Title: Understanding Large-scale Fire Events: Megafires in Attica, Greece and California
Authors: Smith, A., Schismenos, S., Stevens, G., Hutton, L., Chalaris, M., and Emmanouloudis, D.
Book Title: 2nd Special Edition: Disaster Risk Reduction Moving Forward, Thinking Ahead
Publisher: United Nations Major Group of Children and Youth, Youth Science Policy Interface Publication
In 2018 megafires occurred in Attica, Greece and California, USA. Both resulted in hundreds of fatalities, injuries and substantial damage to properties and local ecosystems. A megafire, the final stage of a major fire event, presents a serious and unpredictable threat and the risk of large-scale losses. It can be harmful not only to local populations and fire responders, but also the ecosystems of affected communities. This paper presents an overview of fire disasters in order for the readers to further understand fire development and impacts. It also details some basic, yet effective preparedness measures for people-at-risk, hoping to raise awareness regarding community self-protection. Lastly, it introduces a fire-wise mechanism (property fence) that is being developed to support community-based response during fire events.
Title: Challenges and Lessons Learned from Past Major Environmental Disasters due to Technological or Wildland Urban Interface Fire Incidents
Authors: Karma, S., Schismenos, S., Emmanouloudis, D., and Chalaris, M.
Report: United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019 (GAR19)
Publisher: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
The increased number of intense heat waves and wildfires that has been recorded in recent years on a global basis has raised great concerns; it is apparent that the projected climatic changes may affect such hazards to a large extent in the future. Each year, wildfires result in high mortality rates and property losses, especially in the wildland urban interface (WUI), affecting millions of people and having devastating global consequences on biodiversity and ecosystems. It has to be considered that wildfire disasters may rapidly change their nature into technological disasters, e.g. in the mixed areas of forests and residential, heavy industrial, or recycle zones. In such cases, there is a global concern because toxic components are released, like dioxins, as well as fine and ultra-fine particles with transboundary effects. Even though international relative policies and fire safety legislation have resulted in effective prevention mechanisms, both environmental and technological fire hazards continue to threaten the sustainability of local populations and the biodiversity of the affected areas.
Focusing on “Priority 1: Understanding disaster risk” and “Priority 4: Enhancing disaster preparedness” of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, this work attempts to highlight the possible health and environmental impacts of WUI and technological fire incidents. To further support its findings, this study presents recent indicative cases from all around the world. The main goal is to gather a number of lessons learned and best practices as a basis for brainstorming, in order to improve disaster preparedness and resilience techniques. These lessons and best practices can be utilized in the future by the relevant stakeholders and involved parties in order to optimize risk reduction strategies, but also for enhancing the self-awareness of the large majority.
Title: Large-Scale Fire Incidents in Recycling Plants: Lessons Learned from Two Indicative Case Studies and Future Needs
Authors: Schismenos, S., Karma, S., and Chalaris, M.
Book Title: Novel Approaches in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management
Publisher: Nova Science Publishers
When extreme fire incidents occur in recycling plants, a number of threats are posed to the exposed receptors due to the production of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, atmospheric particulate matters and gases, attributed mainly to plastics combustion. Moreover, the generated smoke plume that is usually dispersed in long distances, the possible chemical explosions that can be secondarily produced and the resulted thermal radiation waves are serious concerns for the emergency responders. Furthermore, factors such as meteorological data and accessibility of fire-fighting means can be critical for the duration of every response operation.
While the establishment of early warning mechanisms sounds mandatory, it is essential that accurate information for the dispersion of smoke plume and data, regarding concentrations of produced toxic compounds to be exchanged rapidly and in real-time among the involved parties. Additionally, the use of science and technology in combination with the operational improvements and adjustments, based on past incidents could potentially boost the response procedures, while fire-resistant materials in gear and equipment based on emerging technologies could smoothen the processes of fire mitigation and health impacts limitation.
This research aims to present major short- and long-term health challenges that emergency responders, nearby communities, and ecosystems need to face after the occurrence of large-scale fire incidents in recycling plants. Prime goal of this study is to inform related experts and decision makers on the importance of lessons learned in terms of safety regulations and fire response plans, as well as to highlight the role of technology and experience in sensitive topics, such as the health safety of responders and the possible need for evacuation of affected populations. In that framework, two indicative fire cases that occurred in two recycling plants located in Greece and the United Kingdom, respectively, are described, in order to record lessons learned relevant to the followed procedures and discuss on possible involvement of different response mechanisms for anticipating future relevant incidents.
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