Key consultant on Buncefield warns against using Buncefield as worse case scenario
The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board board this week called for an immediate review of the system for land use planning around major hazard sites. www.buncefieldinvestigation.gov.uk/
Disaster management specialist Bill Keane is concerned that the Board appears to be calling for a change before the physics of the Buncefield disaster are fully comprehended. Bill Keane was a key consultant to Buncefield, providing specialist blast damage assessment and major incident management of the properties damaged by the explosion in 2005.
He agrees with reports request for a review in due course, but calls for a balanced response not a knee-jerk reaction to an isolated, if large-scale, incident. He says:-
"Yes, planning processes around major hazard sites do need to be reviewed and we agree with the statement in the latest report from the Board that all land use changes should include risk assessment input from external technicians and experts on a site specific basis. However, a call for action based solely on the disaster at Buncefield is premature as the physics of the Buncefield disaster are not yet fully comprehended (see note 1. below). Yes, checks and procedures should be put in place to ensure that a similar accident doesn't occur again but there will always be risks which cannot be eliminated such as human error or even terrorist attack.
Societal risks must be taken seriously, and changes to planning processes will be put in place, but it must be a balanced reaction or land will be 'criminalised' purely because of its proximity to hazardous sites, and land will be developed with a security policy based purely on past events."
1. The magnitude of the event is still not understood enough to determine new recommendations or change processes, i.e. current understanding of unconfined vapour cloud explosions would still not predict the pressures evidenced by the damage and so would still underestimate safety distances and societal risk.