The ARW “Correlation between Human Factors and the Prevention of Catastrophes” was convened on 12-15 September, 2011 in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Ukraine has a great number of hazardous sites including nuclear plants, mining and manufacturing facilities with technically inappropriate security systems, transport routes and pipelines that are strongly subject to human influence. Severe floods in 2007 and 2008 on the Dniester and Prut rivers, affecting wide areas both in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, have demonstrated the necessity of revising security policies in the Eastern European states.
The impact of the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl power plant, as well as devastating floods, landslides, more frequent droughts, erosion of tailings dams, and desertification that is typical of Ukraine in recent decades, increases the level of population vulnerability. Considerable efforts need to be made to combat both natural and man-made disasters through a deeper understanding of human factors that are crucial to the prevention of catastrophes as well as the development of emergency management systems, different methodologies for catastrophe forecasting and prevention, and the transfer of technology and knowledge.
Within the cooperation between the Individual Plan of Actions of Partnership (IPAP) Ukraine–NATO, Ukraine is carrying out a number of events; these include the on-going activities of the Ministry for Emergency Situations; upgrading and improvement of inter-ministerial plans of response to different kinds of disasters based on proper risk assessment; improvement of GIS capabilities; enhancing expertise in the management of catastrophe consequences; and increasing population awareness levels in emergency situations.
This ARW had the task of analysing accumulated European theoretical knowledge and practical experience in the field of disaster prevention as well as the elaboration and development of practical recommendations that need to be constantly adapted to match the trends in human and social dynamics. It involved social and sociological aspects, positive attitudes of the population to events, and territorial features.
The great interest in the Workshop was particularly reflected in the large participation of relevant regional scientific and public administration institutions. Top management representatives from the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency Situations, as well as regional authority representatives, took an active part in the ARW sessions.
The agenda consisted of 22 presentations/papers (from twelve countries) and discussions that covered the following principal themes addressing a wide range of the correlations between human factors and the prevention of catastrophes. It included the significance of human factors relating to the combating of natural disasters through, for example, land-use planning and management procedures; risk assessment in emergency situations; the control of polluted waters; the socio-economic impacts from desertification; human health impacts from nuclear, flooding and tailings dams accidents; risk management systems and measures; and the protection of water resources.
The essence of the various themes centred on several aspects of human influences on the creation and prevention of catastrophes, and assessing how the identified risks can be best mitigated. The workshop again recognized the complex inter-relationships between several key factors that must be involved, to varying degrees of sophistication, in the overall management of the range of hazards and their associated risks.
There was a very strong emphasis on the critical importance of not only the collection of relevant monitoring data and information, but also on its effective communication to the wider world. In this particular regard there is an ever-increasing need for enhanced levels of cooperation in the sharing of such data and information so that due lessons can be learned in both preventing and mitigating the effects of catastrophes
There is a need for more realistic and accurate modelling techniques for predicting hazardous events, their intensities and potential scales of impact. This should include, for example, the use of map-zoning methods for specific hazards and their monitoring needs. In addition, the increased use of early real-time warning systems for such natural and man-made hazards as earthquakes, landslides and flooding would greatly enhance the potential for preventing and mitigating impacts on the population and property, for example. In addition, there is a need for greater standardisation of monitoring systems and the subsequent interpretation of collected data.
The risks from dam failures, whether related to water reservoirs or tailings dams for example, require particular evaluation so that the generally wide-spread consequences of such events can be avoided or minimized. Similarly, the risks to critical water resources from contamination by biological, chemical or radioactive substances as a consequence of, for example, industrial effluent discharges, major floods or mine-flooding, require critical assessment to safeguard human health.
The presentations reflected the extensive experience in the participating countries (namely Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Netherlands, Romania, Russian Federation, Ukraine and United Kingdom) in the several fields related to the combating of man-made and natural disasters, as well as their secondary impacts, should be assessed and adapted to specific conditions of countries such as Ukraine. Thus the presentations were considered very useful, especially for those partner countries that are developing their legal frameworks in civil emergency planning, and particularly those who are aligning to EU directives and other international standards.
Participants proposed to continue the common efforts of their countries in scientific research and in the development of effective solutions for minimising the negative impacts of disasters. They also considered that gaining a greater understanding of further specific topics, such as optimization of disaster monitoring and information sharing for enhancing human security could be one of the main topics for a future workshop.