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Keywords:

  • business continuity planning;
  • hurricane Katrina;
  • chemical industry emergency planning;
  • facility siting;
  • process risk management

Abstract

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita affected the U.S. chemical and petroleum industries sectors as they did everyone and everything else along the Gulf, highlighting profoundly the strengths and weaknesses of plans to prepare for and recover from a devastating area-wide catastrophe. The direct impacts to the industries were more economic; no fatalities or serious injuries occurred from releases at chemical or petroleum facilities during the storms. Hurricane plans and release prevention efforts were largely successful. Nevertheless, the facilities, companies, and their employees were left with significant physical and economic recovery challenges resulting from the impacts on the facilities themselves and the supporting infrastructure.

The massive scale of the storms highlighted numerous weaknesses in facility as well as government and private sector preparations for such a truly catastrophic emergency—and opportunities for improvement. The lessons from these storms must be leveraged to improve the readiness of the U.S. industry for natural, accidental, and intentional events. This study examines some of the gaps in traditional facility siting considerations and risk assessments and suggest elements that could be added to those activities to better prepare for catastrophic events—whether natural disasters or intentional acts of terrorism.

The lessons learned include:

  • Improve crisis management planning to minimize the catastrophic facility and business losses; and

  • Site the facility and equipment to minimize impacts of events.

© 2007 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog 26:, 2007