National Academies Press: OpenBook
« Previous: 3 Methodological Approach to Determining Vulnerabilities
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

4
Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios

Open-source information about the chemical industry, information provided through briefings during the course of this study, and the knowledge and experience of the members of the authoring committee were analyzed using the methodology of Figure 3.1 to envision potential scenarios with catastrophic consequences. Scenarios that would not lead to levels of consequence considered “catastrophic” were discarded. All possible scenarios envisioned that resulted in catastrophic consequences were versions of one of three basic scenarios: high-volume release (fixed site or transport), shortage, and misuse (i.e., theft or tampering). Figures 3.2-3.4 map how the characteristics discussed in Chapter 3 were applied to reach this conclusion.

Because the charge for this study calls for identification of federal science and technology (S&T) investments that could prevent or mitigate these consequences, for each scenario the following questions were also considered:

  • Would investment in S&T help mitigate or reduce the consequences of this scenario? In particular, can S&T solutions be proposed that can help prevent the event from rising to the level of catastrophic?

  • Is there a federal role in the investments?

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

THE FEDERAL ROLE

Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-71 establishes a national policy for federal departments to identify and prioritize the critical infrastructure and key resources of the United States, and to protect them from terrorist attacks. It directs federal agencies to enhance the protection of our Nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources against terrorist acts that could:

  1. Cause catastrophic health effects or mass casualties2 comparable to those from the use of a weapon of mass destruction;

  2. Impair federal departments’ and agencies’ abilities to perform essential missions, or to ensure the public’s health and safety;

  3. Undermine state and local government capacities to maintain order and to deliver minimum essential public services;

  4. Damage the private sector’s capability to ensure the orderly functioning of the economy and delivery of essential services;

  5. Have a negative effect on the economy through the cascading disruption of other critical infrastructure and key resources; or

  6. Undermine the public’s morale and confidence in our national economic and political institutions.3

Based on HSPD-7, the following impacts are relevant when discussing the chemical sector:

  • Impact on life and health (item a)

  • Impact on government function (items b and c)

  • Impact on the economy and/or the private sector (items d and e).

Societal response (item f) helps shape an incident and can either mitigate or exacerbate its effects. It is taken into account here as a source of possible amplification4 of the three areas of impact listed above.

1  

See the following website for more information: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031217-5.html.

2  

For the purposes of this report, casualties include deaths and injuries.

3  

See the following web site for more information: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031217-5.html.

4  

Richard Eiser, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield, defines social amplification as “the many ways in which information about risks is amplified by some social processes and reduced by others. In processes of social amplification, a person’s own knowledge is supplemented by other opinions which have been gathered and modulated by more or less official media. Individuals use such information to determine their own opinions. In

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

The statement of task for this study calls for a focus on potential catastrophic events. As mentioned previously, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Response Plan defines a catastrophic incident as one that “results in large numbers of casualties and/or displaced persons, possibly in the tens of thousands.” Similarly, an economic impact on the order of tens to hundreds of billions of dollars would be considered catastrophic. A catastrophic event is one whose consequences are so extensive that they overwhelm the ability of emergency responders, local, state, and federal government officials, and/or the general public to adequately and/or fully respond in a timely fashion.5

Incident Scenarios

Using its knowledge of and information about the chemical sector, and applying the methodology described in Chapter 3, particularly the supply chain characteristics presented in Figure 3.1, the study committee set out to envision attack scenarios involving the chemical infrastructure that would be significant enough to require a federal response. It found that all plausible scenarios generated in this red teaming type exercise that had the potential to reach a catastrophic level of impact fell into one of three basic categories:

  1. High-volume release (either fixed site or transport),

  2. Shortage, or

  3. Misuse.

Each of these three scenarios is illustrated below with an example that

   

addition, such signals can have more public consequences, for example when a public protest arises about some proposed new development. These developments also ripple outwards to other people, to new areas and to new groups. The opposite effect is social attenuation, when media and other key influencers decide not to stress a specific subject and interest in it becomes reduced.

“Social amplification can lead to decisions that are politically unavoidable and are perhaps socially understandable, but which produce less than optimum results if the problem is regarded as being one of resource allocation.” Full paper available at http://www.foresight.gov.uk/Intelligent_Infrastructure_Systems/long_paper.pdf.

5  

Quarantelli, E. 2005. Catastrophes Are Different from Disasters: Some Implications for Crisis Planning and Managing Drawn from Katrina. Available at http://understandingkatrina.ssrc.org/Quarantelli/.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

discusses the vulnerabilities, gives estimates of their consequences if exploited, and discusses recommendations that result.6 The intention is not to review specific attack tactics and weapons for carrying out the scenario.

Estimates of the casualties resulting from a deliberate attack on the chemical infrastructure vary widely and have been controversial. A recent Congressional Research Service report details many of those estimates and discusses the differences in the analyses and assumptions that lead to them.7 To preclude the possibility that the conclusions of this study could be dismissed because they are perceived as being based on flawed modeling of casualties, this report uses consequences from the historical accident record to provide existence proof for the consequences postulated in its scenario exercise.

Accident records are used, rather than a record of terrorist attacks, because there have been an extremely low number of terrorist attacks against the chemical infrastructure to date, and even fewer of these have had significant consequences. The Critical Infrastructure Terrorist Incident Catalog, a database of attacks against critical infrastructure with information on incidents going back as far as 1933, lists only 10 possible attacks against the chemical infrastructure, two of which are probable accidents; only one of the incidents definitively determined to be an attack is identified as having had significant consequences (i.e., property damage).8

Note that the casualty figures postulated here on the basis of the accident record cannot be taken as either minimum or maximum estimates. Casualties could be much lower if the correct convergence of factors does not occur. (Indeed, there are numerous historical examples available of similar accidents with much lower casualty figures.) It is also possible that casualties from a deliberate attack could be higher—one assumes that, unlike an accident, a deliberate attack will include efforts to control as many variables as possible in order to maximize casualties. However, in a deliberate attack, actual casualties will still depend on factors that are not entirely

6  

The scenarios included here are based on legal civilian chemical activities and do not include government-controlled military chemical agents or blatantly illegal activities such as illicit drug manufacturing.

7  

Schierow, L. 2005. Chemical Facility Security. RL31530. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

8  

Monterey Institute of International Studies Center for Nonproliferation Studies. 2004. Assessing Terrorist Motivations for Attacking Critical “Chemical” Infrastructure. Monterey, CA. p. x.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

under the attacker’s control, such as meteorological conditions, the ability of the populace to shelter in-place, and the status of emergency preparedness and response. With these caveats, major accidents, although few in number relative to the size and long history of the chemical sector, can be used to provide a realistic estimate of the impact of an intentional attack. Lessons learned from these accidents can be used to better mitigate, prepare, and respond to future terrorist incidents, whatever the cause.

High-Volume Storage: An Incident Involving High Volumes of Toxic and/or Flammable Chemicals

The chemical industry stores many chemicals at its facilities in the form of raw materials, intermediates, products, and by-products. These products and by-products are then sold to customers who store them on their sites for direct use or for the manufacture of other products. The products of interest to a terrorist are chemicals that are toxic, flammable, or explosive, or a combination thereof. As Figure 4.1 indicates, this scenario has particular relevance to storage of inorganic chemicals, industrial gases, and petrochemicals and fossil fuels. Examples of inorganic chemicals that are toxic and stored in large volumes include chlorine, ammonia, and hydrogen fluoride. Industrial gases that are toxic include carbon monoxide; nitrogen and argon are asphyxiants; oxygen and hydrogen are flammable. Most petrochemical and fossil fuel products, intermediates, and by-products are flammable, while a few such as hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, and phosgene are toxic.

Scenario

Location. The fictional River City is located on a major transportation corridor, serves as an inland port, and is a centralized hub of industrial production. The city abuts a major fresh waterway that serves as a source of drinking water for millions of people in the city and downstream from it. River City’s terrain is moderately hilly and a majority of the population resides in low-lying areas, increasing the potential for a persistent toxic cloud to develop over a large residential area at a concentration hazardous to life and health. Limited evacuation routes are available to the community. River City has a population density greater than 8,000 people per square mile.


Time of Incident. The incident occurs during summer at or around mid-

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

FIGURE 4.1 High-volume scenario: storage. As depicted in (a), a chemical facility is located within the midsized, fictitious River City. In the terrorist attack outlined in (b), Facility A is targeted first. The shock wave from this attack causes the destruction of Facility B. Shrapnel from Facility B hits Storage Tanks C, which then release toxic chemicals into the river, the source of drinking water for River City and downstream communities. See text for details.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

night on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, when lower numbers and junior levels of permanent employees staff industrial facilities.


Ambient Conditions. The night is clear with a temperature of approximately 80° F. Wind speed is low (<4 miles per hour), and the wind is blowing from the chemical sources toward areas of high population density. The atmosphere is relatively stable.


Other Special Circumstances. Facility A is undergoing major maintenance and construction, so a large number of temporary contract staff is on-site, working around the clock.


Initiating Event (Stage One). Terrorists attack Facility A, triggering one or more explosions involving large storage containers of inorganic chemicals, petrochemicals, or fuels and specialty chemicals. (Examples might be potentially explosive fertilizers, light hydrocarbons capable of generating a large vapor cloud explosion, or high-energy reactive chemicals.) Multiple initiating pathways could be proposed that would generate significant pressure waves and projectile materials from the exploded storage vessels. The pressure waves and projectiles could further impact not only Facility A, but also facilities beyond its boundaries. Perpetrators provide plausible evidence to the media to demonstrate that the incident is due to terrorism.


Immediate Consequences (Stage One). The initial explosion results in 250 fatalities on-site, most of whom are contract employees; 100 people are killed off-site. 1,000 people are injured on-site; and 2,000 are injured off-site. The number of fatalities and injuries on-site severely compromises the ability of the facility to implement any emergency response activities. Most windows in the nearby vicinity are broken, destroying the capability for many to shelter in-place.


Cascading Events (Stage Two). In the proposed scenario, the potential exists for additional consequences resulting from the initial attack. These consequences can be described as “cascading event” consequences—for example, the initial explosion caused by the attack damages other equipment and causes further explosions or toxic releases that may be significantly more severe than the initial event. These events may not be anticipated or planned by the attacker, and in fact, the attacker may not even be aware of the

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

potential for cascading events. The consequences described here would also obtain if disruption of the second facility was the result of a direct attack.

Pressure waves and projectiles from the explosion at Facility A strike large storage containers or rail cars at a separate plant (Facility B). The result is a loss of containment from the storage containers at Facility B, releasing highly toxic industrial chemicals (e.g., hydrofluoric acid, chlorine, ammonia, phosgene, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, sulfur trioxide, hydrogen cyanide, selenium hydride). These chemicals will readily evaporate to form highly concentrated vapor clouds at the temperature postulated for the incident. The resultant vapor clouds will not dissipate or mix rapidly with the surrounding atmosphere because of the low wind speed and stable atmosphere that prevails at the time of the incident. The toxic gas cloud remains relatively concentrated and close to the ground, giving maximum potential exposure to the surrounding population. Toxic chemical exposures of residents in the community are increased because of broken windows and other structural damage to nearby property caused by the initial explosion, because of the timing of the event (people are at home), and because of limited evacuation routes.

Another potential cascading event is a release of toxic liquid from a storage tank into the river. Materials with a boiling point near normal atmospheric temperature—for example, monomethylamine (boiling point −6° C)—could form a toxic vapor cloud, yet remain partially liquid and flow into the river. The pressure wave and projectiles from the initiating explosion could impact storage vessels at a third facility, Facility C, releasing high volumes of liquid chemicals (e.g., petroleum fuels; chemicals that are persistent and bioaccumulative9) that flow into the river, the source of public drinking water and industrial water for River City and many downstream communities.


Immediate Consequences (Stage Two). On-site, 15 people are killed at Facility B; 1,000 are killed off-site; 20,000 people are exposed off-site, incurring injuries with a wide range of severity; business interruption occurs throughout River City. The consequence of Facility C’s release grows subsequently in River City and the downstream communities as liquid chemical contamination of water supplies occurs.

9  

Bioaccumulative: substances that concentrate in living organisms as they breathe contaminated air, drink or live in contaminated water, or eat contaminated food rather than being eliminated through natural processes.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Assessment of Impact

This assessment was made based on the historical analogies presented in Appendix A.


Impact on Life and Health. Release of a cloud of a hazardous toxic chemical would be expected to have a large, possibly catastrophic number of casualties. This fictional incident resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and 22,000 injuries. If a cascading spill of hazardous chemicals affects the water supply, a major impact would also be expected on downstream populations.


Impact on the Economy and the Private Sector. If Facility A is a petroleum refinery, immediate price hikes of refined products could occur due to anticipated shortages, even though no immediate inventory and distribution problems would be plausible because of large numbers of similar regional facilities and maintenance of transportation routes.10 U.S. petroleum refining capacity has remained relatively constant for the last two decades despite expanded demand.11 It is not anticipated that there would be larger regional or national impacts on distribution and transportation of chemicals. However, river transportation might be impacted for a short period of time as damage, contamination, and the possibility of a second attack are assessed.

Although the economic impact for the company affected in this scenario and its suppliers and customers could be enormous, the scenario as defined would not be considered catastrophic to the regional and national economy because of redundancies in operations at other facilities. Given that the event resulted from terrorism, social amplification could occur with further impact on the national economy.


Impact on Government Function. While this scenario would clearly be a major event and as an act of terrorism would invoke a federal investigation, because it is relatively localized it normally would not overwhelm the fed-

10  

The March 23, 2005 explosion at the BP Amoco Texas City, Texas refinery, which was reported to represent about 3 percent of U.S. refining capacity provides a basis for this estimate of impact. Washington Post. 2005. Blast cuts refining capacity, March 25, p. E01.

11  

See the following web site for more information: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency. Available at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/oil_market_basics/Refining_text.htm#U.S.%20Refining%20Capacity.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

eral government’s capacity to respond. Local governments, and perhaps the state government, might be overwhelmed in their initial ability to respond to the demands of the disaster. The number of casualties would overwhelm all but the largest metropolitan medical systems and thereby necessitate significant regional and national coordination of emergency medical transport and care.

Possible government regulatory response, such as mandating specific security measures to protect facilities, may occur as a result, with a subsequent impact on the economic function of these companies and, in the aggregate, on the economy as a whole.


Societal Response. The societal response to any act of terror will presumably be greater than if the same consequences occurred through a nonterrorist event. In addition to the immediate reactions of the affected population, populations living near similar facilities would probably express concern that their locations are also targets. Terrorists might exacerbate such fears by announcing or attacking additional targets. Possible effects resulting from social amplification could include demands that chemical facilities nationwide be temporarily shut down, comparable to the cessation of air traffic after 9/11. If such a shutdown were to occur, the economic impact would be large. If large numbers of deaths occur as a result of water contamination (which has not occurred in previous cases of contamination), there may be a generalized fear of poisoning of the water supply. Demands on the government to deploy forces to protect chemical facilities may draw troops away from other priorities.

Discussion

The initial event, under an adverse convergence of circumstances, could have catastrophic levels of casualties but not catastrophic economic consequences. The potential for such a cascading event occurring is low, but not zero. The potential for a cascading event is also very site dependent. However, terrorists could achieve similar or greater impact by attacking multiple, either closely located or geographically dispersed, sites.

Although a coordinated event (multiple attacks at multiple sites occurring simultaneously or in a series) and a cascading event may have the same physical outcome, they could have different impacts. A cascading event involves successive events that are physically close to the initial event, but coordinated attacks can occur in geographically dispersed locations, possi-

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

bly increasing public concern and straining the response capacity. Note that both coordinated attacks and cascading events could take place over some period of time—hours or even days. It may be difficult to recognize that coordinated attacks are occurring since terrorists benefit by disguising the relationships among events until their objectives are realized. However, early recognition of coordinated attacks is key to preventing further consequences and managing the potential for social amplification.

Release of toxic materials has greater potential to lead to a catastrophic number of casualties than release of flammable or explosive materials, since the impact distance of a toxic release can be much greater under adverse conditions. A toxic cloud low to the ground could cause large casualties among the general population, particularly if the public is not alerted in an effective or timely manner or trained to respond appropriately to the emergency.

The properties of the chemicals involved (flammable, toxic, etc.), rather than the category of chemicals (pharmaceuticals, petrochemical, etc.), determine the outcomes of this scenario. The impact of this scenario depends on the volume of chemical released, the release rate of the chemical, the properties of the chemical, the number of people living or working near the affected site, and the geographic and meteorological conditions. Fires and explosions are less conceivable to cause an event to reach a “catastrophic” level of casualties without a cascading event to increase their impact. Toxic events can result in catastrophic levels of casualties without cascading events.

It should be noted that toxic, flammable, and explosive chemicals of concern include intermediate products in addition to starting materials and end products. For example, the methyl isocyanate released in Bhopal, India, in 1984 was an intermediate product, manufactured at the site, stored in large quantities, and consumed to produce a final product.

Because this scenario involves fixed facilities, pre-planning with the emergency response community and public is more readily achieved. However, experience with prior accidents has shown that planning and response capability has been weak and poorly exercised in many communities.12 Mutual aid agreements between communities might prove inadequate if multiple facilities are impacted simultaneously. Incident command structures would be similarly challenged. Also, the large number of casualties

12  

Merritt, C. 2005. Chemical attack on America: How vulnerable are we? Testimony before U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

may reduce the effectiveness of emergency response, especially if emergency responders are directly impacted by the cascade of events.

Surveillance is feasible, but expensive. Terrorists are challenged by the increased security enhancements in the aftermath of 9/11, but there have been multiple media reports about the ineffectiveness and incomplete implementation of this security as well as significant security breaches.13 Frequent nonterrorist incidents, as observed on the Chemical Safety Board’s Incident News Reports14 provide indications of potential vulnerabilities and attractiveness of chemical sector targets.

This scenario is set in an urban area. Storage of hazardous materials is necessary near urban centers—where gasoline is consumed, chlorine is used for water treatment, and factories are located near workers and consumers. Large storage tanks are present in urban centers; particularly those centers characterized as inland ports and centralized hubs of industrial production. Urban population centers have also grown to surround older factories. Increasing urban real estate valuation poses the additional vulnerability of nearby residential populations on former brownfield sites abutting active industrial facilities.15

Communication and analysis of information become complicated when incidents involve several facilities. Accessing the accuracy of information becomes more difficult, as is distributing that information to all involved in emergency response. The high human consequences of the initiating and cascading events will greatly constrain the flow of relevant information. Many companies already recognize the difficulties in communicating across facilities with different corporate control.

Even with complete disclosure of accurate information, the audience—first responders and the general public—may have difficulty absorbing all of the relevant information regarding each event. The media will also play a key role here, and its reporting can diminish or amplify the perceived consequences and risk associated with the release. Paradoxically, the media has become much more diverse and fractionated in marketing

13  

U.S. plants open to terrorists, 60 Minutes broadcast on CBS, June 13, 2004.

14  

See the following web site for more information: http://www.csb.gov/index.cfm?folder=circ&page=index.

15  

Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

to the public even as corporate ownership has become concentrated, thereby posing additional challenges to a coherent understanding of the event and appropriate response.16 The situation becomes more constrained as restrictive protocols (different levels of security clearances for emergency responders—police chiefs, fire chiefs, rank and file, volunteers) for information access are exercised in such complex scenarios.

Mitigating the Consequences of the High-Volume Toxic or Flammable Scenario

There are three possible approaches to mitigating the consequences identified in this scenario:

  1. Reduce vulnerability by increased security.

  2. Reduce consequence through detection and response.

  3. Reduce vulnerability and consequence through inherently safer technologies.

Possible Science and Technology Investment
  • Better fundamental understanding of material toxicity by inhalation. This will enhance our capacity to predict and model casualties. This includes the development of more Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs),17 toxicity dose-response relationships for all important chemicals, and predictive toxicology.

  • Improved scientific models that utilize the chemical properties discussed above and more accurately predict the consequences for a toxic or flammable release. Currently the government sanctions the use of the ALOHA (Area Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres)18 model for emergency responders, although some emergency responders use the manual

16  

See the following web sites for more information: (a) http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/; (b) http://www.corporations.org/media/#tv.

17  

AEGLs are intended to describe the risk to humans resulting from once-in-a-life-time, or rare, exposure to airborne chemicals. See the following web site for more information: http://www.epa.gov/oppt/aegl/.

18  

ALOHA is an atmospheric dispersion model used for evaluating releases of hazardous chemical vapors. See the following web site for more information: http://www.epa.gov/ceppo/cameo/what.htm##haz.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

method in the EPA’s Technical Guidance for Hazards Analysis or the Table of Protective Action Distances in the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook, while much of industry uses proprietary modeling software such as the PHAST (Process Hazard Analysis Software Tool)19 model. The ALOHA model is very basic in its approach, and the results vary greatly from those obtained with the more sophisticated PHAST proprietary models. A more accurate model that can be used by everyone would greatly improve emergency response planning efforts and actual response.

  • Enhanced real-time monitoring. This could contribute to early detection of and response to a chemical event. Investments could be made in the development of low-cost, accurate, and reliable sensors for toxic and flammable chemicals that could be placed strategically throughout a facility would provide early detection of chemical releases and aid emergency responders in monitoring the effects of the release.

  • Improved equipment design, especially for chemical storage. For example, current methods used for storing materials in adsorbents at the cylinder scale—as is done at computer chip manufacturing facilities—might be scalable for use in large containers (i.e., rail cars or storage tanks). Other examples would include improved metallurgy to make storage tanks more resistant to terrorist weapons and fire suppression systems or water curtains for critical flammable and toxic storage tanks.

  • Research to develop inherently safer alternatives and apply them to current processes that require high volumes of toxic or flammable materials. Previous reports have noted that changes adopted in the chemical industry to reduce costs, reduce environmental impact, or improve safety have also enhanced security by reducing the availability of hazardous materials for use in an attack.20 These changes include the introduction of just-in-time manufacturing and delivery of starting materials or key intermediates, development of inherently safer processes that involve less toxic materials or smaller volumes of material, design of resilient engineered systems and process control systems, and introduction of “over-the-fence” or

19  

PHAST examines the progress of a potential incident from the initial release to far-field dispersion including modeling of pool spreading and evaporation, and flammable and toxic effects. See the following web site for more information: http://www.dnv.com/software/all/phast/productInfo.asp.

20  

National Research Council. 2002. Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, pp.113-114, 132.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

on-site manufacturing to reduce transportation and storage. It must be noted, however, that some strategies to improve safety simply shift the risk—for example, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) is currently the most environmentally friendly way to deliver the fluorine molecule, which is needed for efficient chamber cleaning of chemical vapor deposition equipment in the electronics industry. A new on-site fluorine generator has been developed that eliminates the need to transport and store NF3. However, the on-site generator relies on the dissociation of hydrofluoric acid (HF) to produce fluorine and therefore requires transportation, on-site storage, and handling of the more hazardous HF.21 Other strategies to improve safety can in fact present new security challenges; proliferation risks from microreactors, which are inherently safer because they reduce the volume of chemical required to carry out a process, have been noted.22 Pre-competitive research to develop new means or more cost-effective means to minimize the chemical inventory, develop new syntheses that utilize less hazardous material or less hazardous reaction conditions, and simplify existing chemical processes to eliminate unnecessary complexity will contribute to hazard mitigation in the chemical infrastructure.

High-Volume Transport

This is similar to the previous scenario but differs in two important respects. First, the hazardous chemical shipment is in transit, rather than at a fixed site. Second, the quantity of hazardous chemicals in any one truck or rail shipment is usually far less than the amount of hazardous materials stored at a fixed facility—large truck shipments are typically on the order of 40,000 pounds, while rail shipments can be four times higher than this.23

Figure 3.2 illustrates the key questions and supply chain characteristics to be considered during the decision-making process (i.e., high volume of materials, proximity of routes to population centers, robustness of contain-

21  

Allgood, Charles. 2003. Delivering fluorine to the semiconductor industry: Balancing performance, safety, health, and environmental issues. Gases and Technology September/October 2003, 20-24.

22  

Nguyen, T.H. 2005. Microchallenges of chemical weapons proliferation. Science 309:1021.

23  

There are exceptions to this general statement. For example, liquefied natural gas tankers have average capacities of 138,000 m3, and newer designs can hold up to 235,000 m3. See the following web site for more information: http://www.marinelog.com/DOCS/PRINTMMV/MMVFeblng1.html.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

ers) that can potentially lead to a catastrophic event in a scenario involving high volumes of chemicals in transport. As indicated in Figure 3.1, the categories of chemicals that are of particular concern in this scenario include inorganic chemicals, industrial gases, and petrochemicals and fossil fuels.

Scenario

Hazardous chemicals are shipped by truck, rail, marine vessel, pipeline, and sometimes air (in much more limited quantities). These shipments often travel near or through urban areas. If a terrorist event were to cause a release to occur, its location will play a large role in any consequences as well as the potential for a cascading event. Although the amount of hazardous chemical involved may be significantly less than at a fixed facility, an explosion or release could lead to significant casualties if it occurs near a population center. According to the 2004 U.S. Fire Administration survey, fewer than 16 percent of fire departments in this country have hazmat units.24

Assessment of Impact

This assessment was made based on the historical analogies presented in Appendix A for events involving high-volume chemical transport.


Impact on Life and Health. Depending on the chemical involved, the number of casualties could be significant—for example, hundreds to thousands of people in cases where there are large explosions or toxic materials are released in highly populated areas. Because of the quantity of chemical involved, multiple attacks at multiple sites would be required to produce numbers of casualties that would be considered catastrophic by the standards indicated in U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Response Plan. (The values given in certain widely publicized planning scenarios reflect all those who are in a vulnerable zone, not the actual number of fatalities expected for a given set of meteorological conditions and wind directions.)

24  

See the following website for more information: http://www.usfa.fema.gov/applications/census/summary.cfm#table1.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

Impact on the Economy and the Private Sector. Impacts will depend heavily on the location of the incident and the hazardous chemicals involved. Economic impacts from most incidents would be localized. Greater impacts could occur as a result of cascading events, such as a tanker explosion that destroys a major terminal or other elements of the transportation infrastructure (e.g., bridges). Even so, these impacts will probably remain localized. Multiple events would be required to raise the level of economic impact to catastrophic levels.


Impact on Government Function. The federal government regularly investigates transportation safety incidents involving toxic materials. Any terrorist act would almost certainly invoke a federal response. Government function would be more seriously impacted only if a targeted attack using chemicals on a major government facility was successful at a time that many key members of government were present.


Societal Response. Social amplification will depend on the specific circumstances of an event. An event in an urban area may lead to calls for permanent bans on shipping of hazardous materials through urban areas, with subsequent economic impacts.

Discussion

Transportation introduces significant variability of location into the scenario discussed for facilities. This variability may work to either the advantage or the disadvantage of terrorists. Because the shipment is in motion, security precautions that are in place at fixed facilities do not exist, and modes of surveillance are quite different and can be difficult to sustain. The aggregation of hazmat rail cars in major transfer locations may be less secure than at fixed industrial facilities, and they may be located in or near urban environments. At the same time, because the location of the target is variable, additional planning is required to carry out an attack at the right place and time. There are also differences for the different modes of transport—trucks can deviate from typical routes, but the movement of rail cars is much more constrained.

Emergency response preparedness may be inadequate because preparations for a response in the exact location of the event may not be in place. Depending on the location of the incident, emergency response personnel may or may not be adequately trained and equipped for the hazardous

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

chemicals involved in the incident, and the local population may or may not be prepared to take protective action. However, more densely populated areas are more likely to have significant hazardous materials response capabilities. Depending on the nature of the attack, there may or may not be time to take protective actions, at least in the immediate vicinity of the release.

Information may be a key factor in this scenario. Regulations require that shipments of dangerous goods display the nature of the hazards, usually on the transport container, and in general this information is easy to understand. While this information is essential to effective response and aids in enhanced safety in general, some are concerned that the information may assist terrorists in identifying specific targets.

Mitigating the Consequences of the High-Volume Toxic or Flammable Transport Scenario

Response to a scenario involving high-volume chemicals in transit is similar in all but a few ways to the response for a high-volume storage scenario at a fixed site. Key differences are that volumes tend to be smaller and the location is variable. In particular, transportation may pass through localities that are not prepared for hazmat response, do not have appropriate emergency planning, and are not prepared for hazmat incidents. In addition, local jurisdictions’ ability to coordinate their emergency preparedness and response action with hazmat carriers is inherently more limited than with fixed-site facility operators.25

Possible Science and Technology Investment

Science and technology investments in areas described in the high-volume storage scenario will also help mitigate the high-volume transport scenario. The transport scenario leads to this additional potential science and technology solution:

  • Rapid systems analysis and improved communication for emergency response.

25  

See the following web site for more information: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/assets/binaries/analysis-by-us-naval-research.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

Chemical Shortage

Single supplier, long replacement time, and lack of substitution are supply chain characteristics that lead to a shortage scenario. Figure 3.1 indicates that this is of particular concern in the chemical categories of pharmaceuticals, inorganic chemicals, specialty chemicals, and petrochemicals and fossil fuels. Obviously the chemical in question must serve a critical need for a shortage to be of concern.

[Note: While this report was in review, DHS released an avian flu scenario that mirrors many of the consequences discussed below.26 The significant difference between that scenario and this is that in this case, terrorist action negates the government’s preparation to deal with a pandemic. This is a key element of the shortage scenario—it is by exacerbating an existing critical but perhaps manageable situation that terrorist action can cause a chemical shortage that is catastrophic in its consequences.]

Scenario

Location. United States.

Hypothetical Event.

The United States is preparing for what it is anticipating will be a “normal” flu season. Approximately 60 million flu vaccine doses are ready to be distributed.27 Unfortunately, the strain that actually emerges proves to be resistant to the vaccine28,29 and is unusually virulent—mortality is predicted at 5/1,000, only slightly less than the Spanish flu of 1918 (the mortality rate for those exposed to the Spanish Flu is estimated to have been slightly less than 1 percent with a case fatality of 2.5 percent).30 For-

26  

Homeland Security Council. 2004. Planning Scenarios: Executive Summaries. Washington, DC. July.

27  

It was estimated that Aventis Pasteur, which produces the influenza vaccine in northeastern Pennsylvania and is the primary producer for the United States, generated about 58 million doses for a total supply of about 60 million vaccines for the United States for the 2004 flu season.

28  

Le, Q.M., M. Kiso, K. Someya, Y.T. Sakai, T.H. Nguyen, K.H.L. Nguyen, N.D. Pham, H.H. Nguyen, S. Yamada, Y. Muramoto, and T. Horimoto. 2005. Avian flu: Isolation of drug-resistant H5N1 virus. Nature 437:1108-1108.

29  

McNeil, D.C. 2005. Flu strain isolated in Vietnamese girl is resistant to drug, scientists report. New York Times, October 15, p. 10.

30  

National Research Council. 2005. The Threat of Pandemic Influenza: Are We Ready? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 8.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

tunately, one of the existing antivirals has shown to be effective in greatly moderating the flu’s adverse health effects. Although only 1 million 7-day courses of treatment are available, the sole manufacturer implements its emergency plan and promises 20 million 42-day treatments within 30 days at the bargain price of $200 per treatment course, or $4 billion. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) publicly acknowledges the problem and states that with careful allocation of the limited supply of drugs and with new medication to be distributed “shortly,” only a limited impact, comparable to the Asian flu, is expected. Information focusing on the high-risk population and instructions and recommendations on who should get the existing supplies and where they will be available are provided.

Terrorists attack the only production facility for the antiviral and disrupt the production and supply of the drug in the United States. Another manufacturer states that it can start a new production line in 90 days, with the first antivirals to be delivered in 120 days, after the peak of the flu season. The government and the original manufacturer begin negotiations with the second manufacturer over licensing, liability and price.31 The U.S. government attempts to purchase medication from other countries that have their own stockpiles. However, there is concern that a worldwide flu pandemic, similar to the one in 1918, may emerge and foreign governments decide that they want to maintain their current stock rather than sell to the United States.

Several countries with weaker patent protection and drug regulation choose to manufacture their own version of the antiviral, both for their own population and for export.32 This “gray market” generates and distributes some effective, some ineffective, and even some dangerous medications, which exacerbate the impact of the pandemic—the death toll, illnesses, and numbers requiring hospitalization.33,34 The media highlights the role of the counterfeit drug market and its potential deadly outcomes,

31  

Pollack, A. 2005. Roche agrees to talks with generic rivals on flu drug, New York Times. October 21. Available at http://www.nytimes.com.

32  

AFX News Limited. 2005. Thailand to make its own generic version of Tamiflu to fight bird flu. Available at http://www.Forbes.com.

33  

Homeland Security Council. 2004. Planning Scenarios: Executive Summaries. Washington, DC.

34  

Harris, G. 2005. From Washington, a story about a killer flu, New York Times. October 16. Available at http://www.nytimes.com.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

thus increasing the population’s psychological stress. Reports of senior government officials hoarding the drug for their own protection surface in some newspapers, leading the general public to believe that the government is underplaying the severity of the situation. “As the credibility of public authorities crumbled, so did social order.”35 Major corporations shift production overseas and are rumored to allow critical employees to travel overseas to take advantage of foreign drug treatments. Apparently U.S. multinationals have been stockpiling antivirals in anticipation of a pandemic.36 The government considers confiscation of private stock to optimize distribution. Critical workers are using their personal allocation to protect their families instead of themselves, wreaking havoc with the government’s allocation plans. Customs and Border Protection reports large numbers of U.S. citizens are traveling to Canada and Mexico to gain access to available medication. Our neighbors voice concern to the State Department and consider severely restricting cross-border traffic.

Assessment of Impact

By the time the pandemic has run its course and antivirals become widely available the United States has suffered several hundred thousand causalities and economic losses in excess of $150 billion.37

This assessment was made based on historical analogies (the 1918 pandemic and recent influenza outbreaks) and available attempts to predict potential consequences of an avian flu pandemic. See Appendix A.


Impact on Government Function. State and local governments in heavily affected areas may be overwhelmed in their attempts to respond adequately. During the 1918-1919 Spanish flu epidemic, hospitals in Washington, D.C., were overwhelmed with patients and those infected were placed in houses, apartments, and rooming houses, either with or without medical care. The pandemic may well affect enough localities that the federal

35  

National Research Council. 2005. The Threat of Pandemic Influenza: Are We Ready? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 12.

36  

Pollack, A. 2005. Hoarding prompts halt in flu drug shipping. New York Times. October 27. Available at http://www.nytimes.com.

37  

Meltzer, M.I., N.J. Cox, and K. Fukuda. 1999. The economic impact of pandemic influenza in the United States: Priorities for intervention. Emerging Infectious Diseases 5:659− 671.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

government’s capacity to respond is overwhelmed. National security considerations may lead to difficult allocation decisions and trade-offs regarding protection of the armed services, both at home and abroad.

Societal Reaction. Social amplification or attenuation can result as a consequence of the availability or lack of effective mitigation and preparedness initiatives; effective or ineffective leadership; and the ability or inability to provide accurate, up-to-date, and continuous information. The media plays an instrumental role in either amplifying or clarifying and explaining the impacts of shortages, as illustrated by coverage of the 2004 shortage of flu vaccine. Sensationalistic, biased, and inaccurate information contributes to the social amplification of these events. For example, the media may project and disseminate information indicating that without effective medical treatment about 1 million to 2 million people will die, leading to a widespread sense of vulnerability and helplessness that might cause a significant increase in hospital visits from individuals concerned that the symptoms they are experiencing are indication of a life-threatening disease. Accurate, clear, and understandable information, promptly provided by both the press and government officials, can make the government’s response more manageable and the public’s response helpful in managing the situation: “It is worth noting that this terror, at least in paralyzing form, did not seem to materialize in the few places where authorities told the truth.”38

Discussion

Our market economy works to prevent shortages through competition. As discussed in Chapter 2, the chemical sector has redundant supply chains, moderate stockpiles of raw ingredients, and collaborative agreements to provide redundant manufacturing in an emergency or crisis situation, such as a shortage. The federal government also monitors the supply of some key pharmaceuticals and stockpiles them in order to ensure that there is no unexpected critical pharmaceutical shortage.

This scenario relies on particular characteristics of the market that could permit terrorists to capitalize on an existing situation and create a catastrophic event. The characteristic that makes the shortage scenario vi-

38  

Barry, J.M. 2005. 1918 Revisited: Lessons and suggestions for further inquiry. In The Threat of Pandemic Influenza: Are We Ready? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 58.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

able is the uniqueness of the chemical compounds involved. In this scenario there is a targeted demand for a drug, and the drug itself has limited market applications—that is, it has no use other than to treat a limited number of flu strains. Under normal conditions there would be a very limited demand for the drug, resulting in only a single supplier and moderate stockpiles. If the sole supplier’s capacity to manufacture the drug were eliminated, it is unlikely that an alternative means of production could readily be found. This is particularly true for compounds with a long manufacturing lead-time from raw material to finished product—in other words, drugs with a complex manufacturing process.

It is important to note that the federal government already has some safeguards in place to address pharmaceutical shortages. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration39 maintains a list of drugs critical to national well-being. CDER also assists the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to maintain the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS),40 which has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency severe enough to drain local supplies. Once federal and local authorities agree that the stockpile is needed, medicines can be delivered to any state in the United States within 12 hours. Each state has plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible. However, if an event were to reach a “catastrophic” level, the SNS may not have an adequate amount of medications in stock to provide the appropriate doses to all who are impacted. The Department of Defense (DOD) also maintains a list of critical material and their suppliers deemed important to national security.41

Social amplification plays a key role in this scenario. The impact—economic impact, strain on limited medical resources, and possible social disruption—depends, in part, on how the event is portrayed by the media and how well the government responds and communicates with the public.

39  

See the following web site for more information: http://www.fda.gov/cder/.

40  

See the following web site for more information: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/stockpile/.

41  

The study committee was not able to review this list or meet with the DOD.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Possible Science and Technology Investment

Several steps can be taken to reduce the nation’s vulnerability to chemical shortages. Some are outside the realm of science and technology: for example, extra security measures at suddenly critical manufacturing facilities or plans to permit confiscation of private stocks of a critical chemical in times of dire national need. Possible science and technology investments for this scenario include the following:

  • Real-time national inventory tracking of certain chemicals, and the ability to predict how extra normal but nonterrorist events might create the opportunity for terrorist-induced catastrophic shortages. This would greatly aid planning and protective measures.

  • Flexible or swing manufacturing contingency plans (perhaps including trial manufacturing runs for the most critical chemicals).

  • Collection of data and the development of models to enable rapid, high-confidence determination of how a limited supply of a chemical should be distributed to minimize consequences. Building and executing an effective simulation with all the appropriate feed data might not be feasible on an emergency time line.

  • Social science to improve response and communication. This includes implementing current knowledge about disaster response from the social science community, as well as additional studies to determine the types of information, best communication channels, and most effective delivery of information required to reach all populations affected by such an event.42 Ensuring that credible, well-informed technical spokespeople, either government employees or private individuals, are available to communicate information about the event and actions being taken to mitigate the shortage should enhance a positive public response to the event.

The analysis used here did not identify any obvious key chemicals for which a shortage with catastrophic national consequences could readily be induced. Further economic analysis of the chemical industry would be appropriate to either verify this conclusion or identify chemicals that could, with exacerbating natural events, result in catastrophic shortages.

42  

Lindell, M.K. and R.W. Perry. 2004. Communicating Environmental Risk in Multiethnic Communities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

Misuse of Materials

Lack of control is the characteristic that makes the misuse scenario possible. As Figure 3.1 indicates, inorganic chemicals, industrial gases, specialty chemicals, consumer products, and petrochemicals or fossil fuels should be of particular concern in this scenario.43 Because of the ubiquitous nature of consumer products in the U.S. economy, they have significant potential for widespread social amplification.

Scenario

Small quantities of chemicals can produce only small, direct impacts over small or large impact areas, but specific locations or situations might be targeted specifically to cause social concern and amplify the physical impact, or repeated incidents could cause indirect impacts that exceed the direct impacts.


Location. Sunnytown, is a fictional midsized city located relatively close to major population centers, none of which have been subjected to terrorist incidents in the past. The local population, although concerned about terrorism, has no special concern that its city would be a potential target.


Initiating Event (Stage One). Terrorists contaminate a popular over-the-counter consumer product in the greater Sunnytown area with a highly toxic chemical. Depending on their objectives, these toxins can be either relatively common poisons that would cause death quickly, and would be relatively easy to identify, or more esoteric toxins that might be difficult to

43  

One obvious misuse scenario is use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer or black and smokeless powders to create an explosive device. Since explosive risks have been and are being extensively considered elsewhere, this report does not deal with that scenario. See, for example, National Research Council. 2004. Existing and Potential Standoff Explosives Detection Techniques. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Also note previous reports discussing taggants. While this has been discussed primarily for use in explosive materials, especially black and smokeless powders that are typically used in pipe bombs, taggants might have potential usefulness in this loss-of-control scenario. See National Research Council. 1998. Black and Smokeless Powders: Technologies for Finding Bombs and the Bomb Makers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. That report concluded that use of taggants was not warranted in the United States at that time, but that if the “threat increased substantially in the future,” such a conclusion might be reconsidered.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

identify or track, and/or whose mode of action is slower, allowing multiple acts to occur before local public health and safety authorities recognize the threat.


Immediate Consequences. Depending on the extent of the tampering, the mode of action of the toxin, and the time required for authorities to realize and take actions to mitigate the incident, casualties could range from fewer than ten up to many dozens or possibly hundreds.


Cascading Events (Stage Two). Social amplification would be expected no matter what the extent of the actual deaths involved. If the poisonings have the appearance of being widely dispersed (e.g., multiple toxins are used, a wide variety of products are targeted—including food, pharmaceuticals, health and beauty products), social amplification would be more extreme, possibly leading to difficulties as people locally, regionally, or nationwide stop buying products they suspect might be contaminated and use up their own personal inventories of these products.


Supply Chain Consequences. Producers of the affected consumer product may experience significant economic downturns as affected and unaffected populations stop buying their goods.

Assessment of Impact

This assessment was made based on historical analogies presented in Appendix A for events resulting from misuse of a small or targeted amount of material.


Impact on Life and Health. It is difficult to conceive of a tampering scenario using a chemical toxin that would lead to massive casualties. The number of individual products compromised would have to be enormous, enhancing the chances of detection, and the source of the poisoning would probably be identified quickly, especially if the same toxin and same product were involved in all cases.


Impact on the Economy and the Private Sector. Because these incidents are so site and method specific, it is difficult to make generalities regarding economic impact. A single tampering incident that leads to a single illness would not be expected to have a major impact. However, multiple inci-

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

dents could have significant economic impact on the targeted company. If a series of cases affecting a key pharmaceutical leads the population to believe that the entire supply is tainted, this could have a significant national impact if a replacement is not readily available or public concerns about tampering cannot be allayed quickly.


Impact on Government Function. The government response to such an incident would be significant, possibly very large in comparison with the small number of lives lost. The anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001—although not completely analogous to this scenario—are instructive in illustrating that a massive federal response can occur in the event of a comparatively small loss of life.44 If tampering is widespread and not immediately contained, a large federal effort would occur to stabilize the situation. However, such an incident would not overwhelm the ability to respond effectively at the federal level.


Societal Reaction. A scenario involving tampering will meet the definition of catastrophic only by invoking significant social amplification. This type of scenario, where the characteristics include poisoning of common items and multiple attacks that may be widely dispersed geographically, may lead to the perception that the attacker is anywhere and everywhere. Large portions of the population may shun buying or using the targeted consumer products in response to this tampering, whether or not they are actually at risk.

Discussion

While it is difficult to conceive of a tampering case that would lead to catastrophic numbers of casualties, the fact that this type of attack is relatively easy to accomplish, and involves small quantities of toxic materials, makes this scenario more amenable to multiple coordinated incidents and makes any attempt difficult to detect and intercept prior to its implementation.

44  

As a result of the anthrax attacks there were five deaths; the U.S. government spent $1.6 billion on emergency preparedness in local jurisdictions for biological attacks and more than $200 million for the cleanup of affected facilities. Kempter, J. 2005. Update on Building Contamination, presented to the National Academies’ Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, April 26.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

Perhaps the greatest vulnerability posed by this scenario is the potential for large social amplification. It appears that the anthrax attacks in 2001 were timed to take advantage of the uncertainty and insecurity felt by the American public after the September 11th attacks a month earlier. A tampering attack may likewise attempt to maximize the public’s reaction to a prior event in an effort to create as much disruption as possible.

Manufacturers of consumer products and pharmaceuticals expend a great deal of effort to prevent product tampering. Because the consequences can be devastating for the company targeted, industry has significant interest in quality control of its products. In addition to criminal investigation, the role of the federal government can be significant, particularly in scenarios where multiple unrelated products are targeted simultaneously. In general, quick, effective action to respond to a tampering case, combined with effective and open communication to the general population, provide the best opportunities to attenuate the social amplification that will almost certainly occur in response to such an incident.

It may be all but impossible to prevent a determined attacker from successfully tampering with a product. However, the response by Johnson & Johnson to the Tylenol poisonings in 1982 illustrates the benefits of outreach to the public. Although the company lost approximately $1 billion in market value as an immediate result of these incidents, its quick actions in response to the poisonings (including recall and destruction of existing inventory and development of tamper-proof packaging), performed in an open and transparent manner, allowed the company to recover 70 percent of its market share for Tylenol.45 When a similar incident occurred in 1986, Johnson & Johnson again acted quickly and recalled inventory from all outlets, not just those in affected areas. These actions helped to lessen the overall impact of these events on the company and preserved Tylenol as a viable brand.

In cases of widespread tampering involving multiple products, the affected companies will play a significant role in addressing public concerns, but coordinating bodies from the private sector (e.g., trade associations) and public sector agencies must play a role in relaying clear, accurate, and concise information to the public. The government’s response to the an-

45  

See the following web site for more information: http://www.mallenbaker.net/csr/CSRfiles/crisis02.html.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×

thrax attacks in 2001 is useful in illustrating both the positive and the negative aspects of crisis management and effective communication to the public in an ambiguous environment.

Mitigating the Consequences of the Misuse Scenario

The misuse scenario reaches a catastrophic level of impact only through social amplification. Therefore, consequences are best mitigated through effective communication and emergency response.

Possible Science and Technology Investment
  • Increase the speed and accuracy of the population protection process: detect, classify, notify, warn, and respond.

  • Improve response and communication. This includes social science research to determine the types of information, best communication channels, and most effective delivery of information required to reach all populations affected by such an event.

Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 38
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 39
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 40
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 41
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 42
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 43
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 44
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 45
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 46
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 47
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 48
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 49
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 50
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 51
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 52
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 53
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 54
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 55
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 58
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 59
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 60
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 61
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 62
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 63
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 64
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 65
Suggested Citation:"4 Realistic Chemical Incident Scenarios." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 2006. Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11597.
×
Page 66
Next: 5 Managing Risk »
Terrorism and the Chemical Infrastructure: Protecting People and Reducing Vulnerabilities Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $50.00 Buy Ebook | $39.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF
  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!