people in our situation: • Did she suffer pain and was she afraid? • Was she conscious as she fell the six miles, through the freezing, stormy darkness? • Where is she now? • Will we see her again?

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A day or two later, we received a phone call from the Scottish police. They wanted a description of our daughter. I told them that we had given one the day before, but they said that that was for Kenyons. This was for their file. So we went through the whole business again. It was most distressing. They also asked us to get her dentist to send them her dental records, in case they needed them for identification. Day after day, we watched every news programme there was. We wondered whether they had found our daughter’s body. Still there was nothing from Scotland.

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The answers to the last two of these questions were answered by our religious faith, but the first two troubled us and are with us to this day. Whether she felt pain or became unconscious immediately is still open to question. Did she cry out for her mum or her dad? We’ll never know in this life, but for those first few, short seconds our little girl must have been terrified. Day after day passed without any news from Lockerbie. On 3 January, the West Midlands police visited us. They wanted a description of our daughter. ‘But we’ve done it twice already!’ we said. They told us that they needed it for their own records. So we did it all again.

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Some of the relatives did go to Lockerbie, very soon after the disaster. One family, who had insisted on visiting the place where their loved one had died, were flown up by Pan-Am on Christmas Day, along with many American relatives. On arriving at the incident centre in the town, they were joined by a social worker, who ‘championed’ their needs for the rest of the day. He went with them in a mini bus to where the shattered nose section of the plane lay in a field opposite a tiny church. The bereaved were told by the police that they could not get out of the bus, and were only able to do so because of the efforts of the social worker; for his pains, he was jostled by a police officer, who told him to ‘get those people out of here’. ‘Those people’ were the relatives of the dead. A few moments of silent contemplation of the terrible scene were constantly interrupted by police officers, who seemed to have no understanding of why the bereaved — none of whose family members had yet been identified — were there. No attempt was made to explain to them why the police objected to their presence. On 4 January we drove, with our son, up to Lockerbie for the first time. We had been invited to attend the official memorial service in the parish church. Our contact friend from Pan-Am was there. We were still without information regarding our daughter. Had they found her body? If so, had she been so mutilated that they couldn’t identify her? After the service, we were taken by bus to a large hall for what was called a ‘reception’. We stood around in our little family threesome, just as most other families did, until someone led us to a table with refreshments. We sat with some of the local people. There was one fourteen-year-old boy who had gone up the road to a friend’s garage to mend a puncture on his little sister’s bike. He heard a terrific noise and then an explosion; when he looked at his home, it had gone, along with his parents and his sister. Our own son, then aged fifteen, went over to him and spent some time with him. Mrs Thatcher and the American Ambassador were circulating and talking to some of the people but they didn’t get anywhere near to us. It seemed that they were surrounded by local dignitaries and officials most of the time. The local helpers were great and went out of their way to make us feel as if we mattered. We decided, as we were in Lockerbie, that we would visit the police station to check personally whether they had any information on our daughter. We were very kindly received and told that we were in the wrong place. They directed us to the ‘incident centre’ in the school at the far end of the town. (we felt that the brutal killing of our lovely daughter was something rather more than a mere ‘incident’ — it has certainly been more than incidental in our lives.) No one had told us that there was such a place — we just had to stumble through and find out these things for ourselves. We arrived there and waited. Eventually, a young policewoman came over and asked if she could help us. We told her that we wanted to know if they had any information about our daughter, and gave our name. They checked their file and it was empty. Nothing! They had got our daughter’s name from the passenger list and that was all. We told them that we had given three descriptions. Surely they must have something! They checked again. Nothing! The police woman returned with a male colleague. They were very embarrassed and explained that they had a huge backlog of information which they were trying to put into the computer system. They were using the computer facility known as HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Emergency System). I commented that I would have thought that an old-fashioned card index system might have been more useful at this stage, and that the computer would come into its own sometime later.


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The policewoman replied ‘You’re dead right’. So we went through yet another gruelling half hour of describing our daughter to them. This was the fourth time. I must say that both of them were extremely considerate and helpful. We then left and visited the large crater in Sherwood Crescent, where the centre section and inner wings containing thousands of gallons of aviation fuel had come down and demolished several stone-built houses, killing eleven people. As we had heard nothing from the Scottish police regarding our daughter, we assumed that she had been cremated in the inferno in which even large stone blocks had disappeared. We stood in the drizzle looking down into the crater for several minutes, and then walked back to our car and drove down to our home near Birmingham.

It was the next day that we received a phone call from the Lockerbie police telling us that after we had given them the description on the day of the memorial service they had been able to identify our daughter. Her body had been found on 22 December and had been brought in on the 24th. The local police would not tell us why her broken, naked body had been left out on the hillside for 48 hours with the stoats, foxes and crows. We subsequently discovered that priority was given to recovering baggage. Clearly they were looking very diligently for something. A few days later, two policemen came all the way down from Lockerbie to bring the few things that were found near her body. They were so kind and helpful, as they explained that most of the bodies had had their clothes torn from them by the slipstream and the 100 miles per hour wind as they hurtled down through the darkness. The only things that they were certain were my daughter’s was a bangle she had been wearing and her wristwatch, the strap of which had snapped on impact with the ground. The cheap plastic watch was still going. It lay on my desk for three more years before it eventually stopped. Later, at the Property Store in Lockerbie, I was amazed to see bottles of whisky, cameras, a carriage clock and many other delicate and breakable things which had been found intact and in good order after falling six miles. It made us ponder the fragility of human life and how easily it is snuffed out.

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The next day, 5 January, the West Midlands CID turned up at our home. They wanted to know whether our daughter had any Middle Eastern connections or friends. Had there been any such connections in either of our families? They took fingerprints from her bedroom. We understand now why they had to do this, but at the time no explanation was given. We didn’t realise that they needed to eliminate her from the list of suspects. The final indignity came when they asked us for a description of our daughter! I tried to be calm and rational, and explained that we had already given four descriptions, the last one being to the West Midlands Police only two days before. ‘Oh, that’s the uniformed branch; we’re CID’, they replied, slightly irritated. ‘But don’t you work for the same firm?’ was my final comment as I refused to put my wife through it all a fifth time. I suppose that they were doing their job but they were insensitive and clumsy.

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At the end of June, we went back to Lockerbie and drove the four winding miles up to the farm at Tundergarth where our daughter’s body had been found. The farmer and his wife had been through an awful ordeal. When the nose section of the plane came down just across the lane from their house they, with their daughter, ran across to investigate. They found themselves tripping over bodies and parts of bodies and, when they got there they found the mangled bodies of the flight deck crew and the first-class passengers. To complicate their nightmare, they have been at the centre of attention of an intrusive and often thoughtless press. How these quiet and unassuming

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hill-farming people have coped with that over the years is amazing. They have become close friends to so many of the bereaved families who have found a haven in their home and a feeling of closeness to their lost loved ones in the surrounding fields.

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The farmer’s wife walked with us across the hillside and showed us the place where our daughter had lain all through that longest night of the year, through the next day and, again, through the year’s second longest night. The ground was hard with the rock not many inches beneath the surface. I crawled on hands and knees, searching for an indentation made when her young body had thudded into the ground; a crushed clump of grass, a blood-stained stone, anything — a sign that she had been there. I wanted to dig up a piece of turf and take it home, but restrained myself. When one father was taken to the place by the river where his son had fallen, he just lay down and stretched himself out in the clear, body-shaped indentation which their son had made in the soft earth. Others planted flowers on these terrible marks in the ground. To know exactly where they had fallen was so important to all of us. This feeling of wanting to get as close to the awful experience that those whom we loved so much had gone through seems to be a common one, a feature of the many disasters and individual traumas that beset humankind. It is very sad, and it caused a great deal of distress and anger to some of the Lockerbie relatives, that the decision-makers — the Procurator Fiscal, the pathologists, the police — decided that none of the relatives would be allowed to view the bodies; not even for identification purposes. When questioned about their reason for this decision, they said that it was in the interest of the families not to see the mutilated corpses of their relatives. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of coping with grief will know that this is absolutely contrary to best practices in grief counselling. For many, this lack of contact has remained a source of anguish through the years. I heard that there were pictures of the bodies taken by the police at the site where they were found, and also at the mortuary. I thought that, even though I didn’t want to see them then, there might come a time when I would, so I made an appointment to see the most senior officers at the incident centre. I was made to feel like a naughty schoolboy sent to sit outside the door. I was told to ‘Sit here laddie’ (I was a 50-year-old minister and a director of a number of organisations) and told that there was no way that I was going to see those photographs. It was probably the worst experience I had with the authorities in those early days. I came away in tears because of the way that I’d been dealt with. No explanations, no reasons. We have nothing but admiration for the other police officers we had to deal with. They were doing a difficult job to the best of their ability, with sensitivity and courtesy. Other families were required to write letters of explanation to the Lord Advocate as to why they wanted to see the pictures of their dead, which was finally allowed at the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) in 1990. Yet numerous strangers were given access to what we so badly wanted. A Swiss company was given permission to film the bodies (supposedly for medical research purposes), film which is available today on the open market. The emergency and caring services and the many volunteers, who gave up their time to help in the aftermath of the disaster, were doing their best in appalling circumstances for which there was no prior plan in place to guide them. Most of those who were working on the ground, meeting and dealing directly with the bereaved were fantastic, and the relatives — including myself — owe them a profound debt of gratitude. Difficulties arose where people felt a conflict in their loyalty to their company or organisation and their obligations to the relatives.

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The failures of communication, responsibility for which must lie at senior levels in all of the relevant organisations, meant that bereaved relatives felt excluded and misunderstood; our needs judged, rather than simply responded to, by people who felt that they knew better than we did what we needed. Although we picked up that the police were ‘in charge’ we were quite at a loss in really understanding what was going on, or who was responsible for what. Losing a close relative or friend in any circumstances leaves its scars. When you add the factors of a mid-air explosion, murder by terrorists, the high political and media profile and the public nature of ‘Lockerbie’ the trauma is multiplied many times. Even with our strong Christian faith [and many have no religious faith at all] we have been diagnosed as suffering from depression caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is shown, eight years on, in an unwillingness to face hassle or to make even small decisions. Like some others, I have had to leave my job because of these factors.

7.5.4 The Aftermath of Lockerbie 7.5.4.1 UK Families Flight 103 Almost immediately after the disaster, a family support group began to evolve. Its first meeting was in March 1989. A similar group was set up in the USA, but it has functioned in a totally different way, and eventually became several separate groups. Our aims are: to offer mutual support; to campaign for an independent inquiry; and to learn the full truth of what happened. Some people have benefited enormously from attendance at the quarterly gatherings; others found it unhelpful and distressing, but have remained committed to our aims and support the group from a distance. UK Families Flight 103 has performed an extremely important, multifaceted, role. It has provided a forum where information, ideas and experiences can be shared, strategies developed and feelings expressed without the fear of being misunderstood. The structure of the group has been extremely loose; individual members developing their own particular interests and expertise and contributing to the overall strength of the group. One has kept us up to date with legal developments, another has specialised in airport and airline security, yet another has represented our ideas at the United Nations and others have provided administrative backup. Among a group so disparate in background, education and religious conviction, it has been delightfully surprising that some strong and lasting friendships have developed. Common grief, like common causes, helps us to see beyond the exterior trappings to the real person within. I am a fairly radical fundamentalist Christian, yet I now count atheists and humanists among my closest and most treasured friends.

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We have found that this is not a sickness from which, in time, we will recover. Rather, it is an amputation with which we will have to learn to live. For the rest of our lives we will walk with a limp. Only time will tell whether we are better or worse people because of it.

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7.5.4.2 The Fight for an Independent Inquiry An independent public inquiry, commonly held following a disaster in the UK, has been sought by the relatives since early in 1989. To this day we have been denied this. The often dishonest and evasive treatment received by relatives at the hands of our senior politicians has added the dimension of disillusionment to the injuries inflicted on the families. The battle continues, however, in this country, at the European Parliament and at the United Nations.

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7.5.4.3 The Criminal Investigation UK Families Flight 103 has remained resolutely apolitical in our attempt to engage the support of the political parties in the UK both for an independent inquiry and for a trial of the two accused Libyans in a neutral venue. The Conservative government line, prior to the Labour election win in May 1997, was that such a move would cast a slur on Scottish justice and might prejudice any subsequent trial. The Air Accident Investigation Branch and forensic experts were brought in to investigate the disaster. By 28 December, it became clear that the crash had been caused by a terrorist bomb. The Scottish police, aided by the FBI, launched an international investigation, involving 15,000 statements in 70 countries — the largest murder inquiry ever in the UK.

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Within a very short time we heard that the bombing was believed to have been carried out by the Syrian-based PFLPGC (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command), under the leadership of the terrorist Ahmed Jibril. Incontrovertible proof, apparently, indicated that the bombing had been financed by the Iranian government, as a reprisal for the downing of the Iranian Airbus over the Gulf in the summer of 1988 by the US warship Vincennes, with the death of all 290 passengers. On 11 November 1991, just prior to the Gulf War, this view was radically changed: the entire blame was put upon Libya, and two of its citizens were indicted. The conduct of the criminal investigation has been a source of tremendous frustration for the relatives. Following the indictments of the two Libyans, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Libya in order to bring about the men’s surrender. Five years later [i.e. up to 1996] there is still no prospect of a trial. The UK and US governments ‘refuse to negotiate with terrorists’ — something which is, however, done when governments consider that it is politically expedient to do so. In the meantime, Lockerbie has become sub judice: because nothing must be allowed to prejudice a trial, no questions can be answered. 7.5.4.4 Air Accident Investigation Branch Whilst thinking about our need to identify with our daughter’s awful and ultimate experience, mention must be made of the amazing work done by the British Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB). Thousands of pieces of the aircraft were collected from a very wide area, and eventually taken down to their centre at Farnborough in Hampshire. They rebuilt the whole of the front section of the plane, including the part where the initial explosion took place. These scientists have been among the most supportive and understanding of all those we have had to deal with. Whenever we have been with them, we have felt among friends. Perhaps that is because they have to deal with disasters and those affected by them all of the time. The bereaved families were invited to visit Farnborough to see the rebuilt plane. I went four times over the first five years and it was a terrific help to me. Others have not felt able to go. The reconstruction of the front of the plane finishes exactly at row 22, where our daughter was seated. I climbed up and stood on the floor where her feet had been. On my first visit, I asked if I could have a piece of the plane to take home. ‘Well, it’s police evidence in a murder case,’ I was told, but on my third visit one and a half years later, my request was granted; I removed a very small piece of the insulation stuffing from inside the wall where my daughter had been sitting. It may seem irrational, but at that moment it meant a great deal to me. Here was someone who seemed

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to understand my sentimental desire and was prepared to open a door for me. The combination of honesty, compassion and understanding shown by the AAIB has been almost unique in our dealings with those in authority. 7.5.4.5 Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) On 1 October 1990, a Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry — which lasted four months — began in the town of Dumfries. The purpose of such an inquiry is to establish the cause of death and whether the deaths might have been prevented. Its limited remit does not permit it to apportion blame. The findings of the FAI were as follows: • that the aircraft was destroyed by an improvised explosive device, concealed in a Toshiba radio cassette player, loaded into the hold of the aircraft in an unaccompanied Samsonite suitcase;

• that the case was transferred to Pan-Am 103 at London Heathrow without being subjected either to X-ray or passenger-baggage reconciliation; • that, in view of the known dangers of such an arrangement being used by terrorists and the recognised limitations of current X-ray equipment, the Department of Transport afforded insufficient protection to the passengers and crew of Pan-Am Flight 103. 7.5.4.6 US Presidential Commission In November 1989, in the United States, President Bush set up a Presidential Commission to examine the circumstances surrounding Lockerbie. It concluded in its report, published on 15 May 1990, that the disaster was preventable, and that Pan-Am had failed to implement the security measures required by the US and UK governments. During this time, the families support group in this country was pressing for a fully independent inquiry which could look into such questions as: • Why were the numerous, very explicit, warnings leading up to the bombing apparently ignored? • Why were 60 of the passengers left out on the hillsides for two days and nights while baggage and debris were being collected? • Why were some people warned not to travel on that flight, while 259 passengers and crew were allowed to board, totally innocent of the fact that a bomb was ticking away in the baggage hold and that they would not see their families again?

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• that the case entered the Pan-Am system at Frankfurt airport, where it was not subjected to a passenger-baggage reconciliation system and where, if it was X-rayed at all, the inability of equipment in use at that time to detect Semtex explosive was well known;

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7.5.4.7 The Media As innocents in these matters we were suddenly confronted by this creature the media. Politicians and the law had failed us. We were naive and trusting at first and found that the ways of the media only served to inflame our still raw wounds. However, in time, some of them became our friends

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and allies. Good investigative journalism has proved to be our best hope of unearthing the truth as to why our people were allowed to be slaughtered. Indeed, most of the substantiated facts surrounding Lockerbie have been laboriously dug out by our friends in the media. All those who have investigated Lockerbie and arrived at different conclusions from those in authority have been systematically attacked and discredited by those very authorities. Seven books have been written about Lockerbie, and a number of documentaries have been made about the disaster, including the highly controversial The Maltese Double Cross, made by American Allan Francovich. 7.5.4.8 Civil Proceedings Against Pan-Am and Compensation

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In 1989, proceedings against Pan-Am were initiated in the American courts. It was essential to establish and understand the legal position of a British subject travelling on an American aircraft, crashing in Scotland as a result of the criminal action of an unknown third party. An added complication was the difficulty in establishing whether the law of Scotland, the US or England would be applied in the bereaved families’ quest for compensation in the Wrongful Death action brought against Pan-Am. The families were held in suspense regarding the solution to this question for almost eight years. Indeed, it was the last real decision that was made. Our lawyers had to prove Wilful Misconduct on the part of the airline in order to gain a figure of compensation beyond the $75,000 limitation of the carrier’s liability, set out in the Warsaw Convention of 1966. This was eventually achieved and, after numerous appeals by Pan-Am to have it reduced, the verdict was finally upheld and compensation paid to the victims’ families in 1996, eight years after the disaster. The area of legal representation and the explaining of the legal process has not been handled well. Following most disasters, this is going to be a dominant factor in the lives of the bereaved and survivors, and yet no one even mentioned to us the need to obtain the services of a solicitor. It was a couple of weeks after the disaster that I had a phone call from a cousin who was working at that time as an air crash investigator in the south of England. ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ he asked. ‘Why?’ was my reply. He went on to explain that there would be an inquiry and compensation. ‘The airline are probably liable.’ This came as a total shock to us. We had been so busy coping with our grief that the idea of compensation had never crossed our minds. Someone should have told us to contact a solicitor. Our family has been very fortunate in having the services of a large and very efficient firm of solicitors who have given us sensitive and personal service, but they have been, to some extent, on unfamiliar ground. The case against Pan-Am has been carried on in the United States of America with American legal processes. It took eight years to arrive at a settlement. Eight years of verdict, appeal, another appeal and yet another appeal. At each point we thought, in our naiveté, that this was going to be the end of the matter, but it went on and on. Owing to the number of hands through which it had to pass, important information from our American lawyers was often several weeks old when some families received it. On one occasion we were obliged to make an irrevocable decision on an offer from the airline’s insurers only one day after receiving the information. Being put under such pressure only served to intensify the trauma. It is clear that there is much room for improvement in this area.

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The solicitors representing the British families formed the Lockerbie Air Disaster Group, and appointed a secretary to interface between our American lawyers and our individual families’ solicitors. Failures in communication meant that we were taken by surprise by the many convolutions of the American legal system. Our US lawyers, the leaders in the field of air disaster litigation, would have known the possible best and worst scenarios to expect. This should have been clearly laid out for us. There is one more serious legal problem to be considered. Soon after the disaster, we were approached by a number of American law firms with their lengthy brochures setting out how they would conduct the campaign against the airline, and giving a number of reasons why we should engage their services. They set out their fee basis very clearly. They were all similar in their demands; the firm which we chose asking for 30 percent of everything we received above $US 100,000. To this we agreed, thinking that we had no option.

Dealing with these legal ramifications has presented the families with unprecedented pressures and anxieties. We were hurled into a world whose rules of conduct and procedural principles were beyond anything we had ever dreamed. For most of us the legal battle served only to add to our grief. 7.5.4.9 Political Influence on Lockerbie From the very beginning, I have written articles about Lockerbie for newspapers and magazines. It helped me to pour out my feelings on to paper. Later, as we began to understand the huge, domestic and international political machine which stood in our path to truth and justice, the articles became letters — to politicians, to prime ministers and Presidents, to the United Nations and the European Parliament. All the time looking for a lever to prize open the bureaucratically-locked box where we would discover the answers to the inconsistencies which remain unexplained. We have been assured by successive Lord Advocates, Secretaries of State for Transport and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, that the shifts in political allegiances throughout the world — particularly the Middle East — are irrelevant to Lockerbie. This is something the relatives have found impossible to accept. Some have tried to put it all behind them and get on with their lives, others have found some sort of healing in this quest for the truth.

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Just a month after we had settled and paid our 30 percent, we discovered that the relatives of those killed in the TWA 800 crash off Long Island, New York in 1996, had refused to pay 30 percent and bargained with the same US law firms, agreeing a figure of 10 percent. It is clear that we were not well served by the legal system somewhere along the line. Someone should have protected our interests and advised us that this figure was negotiable. To be taken for a ride in this manner only serves to rub salt into still hurting wounds.

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7.5.4.10 Disaster Trust Fund A trust fund was set up very quickly after Lockerbie, in order to administer the money which came pouring in from all over the country. For the community in Lockerbie, and the dead passengers’ families, the trust fund proved to be very divisive. There was a disparity between what people thought the money had been given for and how it was actually distributed. There were also questions about how the board of trustees was appointed (largely local dignitaries and local authority members), and the apparent lack of accountability (except in auditing terms).

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7.6 Summary of Issues Important to the Bereaved • Being kept informed • Being given answers to questions • Being treated honestly and sensitively • Being helped to understand the choices and decisions to be made, such as visiting the disaster site • Being given information on legal rights • Being given practical assistance • Being helped to understand the legal procedures and options available

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• Being given access to members of the caring services, and information on how to get professional help if they want it

7.7 Suggested Modifications to Emergency Service and Government Response to Disaster While every disaster is unique, the basic human rights and needs of those directly affected are broadly similar. Each disaster presents the emergency services with a different set of problems to overcome, and from each lessons have been — and should continue to be — learnt. However, there is often a gap between the official police, local council and emergency service reports about a disaster and the actual experience of the bereaved. Given that some of the lessons of the past have been put into practice, there remain a number of areas where we believe that changes and improvements could be made to existing procedures, and most important of all, to the attitude of those whose responsibility it is to deal with disaster.

7.7.1 Contingency Plans and Policy Decisions Disaster plans should not be seen as written in stone — they need to be flexible enough to take different and evolving circumstances into account. Those managing an air disaster at an airport, for example, may feel content that they have a room set aside for relatives to wait in for news. But what do they do when the relatives refuse to wait there as expected? All policy decisions should be taken on the understanding that each one will have consequences for the relatives and survivors. Rather than seeing the needs of relatives and survivors as a separate issue from the other processes involved in managing a disaster, those needs should be integrated into the whole picture. After all, it is, primarily, our disaster. The policy decisions taken at Lockerbie concerning access to the disaster site and identification of the dead, for example, were inflexible to the point of being deeply distressing to the relatives. There now appears to be a greater understanding that the bereaved will wish to go to the site of a tragedy, and that that wish should be accommodated.

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7.7.2 Coroner’s Duties The coroner — or his officer, who is normally a police officer — should make clear to the relatives what his job is in relation to the disaster. This should include explaining that the dead are in his care until they are identified and released to the families; how the dead will be identified; and that reasonable access to the dead is possible within the law. Prior to their experience of disaster, most people have had little or no contact either with the police or coroners and, unless they are informed, their frustrations will be added to.

7.7.3 Disaster Trust Funds

7.7.4 Informed Choice Disasters have tended to be ‘managed’ in such a way that many relatives have felt excluded from the process. This very often happens because of the good intentions of the police and others, who are trying to ‘protect’ those left behind, which has the opposite effect. It is essential that the authorities seek to work with, rather than apart from, the relatives and survivors. In terms of the attitude of the authorities, there has to be a shift from a culture of ‘No, you can’t do that (because I don’t think it is good for you)’ to one in which the answer is ‘Yes, but there may be some difficulties in doing what you want’. Relatives need to be given an informed choice on matters such as seeing the dead. Relatives and survivors should be facilitated in their needs, and not judged by those who should be there to see that these needs can be met — if at all possible.

7.7.5 Inquiries At present there is an ad hoc system whereby ministers of state and the Cabinet in the UK government can decide whether or not to hold an independent inquiry into a disaster. Work needs to be done urgently to establish whether such an inquiry could encompass the current remit of an inquest, so that duplication would no longer happen, and responsibility be duly apportioned. At present, there is no legal forum where bereaved families can be sure of receiving answers to their questions.

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Research needs to be done to assess the performance of trust funds in disasters from the Aberfan coal tip disaster in 1966 to the shootings at Dunblane Primary School in 1996. At present, only very limited guidelines, issued by the Attorney General, exist to assist those who set up such funds. Guidelines, or perhaps regulations, should exist to cover: the way in which trustees are appointed and who they should be; the way in which funds are distributed; and accountability for how the money is spent.

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Whatever the process of the investigation — the inquest, any criminal inquiries, independent inquiries or accident reports — the relatives and survivors should be kept informed. The fact that legal aid is not available for inquests (although there has been the rare exception, such as the inquest into the Marchioness pleasure boat disaster) puts the bereaved in a highly disadvantaged position. Any company involved, together with the police, local authority, insurers or other parties, will normally have legal representation.

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7.7.6 Photographs of the Dead Relatives should be made aware that photographs are taken of the dead. In the appropriate circumstances (that is, with relatives having support from a social worker or medically qualified person), relatives should be given access to see the photographs if they wish to.

7.7.7 Victim Support Unit/Relative Liaison Where physically possible, a relative liaison unit should be set up, whereby each family affected by a disaster is given a dedicated officer, or team of officers, through whom all information about the identification of the dead and what is happening should be channelled. This is already a Home Office guideline, but is not always put into practice. Not only will it help the relatives in their desire for information, but such a unit will make life a great deal easier for the professionals involved. A dedicated social worker should also be made available to each family.

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7.8 Guide to Reading You should now read ‘The Aftermath of Disaster’ by Jane Swire. Jane and Jim Swire lost their daughter in the Lockerbie bombing. Both have campaigned for improved security at airports. In 1990, Dr Jim Swire smuggled a dummy bomb aboard a British Airways plane at Heathrow. He and the bomb, contained in a cassette recorder, flew to New York. At the time, only Gatwick airport had a machine capable of detecting plastic explosive (actually on trial loan from the FAA) (Pallister, 1990).

7.9 Suggested Further Reading/Bibliography Air Accident Investigation Branch, Department of Transport (1990) Report on the Accident to Boeing 747-121, N739PA at Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, Scotland on 21 December 1988, London: HMSO. Berger, J. and Mohr, J. (1975) A Seventh Man, Britain: Penguin, pp. 92–4. Church, G. J. (1991) ‘Solving the Lockerbie Case’, Time, 25 November. Civil Protection (1989) ‘Lockerbie’, Spring, Issue 10: 3–5. Cohen, N. (1989) ‘US diplomats used Lockerbie warning to save their lives’, The Independent, 19 April. Determination by Sheriff Principal John Mowat in the Fatal Accident Inquiry relating to the Lockerbie Air Disaster, held at Dumfries 1 October 1990 to 13 February 1991. Deppa, Joan et al. (1993) The Media and Disasters: Pan-Am 103, London: David Fulton Publishers. Donovan, P. (1990) ‘Deaths “may not have been instant”’, The Guardian, 12 September, p. 2.

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Dumfries and Galloway Fire Brigade, The Firemaste’rs Report on the Role of Dumfries and Galloway Fire Brigade at the Lockerbie Air Disaster: 21 December 1988 [Abridged Report]. Freedland, J. (1996) ‘When trust is put to flight’, The Guardian, 19 July. Johnson, L. C. (1997) ‘The Fall of Terrorism’, Security Management, April: 26–32. Magnuson, E. (1989) ‘A Bomb’, Time, 9 January, pp. 6–7. McLean, I. and Johnes, M. (2000) Aberfan: Government & Disasters, Cardiff: Welsh Academic Press. Pallister, D. (1990) ‘BA investigates “marzipan bomb”’, The Guardian, 3 July, p. 3. Parry, G. (1990) ‘“Barons” let Pan-Am’s security slip’, The Guardian, 8 December.

Steele, O. K. (1991) ‘Civil Aviation Security Measures’, The Police Chief, June, pp. 43–4. The Guardian (1990) ‘But how did the bomb get on board?’, 12 September, p. 18. Wilkinson, P. (1996) ‘How to combat the reign of terror’, New Statesman, 2 August, pp. 12–13.

7.10 Study Questions You should now write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the questions below. We believe that this is an important exercise that will assist your comprehension of the material and aid your progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your own course notes and should not be forwarded to the University. 1. What scope is there for the better co-ordination of data and intelligence gathering after a disaster, especially by the police and security services? 2. What role might voluntary bodies play in post-disaster care and counselling, and in the application of isomorphic learning? 3. Following a disaster, what balance should be struck between commercial, law enforcement and local and national political interests, and the emotional needs of the victims’ relatives?

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Scraton, Phil et al. (1995) No Last Rites: The Denial of Justice and the Promotion of Myth in the Aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster, Liverpool: Liverpool City Council.

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READING ‘The Aftermath of Disaster’ Jane Swire British Medical Journal, Volume 311.

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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UNIT 8 The Public Inquiry: An Example and a Critique


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8 Unit 8: The Public Inquiry: An Example and a Critique 8.1 Aims and Objectives of this Unit This Unit will examine certain aspects of a public planning inquiry by looking at a specific case study. The aim is to show how public inquiries, as they operate in the present context of UK planning and decision-making processes, are ineffectual in their engagement with the complexities of scientific and public knowledge. This, we will argue, is because in examining the evidence before them they prioritise a legalistic view of a value-neutral science — isolated from its cultural context.

Section 4 offers an analytical framework based on ‘boundary disputes’. We use this particular perspective to clarify the student’s vision. It provides a way of seeing how disputes — about who is to be given status as ‘expert’ and what ‘facts’ achieve legitimisation as hard evidence — are worked out in the context of the inquiry. It is argued that within the legalistic conventions of a public inquiry those with a professional vested interest can use these conventions to protect — and even enhance their own status by de-legitimising the evidence presented by non- or semi-professionals. They can do this on grounds of ‘amateurism’, subjective bias or polymorphism (interdisciplinarianism). It is suggested that professional participants can establish and maintain a privileged position within the public inquiry system by de-legitimising evidence not presented in a discipline-specific form. Furthermore, even when evidence cannot be rejected on grounds of polymorphism, the professionals’ burden of proof may be so severe, or the methodical scepticism so rigorous, that the evidence, although comfortably ‘inside the border’, will be discredited.

8.2 Introduction In January 1997 the Secretaries of State for the Environment and Transport announced their decision to approve plans to build a second runway at Manchester Airport. This decision was the culmination of a lengthy decision-making process for major planning projects which had begun in July 1993 when Manchester Airport PLC submitted a planning application, accompanied by a formal environmental impact assessment (EIA). The planned runway had been the subject of controversy ever since 1991 when the Airport first announced their intention to apply for planning permission. They had then set in motion a series of actions designed to narrow down alternative possibilities and began to undertake an evaluation of the economic and environmental impacts of the project.

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One of the functions of a case study approach is to illustrate how framing of the issues can often be restrictive. Brian Wynne, for example, described the Windscale Inquiry as ‘a ceremonial of collective self delusion’. His point was that arguments about whether to build a re-processing plant (THORP) never addressed the wider fears about nuclear power which THORP symbolised.

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The area affected by the proposals was to be a 571 hectare swathe of Cheshire countryside, south west of the city of Manchester in England. In this location land designated as Green Belt (deliberately undeveloped open space) separates the urban conurbation of Manchester from the

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rural villages and farming areas in the Bollin Valley. The new parallel runway will be 3,050 metres long and this will require it to span the river Bollin with a 300 metre long tunnel — wide enough to take a motorway and high enough to take two motorway bridges one on top of the other. Fig. 1 shows a plan of the affected area. For local objectors, and a whole range of interest groups, the project was unacceptable and a nine-month public inquiry failed to convince them otherwise. For instance, one of the most high profile objectors, who appeared in person to give evidence on behalf of local people, was Terry Waite (former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury). Waite spoke of the Inquiry system as: ‘an adversarial contest where big money counts’. This view was echoed in local media reports which adopted the popular metaphor of David and Goliath to describe local opposition to a developer with seemingly unlimited resources. The public inquiry system is an advisory mechanism to inform decisions ranging from local planning matters to tribunals of inquiry into major disasters. It is a particularly British practice which we shall explore as we trace some of the events of this particular case study. Parallel procedures operate in Europe, Canada and the US, but this Unit focuses specifically on the public inquiry as it functions in the UK and touches only briefly on practices elsewhere — although there is an implicit invitation for the reader to make comparisons and draw conclusions about the relative merits of alternative decision-making processes. The main emphasis here is on the examination of a specific instance of a decision-making process. The case study will enable us to look closely at the ways in which expert evidence is authorised. Not only will this involve exploring the various roles of scientific experts in assessing the environmental impact of this large-scale planning project, but it will also provide the opportunity to comment on the roles of lay experts. In Section 3 there is a full discussion about the various ways in which this case study might be analysed, but first of all a few words about the status and function of public inquiries.

8.3 The Big Public Inquiry The conventions of public inquiries — like the British legal system in general — have evolved in a more or less ad hoc way out of tradition (with adjustments to suit circumstances). Consequently they carry with them an aura of their traditional underpinnings. In spite of the Franks Committee on Tribunals and Inquiries (1957), which was set up to refine existing practice and to set new standards of natural justice with a view to making procedures ‘open, fair and impartial’, many objectors and protesters at major public inquiries still see them as being blatantly political. Rogers (1985) has made this point specifically with reference to the drawing up of the inquiries’ terms of reference. Rogers found that, in spite of this being a public arena, there was evidence that members of the public often felt powerless to engage with the debate because they were unable to identify their own concerns with the mass of scientific and legal jargon. Effectively they became non-participants, and they were further excluded by the conventions of the quasi-legal proceedings. It would seem that lay access to public inquiries is freely available to silent onlookers but that participation is much more limited for those persistent and committed individuals who wish to play a more active part in the proceedings. So, as a public forum for negotiation and debate it is perhaps not an ideal situation.


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There is a general perception that UK inquiries have formal judicial status — as indeed they have in the US — but, as Brian Wynne (1982) puts it, this is more of a ‘procedural ritual’. That is (as Wynne and a number of other analysts suggest) there is an inherent ambiguity in the system because while the inquiry adheres to the traditions and conventions of a judicial review — and has all the appearances of a court of law — it functions primarily in an administrative capacity as a fact/ information gathering exercise (see also Kemp et al., 1984 and Hutton, 1986). Wynne argues that the principles of justice set out and reported by the Franks Committee, of impartiality (supplied by science) and democratic open access to debate (supplied by politics) are in conflict (see Franks, 1957). In his summary of the public inquiry, as it operated for the UKAEA Windscale Inquiry (1977) (into plans to build a new spent fuel reprocessing plant known as THORP — Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant) Wynne concluded in the following way: As the litigation model is strained beyond credibility, the corresponding ‘rational discovery’ image science are caught up in this process not only because of technical complexity, but because they substitute for explicitly political debate and authority. There is an inherent conflict between the principles of rationalism and of political authority. Rationalism claims openness of information and criticism based on shared standards of logic and evidence. In its legal form it purports to demand empirical proof of any claim. Taken literally, this would always destroy political authority. (Wynne, 1982) Critics of the inquiry system have suggested that the underlying reason for the ambiguity of a quasi-legal democratic accountability in a political framing is the legal presumption of a definitive separation of facts and value. In legal traditions there is an a priori assumption that scientific rationality is epistemologically privileged with respect to democratic decision-making. Thus it follows that experts (if they are granted a license by the scientific community) are in a uniquely authoritative rhetorical position to inform the inspector about the true facts of a matter. However, when experts disagree, as so often happens, the legal tradition assumes that stiffer jurisdiction and cross-examination will clarify the situation by removing polluting ‘interests’ and other subjective elements which are obscuring the value-neutral factual evidence. These are highlights of the conflicts and anomalies inherent in this very important part of the UK planning and decision-making process. It is important because — apart from initial consultation — it is the only part of the process which allows access to the public, if only in a limited way. Rogers notes that, as a statutory constitution operating in a judicial (and therefore civil framework): ‘Public inquiries actually straddle the boundaries between the State and civil society in a unique way’ (Rogers, 1985: 413).

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of the inquiry is exposed as a procedural ritual. Technical facts, and the supposed impartiality of

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The next section considers some ways in which public inquiry processes might be analysed.

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8.4 Analytical Framing 8.4.1 Conflicting Discourses In his analysis of the Windscale Inquiry, Wynne presented a full account of how the Inspector (Mr Justice Parker) reacted to expert conflict by calling for greater procedural rigour. (We shall see a similar situation in the case study.) But Wynne’s approach to analysis of the role of expertise in the legal context has been to see it as an ‘alien system which does not share science’s own informal social norms’ (Smith and Wynne, 1989). This could be analysed in terms of a tension between forms of discourse; the legal one being committed to an idealised notion of scientific purity in which scepticism and mistrust are taken to the extreme.

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Thus, it would seem that the public inquiry relies on certain assumptions about the communication of scientific evidence which negate the context in which it was framed. Given this insight it would then be interesting to explore in this case study (and that is why it is important to look at a particular rather than a general case) the circumstances under which boundaries can shift between that which is construed as authoritative ‘objective’ evidence and that which is ruled out as unreliable or subjective opinion. We could refer to this as the shifting boundaries of expertise, and the next section describes in more detail what we mean by that.

8.4.2 Boundary Work One sociological way of studying public inquiries would be to take an ethnographic approach, that is, to take a step back and to adopt the role of an anthropologist. As an ethnographer the analyst would see a set of practices based on tradition and reliant on legal and scientific expertise. One such framing of expertise was introduced by sociologist of science Tom Gieryn. Gieryn has followed the ways in which boundaries are set up and established around what is to count as science. As he puts it: Boundary work occurs when people contend for, legitimate or challenge the cognitive authority of science. (Gieryn, 1995: 405) For ‘science’ read ‘authoritative knowledge’ and we have the notion of an inquiry as an arena in which we can explore how boundaries around what is to count as authoritative evidence are drawn and re-drawn. This is an arena in which trials of strength are enacted by legal and scientific gladiators utilising discourses from both science and the law to support their position. The exclusion of the public is in itself a boundary issue and, as we shall see, the term ‘expert’ is always negotiable and flexible. What is being offered here is an analytical framework within which public inquiry processes can be explored in relation to a specific instance. One may ask how this perspective relates to other social theories of environmental decision-making. If we look back to the Unit on risk communication, the model described as the ‘deficit’ model was based on the assumption that a dispassionate science offered the best explanation of the world. It was argued there that communication techniques operating in this way also gave precedence to formal scientific knowledge at the expense of more culturally rooted lay knowledge. Here we have already made the point that the denial of this insight

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would impoverish any public inquiry. Furthermore, by looking at the ways in which boundaries are set up between expert and lay knowledges, and between knowledge disciplines, we can begin to understand how these circumstances arise.

8.4.3 Interested Parties

8.5 The Case Study: A Public Inquiry into Manchester Airport’s Application to Build a Second Runway In the following case study we follow some of the debates — within the context of the ninemonth public Inquiry — about the predicted environmental impact of building a second runway at Manchester Airport. First of all, however, to set the scene, a quick look at some of the major social ‘actors’ (interested parties), and the physical environmental entities, or ‘actants’, which became central to the debates.

8.5.1 Key Actors and ‘Actants’ The Developer Manchester Airport (MAPLC) is one of only two publicly owned airports in the UK, ownership being divided between the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester, with Manchester City Council as the major shareholder. In keeping with their stated mission, the Airport’s principal argument for a second runway was to meet a perceived demand, i.e. a projection, outlined as an extrapolation of current trends, which would rise from 11.7 million passengers in 1992 to almost 30 million passengers by the year 2005. A further argument, arising directly out of this increasing demand, would be the generation of significant economic benefits to the whole region. For instance, it was claimed by Manchester Airport that the building and operation of a new runway would create 50,000 new jobs in the area, which would have a major impact on the currently high levels of unemployment. It was argued that these economic benefits would more than offset any environmental disbenefits.

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It is already obvious that in controversial planning decisions, as in risk assessments, different interest groups see the world differently but, as we have indicated, this is more complex than an ideological split which can be resolved by more information or stricter legal jurisdiction. Conflicts of this nature cannot always be resolved by more evidence. We shall see in the following case study how words proliferate and proofs of evidence pile up in front of opponents. But this did not resolve the fact that the concept of Green Belt can be interpreted (or ‘constructed’) differently depending on the value premises of the interpreter — even when the same set of policy guidelines serves as a starting point for both interpretations.

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A formal environmental impact assessment (EIA) was a mandatory requirement for a project of this size. But prior to evaluating the impact of the proposed new runway Manchester Airport conducted a scoping exercise which involved extensive consultation with all interested parties to identify what they considered to be significant environmental issues. To determine an initial framework for environmental assessment they consulted approximately 70 organisations, ranging

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from utilities and conservation organisations to local authorities and resident groups. Finally, in the interests of objectivity they engaged the services of an independent management consultant to organise a team of specialist consultants, each one considered to be an expert in their own field. The final environmental statement (ES) which arose from this extensive operation incorporated detailed evidence on all the separate disciplinary topics compiled by the individual consultants. (These included: Agriculture, Air Quality, Archaeology, Nature Conservation and Ecology, Traffic, Landscape, Land Use, Listed Buildings, Noise, Recreation, Water Quality.) The City Council

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Another major participant at the public inquiry was Manchester City Council. The City Council’s interests were those of a principal shareholder, and a Labour Council whose policies were firmly rooted in social benefits and economic regeneration. These policies range from equal opportunities and anti-poverty strategies to the wider environmental concern of sustainable development. For instance, in the 1995 Urban District Plan there is reference to decisions being shaped by ‘ordinary people’ rather than the Council. Furthermore, the UDP emphasises the need to plan a City which must be ‘relevant to the needs of disadvantaged and oppressed groups of all kinds’ (Manchester City UDP, February 1995). The planning application and the environmental statement were accepted by the City Council without reservation or criticism. Local businesses in the region were also agreeable to the idea of new opportunities for business. The County Council To a lesser extent Cheshire County Council supported the application, but with some reservations about the environmental impacts. They utilised the services of their own ‘in house’ experts to raise questions about the loss of Green Belt land and about the impact of the development on the wildlife in the Bollin Valley. The Local Borough Council Macclesfield Borough Council was the other local council to receive the planning application. Unlike the City Council, Macclesfield was very much opposed to the development, particularly in view of the fact that 95 percent of the development would involve loss of Green Belt land within their boundaries. As we shall see, in the context of the public inquiry, Macclesfield were to draw out aspects of planning policy which emphasised Green Belt as a boundary between the urban and the rural. They saw this development as an encroachment of the polluting social and physical effects of the City. Macclesfield invested considerable sums of money to hire independent legal advice and to obtain alternative scientific assessments of ecological impacts. In addition to this they were able to enlist the support of other local organisations whose interest in protecting the environment and wildlife in the region had given them cause for concern. The Local Wildlife Trust Cheshire Wildlife Trust were very much opposed to the planning application on the evidence of predicted damage to wildlife. They pointed out that among other factors, the proposed scheme would severely affect areas of ancient and semi-natural woodland, hedgerows, 42 ponds (17 of which support great crested newts — a legally protected amphibian), one major badger sett and several important geological features of the Bollin Valley.

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A key feature of the evidence supplied by the Wildlife Trust was its emphasis on legally protected species. The great crested newt, being protected under both UK and European legislation, achieved a high profile as an ‘actant’ and subsequently took up what would appear to be a disproportionate amount of inquiry time. Liverpool Airport

In common with Manchester, Liverpool was a serious contender so far as unemployment is concerned. Liverpool is the major centre for Merseyside, an area which has experienced serious economic decline with the shrinkage of maritime trading and the loss of revenue from ship building. Citizen Groups So far this outline, of the network of social worlds associated with the environmental assessment of Manchester’s second runway, has described a series of professional bodies. The identity of these institutions can be simply and crudely defined in terms of air transport and local planning. However, citizen action groups, of which the Manchester Airport Joint Action Group (MAJAG) is my first example, had no such clear identity. Local people opposed to the runway application tended to cohere around the rural and semi-rural geographical regions; Mobberley, Wilmslow, Tatton and so forth. But for the purposes of fighting the application at the public inquiry, and raising the necessary financial resources to engage legal and scientific expertise, they acted in concert. At the public inquiry MAJAG’s chairman described the group as follows: MAJAG constitutes a number of local action groups [eight in all] which were formed in the area surrounding the Airport as a result of the Airport’s proposals. Each group appointed one member to the committee. The membership of MAJAG currently stands at 9,000 people. (Derek Squirell, from evidence at the Inquiry. J7 23.11.94) He made the point that the membership was from a wide local area with one notable exception, a very large post-war housing estate, much closer to the urban boundaries of Manchester, with record levels of unemployment.

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Another active participant at the public inquiry was the North West region’s other main airport at Liverpool. Liverpool Airport was an interested party which actively opposed Manchester Airport’s development plans on the grounds that the projected growth in demand (which Liverpool did not dispute) could be accommodated by their own available runway capacity. Liverpool Airport had also put together a planning application for major expansion. The plans included a new, re-aligned, runway in order for operations to expand to handle 12 million passengers by 2030 (this evidence was presented at the inquiry by the Chief Executive, R. Hill, on behalf of Liverpool Airport PLC).

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In addition to MAJAG there was one other small breakaway citizen group, known as the Manchester Airport Environmental Network (MAEN), which was organised by a vociferous and outspoken campaigner. After breaking away from the main group MAEN orchestrated an alternative network of expertise which focused on environmental impacts such as air quality, water, noise and ecological impacts. But, unlike the other interest groups the principal campaigners of MAEN rejected the assumption that these were apolitical issues. In other words a ‘conspiracy theory’ was maintained with respect to the developers — and the experts employed by them to assess the environmental impact of the development.

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8.5.2 Exploring the Role of Professional Expertise in a Public Inquiry

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In the previous discussion I pointed to the ambiguities of a public inquiry as a forum for the dissemination of rational information by professional experts. I have also indicated that all the interested parties, including lay action groups who utilised professional consultants, were able to reflect on this and prepare evidence which would comply with the conventions of the inquiry. For instance, in the case of nature conservation the Wildlife Trust emphasised the legal significance of key legally protected species in order to protect a wider natural community. The extensive evidence submitted to the inquiry on the topic of great crested newts was a very telling example of how the discussions among experts in a particular specialist field are sensitive to the need to justify their recommendations in scientific terms against an authoritative background of research alliances rather than amateur local knowledge — however detailed that might be. This is a point I will illustrate in more detail below. Those experts who had any experience of public inquiries realised that they had a role in mediating between their subject matter (Nature) and the public. But it is interesting to note that even within this case study it is possible to give a variety of accounts about how this was achieved. In one instance, in an interview with the airport’s ecologist, she reflected that although ‘baseline’ survey evidence is a useful and necessary resource it is unhelpful to an inquiry which requires interpretation of this evidence in a more user-friendly form of ‘key impacts’. In other words the evidence must be interpreted from within a framework of policy (this is a point which was endorsed by many of the other professional experts at the inquiry). Furthermore, she insisted that evidence must be presented in a context of restitution or ‘mitigation’. This is a professional style which emphasises a balance of costs and benefits. As a consequence the airport’s consultant was able to maintain that the environmental evaluation of the ecological impacts would be rationalised against a framework of UK and European policy and law, and set off against benefits which would accrue from mitigation of those impacts. On the other hand, the local Wildlife Trust’s surveyor took a different approach to the evidence he presented. He argued that mitigation was not always commensurate with conservation. He argued this because one of the Trust’s overall value premises was the recognition of the ‘intrinsicity’ or ‘rights’ of non-human nature. It must be noted here that he was referring to arguments for the preservation of the non-human natural world i.e. the subject of environmental ethics. (See, for instance, the argument that ethics should extend beyond humans, and even animals and plants, to our environment as a whole — which was first made prominent by the writings of Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac.) Claims for the intrinsic value of the non-human world suggest that nonhumans have a right to exist, irrespective of how useful they are for us. This particular stance has been referred to as ‘deep’ ecology (Naess, 1973). It was a well-documented fact that the Wildlife Trust wished to give evidence to the Inquiry on behalf of the interests of wildlife rather than people. however, the Trust’s surveyor also reflected on the need to justify this approach to conservation in more scientific terms. He felt that intrinsic value could not be justified rationally in a public inquiry because, as he put it: If I was being cross-examined the [barristers] would say; ‘don’t be silly you don’t speak plant!’, so I would have to rely on scientific evidence. (Transcript of a conversation with CM, 13.06.94)

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We can see that professionalism demanded that the Wildlife Trust interpret their evidence to make it rational and scientific in a public forum. But it is interesting to note that that was exactly the opposite re-formulation to the one envisaged by another consultant who had been commissioned by the Airport to evaluate air quality issues. Interviews with the latter expert revealed that he saw himself as re-formulating his highly technical and complex scientific evidence to simplify it for a public forum where a lay audience ‘would not understand the technicalities’. There are obvious disciplinary differences between the language of air quality and that of ecology, but even in cases where experts speak the same disciplinary language, such as ecology, they could be seen as interpreting their data from different premises. As we saw with the earlier example, the Airport’s ecologist framed her evaluation of environmental impacts against proposed mitigation whereas the Wildlife Trust’s surveyor refused to accept that the value of natural entities was transferable in this manner.

In public inquiries, and similar arenas, the procedures are subservient to the legal profession who impose their own conventions, or standards, on the proceedings. One of these is a legal standard of proof or certainty. This is a standard which imposes yet another framework of interpretation on the evidence — and subsequently on who is authorised to present it to the Inspector. It is a fairly well documented observation that adversarial procedures are not inclined to deal with the kinds of differences in expertise which have been illustrated above. One explanation has been offered by historian Roger Smith who, in writing about scientific evidence in criminal law, suggests that this: ... comes from the crude and direct way barristers parade qualifications and status as expertise. Boldly stated, the first and basic test of credibility is, ‘who is he?’ Partly, this means ‘what qualifications does he have?’, but cruder still it means quite literally, ‘who is he?’ (Smith and Wynne, 1989: 80) One is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that the interrogation of the expert (or lay) witness’s personal identity is inextricably linked to the authority of the evidence — and the truth of it. This is a tradition which another historian, Steven Shapin, has explored in relation to the social history of truth, whereby in the early 17th Century a notion of ‘gentlemanly identity’ was linked with a guarantee of truthfulness and integrity (Shapin, 1994). Thus, ‘who is he can be interpreted as “is he a gentleman?”’ However, although fragments of this social norm are very apparent in the legal discourse of the inquiry, one might interpret this type of interrogation as a rhetorical strategy on the part of the barrister. For instance, this is a classic case of what was referred to in Section 4 as ‘boundary maintenance’. In efforts to expel non-members of the professional elite this crude strategy appears to be effective because many instances of it were apparent, and used by legal advocates on both sides of the debate about Manchester Airport’s second runway. The parading of qualifications and successful projects by expert witnesses is now an integral part of the inquiry process and one which is encouraged by legal advisors in what appears to be a deliberate strategy rather than, as Smith suggests, a crude inability to be flexible about the demarcation of professional expertise.

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8.5.2.1 The Role of Legal Advocacy: Policing the Boundaries of Expertise

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One classic instance of professional elitism was an attempt by Manchester Airport’s legal team to close ranks on a volunteer whose expertise had been gratefully accepted by the Wildlife Trust. In a closing statement to the Inspector, on the topic of the ecological, geomorphological and geological impact of the runway, they insinuated that, as a ‘polymath’ (one who is well qualified in many disciplines), he should be viewed as a Jack of all trades and master of none. CWT and MBC have relied on the evidence of the ubiquitous [Mr G] in this regard — not only an authority on newts, but also an expert in the fields of geology and geomorphology [study of the shape and form of the earth’s surface] ... . Indeed the opening pages of [Mr G’s evidence in chief] proclaim him as an astonishing combination of Renaissance man and polymath. (MA1099.1 Point 10.8. Final submission on Manchester Airport’s evidence to the Inquiry, 6.3.95)

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Furthermore, they also attempted to exclude him from the ranks of professionalism by emphasising his amateur and voluntary status thus: [Mr G] holds no position of responsibility with any statutory authority, is not an officer of the CWT, and indeed has only been a member of CWT for one year. (It is worth noting — if the reader is already convinced that Mr G was an uneducated charlatan — that this witness was a first class geology and zoology graduate with an MSc and professional status. He had been a member of another wildlife trust for many years, appeared as an expert herpetologist (one who studies amphibians) at numerous public inquiries, published papers to report his survey work and had been invited by English Nature to speak at their inaugural seminar on the Conservation of Great Crested Newts.) This is an example of an expulsion strategy which would be feasible only within the conventional quasi-legal norms of the inquiry. Here Mr G could be construed by the legal ‘border guards’ as ‘not a gentleman’ and therefore not to be trusted to be objective and impartial. There is also ample evidence to illustrate how our legal border guards patrol other boundaries of expertise. For example, another instance shows how a very efficient QC acting for the Airport was quick on the uptake to defend one of the Airport’s experts from critical cross-examination by an unqualified lay participant. ‘Do you have any qualifications in noise evaluation?’ he asked the interrogator, who was quick to respond that ‘he knew it when he heard it’. The same barrister was also adamant about maintaining this expert/lay distinction in order to hold one of the citizen group’s witnesses responsible for his lack of attention to the full evidence on listed buildings on the grounds that he was not a ‘genuine’ lay witness. (Dr W was a ‘hybrid’ — a professional architect who also happened to be a local resident.) Regrettably, [Dr W listed buildings] made these allegations without having read the evidence ... [the citizen group] attempts to protect [Dr W’s] nakedness with the well used fig leaf that [their] witness was ‘only a private individual’. Whilst that might be acceptable in the case of a genuine lay witness, it is not acceptable for [Dr W]. (emphasis added) (MA1099.1 Point 11.18) Thus the boundaries around expertise are constantly being marked out and maintained to protect the authority of the ‘genuine’ expert and to expel those without the necessary credentials.

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A further dimension to this policing of expertise is the maintenance of disciplinary boundaries to avoid cross-border contamination. The subject areas defined within the environmental statement were adhered to throughout the inquiry, although the proofs of evidence presented to the inquiry contained technical detail which went well beyond the environmental statement submitted with the planning application. The subject distinctions, such as ecology, noise, air quality and risk, enabled the consultants retained for the original assessment to be called as witnesses. Environmental issues associated with ecology, noise, air quality, risk, etc. were dealt with by the relevant expert and the evidence was filed accordingly, in discrete boxes. There was no overlap of the evidence. This is an efficient and rational system to the professional maybe. But could such ‘Balkanisation’ actually obstruct problem definition and resolution for the lay witness who might find it conceptually difficult to separate these issues in her/his direct experience?

‘Well sir we are now into areas that Ms C and Mr T dealt with ...’. The lay witness answered that he had cross-examined Mr T who had not given a satisfactory answer. But the Airport’s barrister continued to maintain that he did not object to his witness dealing with environmental matters, but not planning issues (even if they were environmental planning issues). At the end of a protracted struggle to be allowed to ask his questions the lay witness exclaimed in frustration: I feel rather like a fishing vessel whose had a fishery protection vessel come up alongside and been told that its nets have too fine a mesh and it’s cheating. I think the nets I’m using have a much larger mesh and that you are being unfair to me. (Cross examination of Dr Thomas [Head of Environment] by Mr Gibson and intervention by A. Gilbart QC, 6.10.94) This witness was frustrated because his attempts to convey his own, deeply felt, concerns about the possible environmental impact of increased air traffic were thwarted by his inability to pose questions to the person he considered most appropriate. He was later also foiled in his attempt to express his concerns through the medium of a musical rendition before the inquiry. The Inspector refused to allow him to sing and play his tin whistle because in that form: ‘He would not be able to pass it on to the Secretaries of State’. Indeed, with the benefit of some analytical hindsight we can see that this was because the tacit and subjective elements of such a representation were very much foregrounded, whereas on the other hand in scientific representations the tacit and subjective dimensions are codified. Note, for instance, in the case of noise impacts that the scientific evidence is codified in the form of noise contours. This was to be a common experience for local people with an interest in expressing their concern to the Inspector.

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Here is an example of the problems encountered by a lay witness (who was definitely not a man of letters) when he attempted to cross-examine an employee of the Airport (the Head of Environment). His questions were fielded by the Head of Environment’s legal advisor because the matter, which concerned sustainable development, had been dealt with elsewhere. The legal advisor was adamant:

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8.5.2.2 Using Written Evidence With that brief story of failed testimony we now turn our attention to the power of the written text in expert evidence (in the form of proofs of evidence). It was not the fact that our frustrated lay witness had no immediate purchase on the participants at the Inquiry — his voice was

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powerful and moving when he deliberately misunderstood the Inspector and broke into song (unaccompanied on this occasion by his tin whistle). But, as the Inspector explained, voices do not travel far. Scientific texts, on the other hand, are immutable and mobile and can be reproduced intact many times. They travel very well indeed. In effect their rhetorical strength lies in their mobility, although the texts, which purport to represent many hours of fieldwork conducted by very many experts and their assistants, are at the end of a long chain of interpretations which linked such things as ecological factors and noise impacts to the public inquiry.

8.5.3 Framing the Issues: Worlds Apart It has been suggested that the public inquiry is a domain where the division between science and policy must be maintained by processes of boundary work. In this section it is proposed that, so far as legal counsel (and the Inspector) accept this as the norm, they presuppose and indeed depend on an image of a social situation ‘freeze framed’ in terms of (apparently) agreed policy agendas. This is a situation which would utilise statutory frameworks as if set in tablets of stone rather than seeing them as being constantly renegotiated guidelines for planning the future. Relevant examples of these flexible frameworks would be Planning Policy Guides, Case Law and European Directives. With this in mind we can reflect in this section on how boundary work and ordering practices can be seen as maintaining a particular notion of objectivity and rationality in determining what is to count as relevant knowledge when there is conflict about different planning visions. It has already been noted, but it is worth emphasising, that the public inquiry is only one example of a planning arena, although it is seen by the public as the nearest thing to democratic decisionmaking in the UK. Moreover, the point has been made that this notion is maintained in spite of academic criticisms that the public inquiry system is essentially a ritual rather than a democratic process (Wynne, 1982; Irwin, 1995). Irwin has reflected on whether this is due to technocratic and therefore constricting framing of the evidence, compared with the more adversarial US approach. He concludes that in either case the debates were likely to be framed in scientific terms, so that democratic participation and discussions would be post-hoc rather than formative. We will return to the topic of lay participation in the next section, but here the focus is on the relevance of scientific expertise. For instance, if we look closely at specific border disputes enacted in this public arena we find that it is impossible to reduce the debate to a single framework of scientific rationality. The issue is about which version of rationality, or vision of the future, is admissible. One example of this conflict between frameworks was to be found in a statement made by the citizen action group MAEN’s air transport witness (JW) in which he described it as an unsustainable and environmentally damaging mode of transport (E3.2 Proof of evidence). It was argued by JW that in a broad European (or global) framework developments to meet the growth in air traffic have to be seen as unsustainable; in terms of global warming, impact on land take and habitat, and by its impact on ground traffic generation. The particular framework of policy cited by our witness was a commitment to sustainability in the EU’s 5th Action Programme which specifically refers to reduction in the overall burden of CO2 to avert the risk of global warming. He gave evidence to support his assertion that air transport was the worst performer in terms of its specific CO2 emissions and external costs.


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However, this evidence was to be set against UK aviation policy and Ministerial statements which had suggested that the global impacts of air travel are of very little relevance to decisions on capacity at UK airports. Manchester Airport’s QC pointed out in cross-examination of MAEN’s witness, and later in summing up, that the contribution of the aviation industry to the pollution burden had been played down by the Secretary of State in a recent public inquiry at another UK airport. (MA1175 Secretary of State for Transport’s decision letter on the public inquiry into developments at East Midlands Airport, at which he suggested that he did not agree that aviation consumes a disproportionate amount of the earth’s resources. He had also reasoned at that time that modern aircraft were more than twice as fuel efficient as earlier aircraft, and that the trend was set to continue.) Thus, in his summing up for the Inspector at the end of the inquiry the QC had this to say about MAEN’s evidence:

(MA1099.1 point 13.4) The heavy irony of this statement indicates that the evidence of this particular witness is seen as inappropriate, in that he is posing issues which were incompatible with the framework of existing UK aviation policy. As such it is also intimated that this evidence is politically biased and outside his operational field of expertise. The legal counsel also drove home their point in the following way: While [JW]’s view that Government policy on airports is wrong may be of interest to his students or academic colleagues, such an approach simply fails to assist the Inquiry, which must see how policy can best be achieved in the context of other policy objectives. (MA1099.1 Point 8.3 on the issue of meeting the demand for air travel) But this would have included, according to JW, acceptance of a policy framework in which meeting an ever increasing demand for air travel (and the inevitable increases in road traffic which accompany it) is an environmentally sustainable way forward. He fundamentally disagreed that the two concepts were compatible. During the nine-month period it took to hear the evidence both for and against the building of a second runway there were a whole range of other controversies of this kind. Many were arguments about which policy frameworks were relevant, and over the setting up of boundaries between policy evaluations — which were not allowed to be debated — and the ‘relevant facts’. For instance, again on the topic of nature conservation, the Cheshire Wildlife Trust were to fail in their attempt to draw out a response from the Airport’s ecologist on questions about loss of inherent value of wildlife and countryside. The Airport’s consultant refused to be drawn into discussion on matters of value, which she described as ‘moral philosophy’ (and therefore outside her field of factual expertise). On the other hand the Wildlife Trust’s conservation officer pointed out that, in his opinion — as a professional conservationist (with a professional code of conduct towards the environment) — it would be wrong not to talk about the rights of the communities of plants and animals in the Bollin Valley to remain in situ (Evidence from an Inquiry transcript dated 20.7.94). In other words, this is an articulation of the conservation ethic, to which we referred earlier, in which the plants and animals were seen by the Wildlife Trust to have ‘intrinsic value’.

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It will be noted that [JW], giving evidence for MAEN ... expressed himself to be in complete disagreement with both national and European aviation policy. No doubt the Secretaries of State will bear this in mind when considering his evidence.

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(The attribution of an ‘intrinsic value’ to nature may be termed a bioethic/centric view of the nonhuman world about us. Contrast it with the anthropocentrism of the Modern/Promethean view.) Yet another bitterly contested boundary issue was Green Belt policy. In written representations from various interested parties, and in cross-examination of the evidence, debates ranged around interpretation of the actual purpose and function of Green Belt land. More specifically, the framing which was to be put to the test was the one which would classify Green Belt function (according to Planning Policy Guidelines [PPG 2]) as compatible with the construction and operation of a new runway. The subtleties of the argument raised on this very crucial topic could take up the whole Unit, but the point to be made here is that even within the generally accepted planning framework the unresolved issue was how to interpret the evidence. Thus it was a case of whether to interpret a runway as:

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• either ‘2 miles of concrete spread across North Cheshire’s Green Belt, which would cause horrendous and irreparable damage to a vital environmental and recreational lung’ (J68. Written evidence given by Terry Waite to the Public Inquiry); • or to see it as relatively open in its aspect and surroundings, and therefore performing its given function as open land, which creates a boundary between communities and deflects development back into the conurbation. Also to see it as so beneficial economically as to outweigh any environmental disbenefits. (These were points repeatedly made by the Airport and supported to some extent by Manchester City Council.) These arguments, which roughly correspond with the two sides in the debate, take their framework from the same policy planning guidelines on Green Belts, but they manage to interpret the vision it presents in entirely different ways. It would seem therefore that policy frameworks cannot be seen as tablets of stone and that they do affect the presentation of evidence, even when it is technically framed (as in the case of aviation policy). There is no suggestion that policy frameworks should not be imposed on a public inquiry; the point is that their cultural context and inherent flexibility had been rhetorically ‘closed off’. Acknowledgements of these factors would entail the sorts of understandings discussed in Section 3. For instance, it would be revealing to trace back the context and the technical evidence which led to the acceptance of these policies in the first place. Obviously we cannot take off in that direction here on the topic of aviation and Green Belt policy but it would be revealing for the reader to reflect on any (inevitable) negotiations which may have affected changes in policy in these areas since this case study was written.

8.5.4 Lay Expertise in a Public Arena We have emphasised that the role of expertise in this domain draws its authentication from legal conventions of proof, which means that it promotes highly certified and ‘water-tight’, ‘objective’ evidence. In these circumstances the legal norms can easily be applied to exclude the non-professional expert — the person who is not backed up by an extended network of professional qualifications and affiliations. For example, the first page of the expert proofs of evidence provided the role call of such alliances by listing university degrees, professional qualifications and affiliations, and previous experience in a professional capacity. With suitable pedigrees the expert witnesses were assured

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of their status as ‘gentlemen’, and therefore as reliable truth tellers. However, there is a marked difference between this notion of expert and the kinds of expertise possessed by local people, with an intimate knowledge of their environment. We have already seen how the developer’s counsel adopted specific standards of expertise to exclude Mr G from the ranks of genuine professionalism and discredit him as a reliable witness. The same kind of strategy was applied throughout in defence of truth claims but it did not always work to the advantage of the border guards. 8.5.4.1 Lay Dissenters

8.5.4.2 Authentic Lay Knowledge There was another, and perhaps more significant, role adopted by lay experts in this public domain. That was the role — as carriers of ‘authentic’ lay knowledge — taken by many local people who gave evidence to the inquiry on the tacit assumption that they were only speaking of their own subjective experience. The knowledge presented by local people did not adhere to the prescribed purified categories of the environmental statement (for instance of noise impacts, loss of air quality and damage to wildlife); instead they told more holistic, hybrid stories which related to their cultural context. These local people presented their evidence as impacts on their ‘quality of life’, their ‘sense of security’, the impact on their ‘life histories’, and their ‘community relationships’.

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However, there appeared to be several roles adopted by lay witnesses at the public inquiry, in spite of conventions which effectively functioned to exclude their contribution. First of all, as the activities of one of the citizen groups, MAEN, will show the uncompromising formality of the public inquiry can be to some extent used to advantage by a lay person who takes on the role of dissenter, in order to discredit the opponents’ witnesses. In this case MAEN’s leading activist did not pretend to be an expert, he adopted aggressive guerrilla tactics to ‘deconstruct’ (i.e. reveal the subjective elements of) the evidence of his opponents on the grounds that he had only to cast doubts on the Airport’s water-tight case for it to spring a leak and be discredited. An example of this was to be found in his cross-examination of the Airport’s noise expert. Our dissenter was able to cast doubt on the sleep disturbance evidence by producing academic papers which critiqued the methodology of this study. By mimicking the legal positivist discourse of the inquiry (a process in which theory is advanced, subjected to methodical scepticism, and either proved or refuted) in his crusade to uncover ‘the truth’ (purified of uncertainty) — or at least to uncover ‘the lies’ — he was a classic dissenter. By adopting these undermining tactics this lay dissenter was able to raise a considerable flurry of activity within the opponents’ team of experts (he was described by The Guardian environment writer John Vidal as ‘The Protester from Hell’ (The Guardian, 5 October 1994)). Nonetheless the boundary between professionalism and the amateur status of this adversary was patrolled throughout the cross-examinations by the legal border guards who continued to stress their opponents’ ungentlemanliness and lack of status.

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But it is assumed that this evidence carries very little weight overall compared with professional evidence. This assumption arises not only from the general consensus that they were being patronised by being granted their day in court (and it really was only one day for twenty local witnesses to give evidence!). It also arises from the lack of interest paid by the Airport’s QC who asked no questions and even offered to take this local evidence ‘as read’. This lack of attention was commented on in the closing statements of the citizen group MAJAG:

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When our local witnesses were called to give evidence at the Inquiry, sadly one sensed an immediate loss of attention from the desks of the appellants, despite, we should say, the obvious courtesy with which they were dealt by Mr Gilbart. There is, nevertheless, a general suggestion that as nonexperts the evidence of the local residents was effectively meaningless and with an implication, also, that the local witnesses were taking too long. (J125.9.1 MAJAG closing statements) 8.5.4.3 Lay/Professional Expertise Nonetheless, it must be noted that a large proportion of the citizen group’s evidence utilised professional expertise (or quasi- professional expertise). As the Airport’s legal counsel said, in his own summing up:

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I cannot think of an Inquiry in which I have been engaged in which a resident group (successful or unsuccessful) has called in so many expert witnesses. This Inquiry has given their solicitors and counsel every opportunity of exploring the case thoroughly. (MA1099.1.6) As we have seen, the strategy adopted by legal counsel was to continually marginalise the evidence of the opponent’s experts, and we have examined some of the pretexts. But in doing so we sometimes see the naiveté of their boundary work. Professional expert knowledge cannot be so easily isolated in a sea of lay knowledge. In the case of the citizen group MAJAG, the membership comprised a cross-section of the local population and many of them were professional people with technical and scientific expertise. These were people who could apply their local knowledge to the disciplinary ‘black boxes’ imposed on the inquiry. For example Mr J was sufficiently technically competent and fluent in the discourse of noise evaluation to criticise the Airport’s evidence with a mixture of scientific and common-sense talk (and face cross-examination). In this way he scored a very effective common-sense point about whether professionally accepted (Leq — Equivalent Continuous Sound Level) noise units were adequate to measure community annoyance, and subsequently, whether noise contours could be plotted to reflect reality, because as he put it: ‘Common-sense suggests that there aren’t rails up there for those things [aircraft] to run on!’ Also, he demonstrated that local people could see, and hear for themselves, that averaged noise units and computer plots of noise contours did not allow for local deviations! Indeed it takes no more than common sense to appreciate that the natural environment is an ‘open system’ where variables cannot be kept under control (as they can in the laboratory). As such it is difficult, if not impossible, to model/mathematise with any degree of certainty. Any weather forecaster will attest to that!

8.6 Conclusions Looked at from a generalised perspective we have seen, in this case study, how expertise operates in a public inquiry context. We described the public inquiry as an adversarial arena. Then we suggested ways of looking at how the evidence brought before the inquiry was authenticated. It was interesting and revealing to see how boundaries — between science and policy, expert and

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lay knowledge, and between disciplinary or professional areas — were policed by legal counsel. It is argued that the ritualistic procedures of an inquiry, characterised by legal norms and standards of proof, deny the negotiability of evidence. In other words the public inquiry is ‘rhetorically’ constructed as a legal adversarial arena rather than in reality an administrative ritual (see for instance, Wynne, 1982). In exploring how effective public inquiries are in dealing with the complexities of scientific and public knowledge, several key issues arose. We can summarise them as follows: 1. Legalistic conventions of certainty

2. Disagreement between experts It has also been noted that experts often disagree about how to interpret the same evidence. They are arguing from different premises. As we saw with the case study examples — of interpreting the environmental impact of building a runway on the natural habitat of the great crested newt, and Green Belt land — arguments were informed by fundamentally differing value frameworks (‘world-views’). The politically agreed policy agendas go some way towards clarifying a common framework. But, as we have noted, policies are fluid and often conflicting. The notion of multiple world-views, you may have noted, is a core theme in sociological approaches to risk communication. 3. The status of lay knowledge One may argue that the authentication and standardisation of knowledge must be an essential part of complex decision-making. In the public inquiry situation lay interest groups felt the need to retain experts to speak on their behalf. But it is increasingly obvious that the concerns of lay people, or even counter-experts, cannot adequately be expressed solely in terms of data sets and formal disciplinary languages which frame out the underlying concerns about moral issues and cultural dislocations. At the Manchester Airport Inquiry a woman, speaking to the Inspector of her deeply felt disquiet about the runway proposals, had this to say:

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Experts were obliged to conform to legal standards of proof which subjected them to unreasonable demands for certainty. It has been shown elsewhere (see for instance Weldon, 1997) that when a ‘welly-booted fieldworker’ dons a suit and moves into an inquiry context, he/she is required to translate a text, taken from unpredictable Nature, into the formalised impersonal style required for proofs of evidence. In doing so the tacit elements and value judgements are framed out. But we have also noted that the rhetorical strength of the formal text lies in its mobility. Thus, Nature appears at the inquiry in the form of words, tables and graphs.

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I fear the loss of something which is perhaps unquantifiable and indefinable but which I must try to express to the Inspector. (J58 Evidence given by a local resident) Her personal account amounted to anticipation of a loss in quality of life and sense of community. Experiences such as these are subjective and irreducible to mathematical formulae, but nevertheless they are commonly felt. It was important, indeed crucial, to the local people that cultural and ethical issues embedded in environmental and risk assessments should be identified and addressed.

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The public inquiry is a legacy of our democratic planning process and as such its continuation is welcomed by all those who wish to influence policy debates/outcomes. However, what we hope this Unit has helped you to realise is that there can be no simple equation of costs versus benefits for an equitable outcome based on the accumulation of expert knowledge. If the inquiry system is to be inclusive of all rationalities, it must allow the expression and comparison of subjective data with ‘objective’ data. A truly equitable system would give equal weight to each rationality. Such holism may produce quite different results.

8.7 Guide to Reading You should now read about another public inquiry, to which we have referred, in: ‘Rationality and Ritual: The Windscale Inquiry and Nuclear Decisions in Britain’, by Brian Wynne. The chapter title is ‘Chapter 4: The Public Inquiry Tradition: A Comparative Perspective’ (pp. 52–73). The second supplied reading is a short extract from a report by a committee of MPs and one of the pieces of written evidence that was submitted to them. The reference for the full report is: Select Committee on Public Administration (2005) First Report of Session 2004-05: Government by Inquiry, House of Commons Report HC 51-I, London: The Stationery Office. (3 February 2005)

8.8 Recent Developments In fact the planning permission was granted and the second runway opened in February 2001, with landscaping and a wildlife habitat plan in place. However, some things have not turned out as envisaged by some of the parties. Dudley (2005) examines how the main aims of the environment mitigation package, that was part of the development agreement, have not been achieved. Targets for use of public transport by staff and passengers had proved unachievable by 2004, and were reduced to a more manageable aim of cutting staff car uses only. Aircraft noise was a key part of the agreement but new flight paths opened up from the new runway and noise complaints have increased substantially. Dudley’s analysis of how power shifts once the planned development has been realised, could be replicated in many other situations. The principles and issues raised by the Manchester airport case and Wynne’s paper could be relevant to many other inquiries, including those set up in the aftermath of disasters such as rail accidents (Borodzicz, 2005: 5-7). Planning Inquiries into commercial and industrial developments are governed by specific legislation but other types of inquiry are organised under different legislation; until very recently this included the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. In 2004 the Government proposed new legislation to enable the more rapid and flexible organisation of inquiries into things that have gone wrong. Controversy caused by various inquiries, including those that reviewed factors contributing to the decision to invade Iraq, was part of the motivation for these changes. An independent committee of Members of Parliament decided to investigate the background to these proposals and their report raised many important considerations. A summary of their report in February 2005 is provided as the second reading for this unit.


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The Inquiries Act became law in April 2005 and gave ministers increased discretion to organise inquiries, not necessarily with the public openness that the 1921 Act, now repealed, had required. The new flexibility available to ministers should speed up the process of inquiring into matters of public concern; also some of the practical improvements proposed by the Select Committee were used. However, some observers remain concerned that some future inquiries may not be as open to public scrutiny as they believe would best serve the public interest.

8.9 Study Questions

1. What is the purpose of a public planning inquiry in the UK? Comment on the formal procedures and the ways in which they may/may not assist government decisionmaking. 2. What do you understand to be the roles of scientific experts in a public inquiry? 3. Make use of the analytical insights from this case study to compare it with any other public hearings with which you may be familiar.

8.10 Bibliography Borodzicz, E. P. (2005) Risk, Crisis & Security Management, Chichester: John Wiley. Dudley, G. (2005) The impact of Ideas and Time on Policy Solutions: Maintaining Institutional Autonomy and the Second Runway at Manchester Airport, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Vol 13, No 2. 92-100. Franks, D. (1957) ‘Report of the Committee on Administrative Tribunals and Inquiries’, Cmnd 218, London. Gieryn, T. F. (1995) ‘Boundaries of Science’, in S. Jasanoff, G. Markle, J. Peterson and T. Pinch (eds) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, pp. 393–443, London: Sage.

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You should write approximately 300 words in answer to each of the questions below. We believe that this is an important exercise that will assist your comprehension of material and aid your progress on the course. Your answers are intended to form part of your course notes and should not be forwarded to the University.

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Hutton, N. (1986) Lay Participation in a Public Inquiry, Aldershot: Gower. Irwin, A. (1995) Citizen Science, London: Routledge. Kemp, R., O’Riordan, T. and Purdue, M. (1984) ‘Investigation as Legitimacy: The Maturing of the Big Public Inquiry’, Geoform 15(3): 477–88. Leopold, A. (1947) A Sand County Almanac, New York: Oxford University Press.

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Naess, A. (1973) ‘The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement. A Summary’, Inquiry 16: 95–9. Rogers, J. (1985) ‘Natural Justice and the Big Public Inquiry: A Sociological Perspective’, Sociological Review 33(3) 409–29. Shapin, S. (1994) A Social History of Truth, Chicago: Chicago University Press. Smith, R. and Wynne, B. (eds) (1989) Expert Evidence: Interpreting Science in the Law, London: Routledge. Vidal, J. (1994) ‘The Protester from Hell’, Guardian Society, 6 October. Weldon, S. (1996) ‘Runway Rhetorics and Networking with Nature: A Study of the Roles of Scientific Expertise in Environmental Impact Assessment’, Unpublished PhD thesis, Lancaster University. Weldon, S. (1997) ‘Judging by Experts: News from Manchester Airport’, Ecos 18(1), British Association for Nature Conservation (BANC). Wynne, B. (1982) Rationality and Ritual: The Windscale Inquiry and Nuclear Decisions in Britain, Britain: British Society for the History of Science (BSHS).

8.11 Notes on the Case Study The public inquiry into Manchester Airport’s planning application to build a second runway was held at the Wythenshawe Forum between June 1994 and March 1995. References to documents relating to the inquiry were taken from written representations (proofs of evidence) and summaries. ‘MA’ documents were submitted by Manchester Airport PLC. ‘J’ documents were submitted by MAJAG. ‘E’ documents were submitted by MAEN. Other public inquiry and interview transcripts were taken from case study research, conducted as part of a PhD (on ‘The Roles of Scientific Expertise in Environmental Impact Assessment’) (Weldon, 1996).


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READING ‘The Public Inquiry Tradition: A Comparative Perspective’ Brian Wynne (1982) From Rationality and Ritual: The Windscale Inquiry and Nuclear Decisions in Britain, pp. 52-73. Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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READING ‘Select Committee on Public Administration’ (2005) First Report of Session 2004-05: Government by Inquiry, House of Commons Report HC 51-I, London: The Stationery Office. (3 February 2005)

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APPENDIX Colour Map of Manchester Airport


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UNIT 9 Conclusion


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9 Unit 9: Conclusion 9.1 Module Summary It has been shown that risks, crises and disasters are amenable to differential ‘constructions’. These constructions may be contingent in some degree upon the ‘investment’ a party has in an event. A party whose major investment in an incident is problem solving may ‘construct’ it in a way that a party whose major investment is emotional may find awkward, or even offensive. A truly holistic approach to incident management requires the recognition and accommodation of all possible constructions. Such an integrated approach may yield benefits, both in terms of managing the immediate crisis or disaster, and in terms of planning for, preventing or ameliorating future crises or disasters.

It was action by the state of Alaska and a home-grown guerrilla navy of fishermen that got the most done in Prince William Sound...The creativity, knowledge, energy, and organisation of local communities is a resource that is not adequately tapped under the current contingency planning processes...(Browning and Shetler: 487-488). While Exxon wanted to disperse the oil before it hit the beaches, the fishermen wanted to protect their hatcheries and salmon runs from toxic chemical dispersants. The different constructions of the hazard presented by the oil caused tension between Exxon and the authorities, and the locals. However, as Browning and Shetler point out, a corporatist approach to hazard management drawing on all available forms of expertise, from the Coast Guard to Exxon to local fishing fleets would have provided for a more holistic and successful risk-management strategy: Having complementary and countering input from many views and voices as an integral part of planning, prevention and response can productively exploit the problematics of...multiple realities in ways that would not be possible in a plan which attempted to reconcile them (Browning and Shetler: 489). Thus corporatism - or the accumulation of as many multiple social realities or ‘constructions’ as may exist - may be a way of bringing the maximum expertise and accumulated knowledge to bear on a given problem.

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In their study of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, for example, Browning and Shetler (1992) noted how the authorities systematically discounted local knowledges - even when their own methods were seen to have no chance of success. Exxon had been burning oil and using dispersant, to little effect. Local fishermen felt that the authorities should concentrate on a realisable objective, namely the booming of a few valuable rivers and inlets. The use of such a relatively non-intrusive technology would also, it was felt, relieve local villages from the stench of burning oil (Browning and Shetler: 485-486). The positive role of local fishermen was later noted:

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The corporatist approach is not unique to the State of Alaska, however. In the United Kingdom the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) has for many years advised government on the rules that control the design and construction of buildings. A wide range of professionals from the construction industry, architects, surveyors and engineers, meet with users of premises and others, including a Chief Fire Officer, to make recommendations on the codes of practice that seek to ensure the safety of structures. Following on from the Fire Brigades Union’s campaign after the Sun Valley fire (see Unit5.5) we should note that The FBU regularly contributes to BRAC technical working parties.

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Whether the BRAC meets Browning and Shelter’s criteria is debatable. What Browning and Shetler argue for is more than mere consultation, but a fully interactive and ongoing negotiation and accommodation of sometimes mutually antagonistic constructions of a given problem. In the case of Alaskan oil spill management procedures, this axiom has found expression in the Incident Command System which ‘allows the integration of multiple viewpoints into a working team [through the incorporation of] personnel from various organisations’ (Browning and Shetler: 493). As Browning and Shetler explain: The real changes in Alaska have been communication changes. Rather than a tightening of high control...activities, there has been an opening of multiple channels and structures of communication, reflecting the multiple strata and simultaneous interests of many groups, and the complementary recognition of each other’s interests (Browning and Shetler: 493).

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One can only wonder what effect a ‘complementary recognition of each other’s interests’ would have had on relations between the police and victims’ relatives at Lockerbie, or relations between environmentalists and Manchester Airport Authority at the runway inquiry, or relations between the inhabitants of ‘at risk’ communities and the managements of local industries? There are precedents for the institutionalised reconciliation of multiple social realities. In the United States, for example, the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act provided for the local negotiation of emergency plans. Through the creation of Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) an institutionalised means of reconciling differential constructions of industrial hazard was formally established. The legislation was in part a reaction to such incidents as Bhopal, and to the work of people like Viscusi (1983) whose seminal work Risk by Choice sought to establish the right of citizens ‘...to make personal choices about the risks taken based on the most complete information available’ (Musselman, 1989: 7). The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act is overseen by the various State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs). The Commissioners are responsible for ensuring the establishment of the appropriate number of LEPCs. The LEPCs accommodate as many different perspectives on industrial risk as possible. As Musselman (1989: 22) explains: Five specific categories of membership are identified...Elected state and local officials... Law enforcement, civil defence, firefighting, first-aid, health, local environmental, hospital and transportation personnel...Broadcast and Print Media...Community groups [and]...Owners of firms and facilities subject to the requirements of the law. The LEPCs are required to propose an Emergency Plan, to inform the public of its existence and nature, to receive comments on it and to distribute the plan once fully developed and agreed. Of course, the LEPCs are established on the assumption that the hazardous industries under their remit are there to stay. In this sense, the various co-opted community groups are presented with a fait accompli. Nevertheless, the LEPCs do provide a means of articulating, and even of reconciling, different constructions of industrial risk. They provide ‘at-risk’ communities with the possibility of influencing the emergency response plans of local industry. They also provide a means of ensuring that information on any hazardous chemicals that might be used at local plants is made available to the public, as the law requires. Unfortunately, however, the LEPCs have not been without their problems. As Musselman (1989: 23) explains:

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[I]t has been difficult to find qualified personnel to serve on these committees. The limited number of individuals professionally trained and educated to implement and give advice regarding these programmes may prove to be a major stumbling block in implementing this law.

means of expressing their views on air safety. As one British crash investigator has put it: I think...that while it is entirely legitimate that the regulatory authorities should have frequent contact with the manufacturing sector and the operators , what is missing from that whole equation is the input from the customer - the passengers who have paid for the whole thing...[P]assengers have literally no say on what recommendations are made in air transport (Trimble in Faith, 1996: 43). Here, then, is a plea for the expression and accommodation of a variety of constructions of technological risk within the risk management process. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working within the field of environmental regulation, has termed such a process ‘regulatory negotiation’ (Fiorino, 1988: 764). In 1983, the EPA introduced its Regulatory Negotiation Project. The project reflected dissatisfaction with the existing adversarial approach to environmental rule-making. A corporatist approach, involving as many interested parties as possible, including environmental groups, was seen as a means of cultivating a greater measure of support for policy. The initiative has proved popular: [P]arties to environmental disputes have found mediation and negotiation to be more satisfying, less expensive and more constructive than an adversarial approach (Fiorino, 1988: 764). The programme is based on a number of assumptions: [First] that affected interests in society could be represented in a committee of 15 to 20 people... [Secondly] that people would be willing to invest the time and resources to work through issues to a consensus...[Thirdly] that the partners would be counted on to negotiate in good faith...[And fourthly] that the Agency could commit to issuing a proposed rule based on the parties’ consensus, among others (Fiorino, 1988: 764).

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In the United States, the need to accommodate and reconcile different constructions of technological risk has not been universally recognised. This is certainly the case in such fields as aviation safety regulation, where the agenda is largely set by various federal authorities and the aviation industry itself. Thus the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), on the basis of its crash investigations and other researches, recommends safety improvements to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the body charged with regulating the aviation industry. The FAA attempts to reconcile such recommendations with the requirements of both the aircraft manufacturers and operators (Faith, 1996: 32). In the United States, therefore, formal mechanisms exist for the expression of just four (potentially) conflicting views of air safety regulation: that of the crash investigators, that of the airplane manufacturers, that of the airline operators, and that of the body charged with regulating and promoting the US aviation industry, the FAA. The situation in the United Kingdom is broadly similar. There are some, however, who think that passengers should be provided with a formal

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Within the committees, decisions were made by consensus, which the EPA defined as ‘the concurrence of all interests represented’ (Fiorino, 1988: 765). Up to 1988, the EPA had employed the technique of regulatory negotiation in seven areas of environmental policy making, ranging

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from ‘Nonconformance Penalties for Heavy-Duty Engines’ to the revision of regulations protecting farmworkers from hazardous chemicals. Out of the seven rule-change negotiations, the committees reached a consensus in five negotiations. That is, the different constructions of the issues involved were reconciled to the satisfaction of all parties in five out of seven cases. Perhaps inevitably, most of those involved in the regulatory negotiation process found it a welcome change from the adversarial system, which one likened to ‘shouting into a hurricane’ (Fiorino, 1988: 768): [P]arties [involved in the EPA’s initiative] stressed the benefits of negotiation as a deliberative process...For many, the negotiation was their first opportunity to engage other parties face-to-face in policy discussions. The negotiation process was variously described as educational, as offering a forum for producing arguments and evidence...[and] as a way of understanding another side’s point of view...

MSC IN RISK, CRISIS AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT

(Fiorino, 1988: 768) It should be noted, however, that efforts to reconcile incommensurate constructions of technoscientific risk within such forums may be confounded by the inherent weaknesses of representative democracy. Specifically, the fact that there is no guarantee that so-called representative groups do in fact represent the entire range of views on a subject. As Fiorino (1988: 769-770) puts it: [W]hat assurance is there that [co-opted]...groups can represent the interests of society at large? Like pluralist politics generally, negotiation is biased toward organised, influential interests in society. The most well-balanced committee is not competent institutionally to represent unorganised or un-influential groups or broad conceptions of the public interest. And even if co-opted groups do represent the whole range of opinion on a topic, what guarantee is there that they will, within the context of a deliberative exchange, articulate those views. Furthermore, there are questions of knowledge, technical competence, communication skills, timeliness and cost.

9.2 Understanding Katrina As this module was being revised in February 2006, the emergency management community of practitioners and scholars was still at an early stage of learning the lessons from the devastating hurricane that struck the city of New Orleans on Monday 29 August 2005, causing many deaths, extensive damage and flooding. Dramatic media reporting presented the world with close descriptions of a slow, piecemeal response that left many victims suffering physical and psychological privations for several days; dead bodies were lying in the streets for cameras to dwell on whilst armed police and military concentrated on combating looting. All this was happening in a wrecked area of the most technologically advanced society in the world. That there was a massive systems failure at all three levels of US government is widely accepted; the leadership of the Mayor, the State Governor and the President have been criticised. However, exactly how and why the tragic events unfolded in the way they did will need a good deal more research.

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We do know there was some warning that Katrina was coming, although her exact path and severity could not be predicted. Also it is documented that the vulnerability of New Orleans was well recognised. Flooding risks were obvious in a city built largely below sea level, sometimes on reclaimed swamps, and protected by engineered structures (levees) that in fact broke this time. Wisner et al. (2004: 248) presented a map showing how problematic an evacuation of the city would be if it suffered a direct hurricane hit. Several of the staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), quoted in June 2002 in a New Orleans newspaper, reported that FEMA had recognised the need for work on planning for the “ unprecedented response that would be needed if the New Orleans bowl flooded (Tarrant, 2005: 32). (see the supplied reading).

emergency personnel, and delivered almost no aid in the vital 72hour ‘golden’ period that follows a disaster (The Times, 2005:4). Some of the criticism of Michael Brown may prove to have been justified but we should not overlook the relative weakness of FEMA in the US governmental system: Federal resources cannot be mobilized in a disaster situation without a formal request from the governor. (Tierney et al. 2001: 63). The communications between the State Governor and the federal agencies will no doubt be subject to intense scrutiny. Already a Congressional committee has severely criticised the handling of Katrina in a long report published on the15th of February 2006 (see the supplied reading). They conclude that the official response to this disaster was a national failure but are particularly critical of the Department of Homeland Security.

9.3 Guide to Reading The supplied reading is a collection of short reports on Hurricane Katrina.

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MSC IN RISK, CRISIS AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT

The Director of FEMA, Michael Brown, was interviewed by the UK magazine ‘Resilience’ in the Spring 2005 issue. He described how FEMA had learned a lot from floods in Florida when the FEMA stockpile was at risk from the later hurricanes, and that a high risk priority was the expectation of hurricane flooding of New Orleans. However, soon after Katrina the dismissal of Brown was being reported because FEMA was seen as the weak link in the federal response. Specifically FEMA was accused of having delayed the deployment of troops, turned back volunteers and out-of-state

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9.4 Bibliography Allen, S., Adam, B. and Carter, C. (eds) (2000) Environmental Risks and the Media, London: Routledge. Browning & Shetler (1992) ‘Communication in crisis, Communication in recovery: A Postmodern Commentary on the Exxon Valdez Disaster’ in International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, November 1992, Vol. 10, No. 3

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Crosby, N., Kelly, J. M., and Schaefer, P. (1986) ‘Citizens Panels: A New Approach to Citizen Participation’ in Public Management Forum, March/April Faith, N. (1996) Black Box: Why Air Safety Is No Accident, London: Boxtree Fiorino, D. J. (1988) ‘Regulatory Negotiation as a Policy Process’ in Public Administration Review, July/August Fire Brigades Union (FBU) (1995) A Fighting Chance, FBU, Bradley House, 68 Coombe Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 7AE. Musselman, V. C. (1989) Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know: An Implementer’s Guide to SARA Title III, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Tarrant, M. (2005) ‘Hurricane Katrina’, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 20( 4), 32. The Times, (2005) ‘Bush dismisses emergency response chief in shake-up’, Saturday 10th September, page 4. Tierney, K. J., Lindell, M. K. and Perry, R. W. (2001) Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States, Washington: Joseph Henry Press. Verba, S., Nie, N. H., and Kim, J. (1978) Participation and Political Equality, New York: Cambridge University Press. Viscusi, W. K. (1983) Risk by Choice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Wisner, B., Blaikie, P., Cannon, T. and Davis, I. (2004) At Risk: Natural Hazards, people’s Vulnerability and Disasters (second edition), London: Routledge.


MSC IN RISK, CRISIS AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT

READING Hurricane Katrina Selected Articles

Following the Interim Decision of the Copyright Tribunal (announced on 13th December 2001), permission to make this copy is being obtained directly from the copyright owner.


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Module 1 Theories of Risk and Crisis This module serves as an introduction to the course and to the subject area of risk, crisis and disaster management, and it is also a conceptual tool box for the rest of the course. In particular, it introduces a range of theoretical perspectives on the concepts of risk and crisis such as how risk is assessed and managed. The overarching aim of the module is to identify different perspectives and examine the extent to which they inform practice and ultimately to lay a foundation upon which future modules will build.

MODULE 5

MSc in Risk, Crisis & Disaster Management

MSc in Risk, Crisis & Disaster Management

Module 2 Managing Risk and Crisis

MODULE 5

In this module some contemporary debates about security are explored. It brings together broad developments in theories of risk in the social sciences with risk issues of relevance to security managers. It also examines the relationship between these different perspectives on risk and a general theory of security. An attempt is made to highlight the relationship between the theory and practice of risk management and security.

(updated February 2012)

Module 3 Research Methods in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management This Module aims to provide students with comprehensive knowledge and understanding of methodological issues in investigation studies research. The Module introduces students to research methodology on both a theoretical and practical level. Students are encouraged to analyse critically the process of social scientific enquiry and to examine the relationship between research problems, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches.

In this module a number of case studies of crises and disasters are examined. The case studies act as heuristics ‑ vehicles for exploring some of the issues and concepts introduced in modules one and two. Such issues include the impact of personality on crisis and disaster management, the influence of cultural factors and national preferences on crisis and disaster management techniques, and the impact on disaster investigations of paradigmatic interpretations of evidence. The rationale for the module is that important lessons can be learned from the detailed, objective analysis of past crises and disasters. The unit also provides an insight into the politics of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, which set up the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, and into subsequent legislation on the regulation of developments close to hazardous complexes.

Module 5 Models of Risk, Crisis and Disaster This module addresses the possibility that risks, crises and disasters may be understood in different ways by different people. An air crash, for example, may be understood primarily as a potential blow to profitability by an aircraft manufacturer, as a case for investigation by the relevant police service and national accident investigation bureau, as a destabilizing influence on the stock market by brokers and investors and as a human tragedy by the tabloid press (for whom disasters provide many column-inches of material) and relatives, partners and friends of the victims. Thus the same event may be ‘constructed’ or experienced differently by different parties. This module examines how parties with different ‘investments’ (reputational, financial, emotional etc.) in crises and disasters may experience them in quite different ways.

Module 6 Emergency Planning Management This module looks at the ‘front line’ management of risks, crises and disasters. The emphasis is on practical risk, crisis and disaster management, from risk assessments produced by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive to the factors that need to be considered by emergency planners when drafting an evacuation plan. The module aims to be as eclectic as possible, including, for example, a unit on the identification and management of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The course material is and remains the property of the University (and must be immediately returned to the University upon request at any time) and is either the copyright of the University or of third parties who have licensed the University to make use of it. The course material is for the private study of the student to whom it is sent and any unauthorised use, copying or resale is not permitted. Unauthorised use may result in the course being terminated. The course material was created in the academic year 2011/2012 Civil Safety and Security Unit • University of Leicester • 14 Salisbury Road • Leicester • LE1 7QR

MODELS OF RISK, CRISIS AND DISASTER

Module 4 Case Studies of Crises and Disasters

Models of Risk, Crisis and Disaster

ILLA - RCDM M5  

MODULE 5 MSc in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management

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