Accidental Releases of Hazardous Materials and Relevance to Terrorist Threats at Industrial Facilities

Nicholas Santella, Laura J. Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Hazardous material releases, some with serious consequences, are a common occurrence in the U.S. Of late, the hazards posed by releases caused by terrorist attacks or natural disasters have been of particular concern. Although terrorism directed at hazardous material handling industries within the U.S. has not yet resulted in a significant incident, there is much recent experience with serious accidental releases resulting from natural disasters. Case studies are developed from a number of recent natural disasters and severe weather events that resulted in large releases of hazardous materials. These case studies are used to illustrate parallels between the risks posed by hazardous material releases resulting from terrorism and natural disasters; examples include the presence of a dominant mechanism for physical damage, difficult-to-control and unforeseen scenarios of releases, limited specific regulation of the risks, and a complex and difficult response environment. Hence, lessons learned from previous experience with releases during natural disasters can be used to increase the resilience of industrial facilities and to improve the planning for hazardous material response in the face of terror threats. Routes to improve hazardous material industry preparedness for terror attack and natural disasters include physical hardening of facilities and equipment, utilization of passive safety devices, greater consideration of facility layout and siting, application of inherently safer design principles, and additional legislation at local, state or federal levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalJournal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • chemical facilites
  • hazardous material
  • natech
  • natural disaster
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research


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