Technical disaster

Technical or technological disasters are caused by events that can be intense and sudden, induced by human processes. They originate from technological or industrial conditions, dangerous procedures, infrastructure failures or specific human activities (UNGA, 2016).

Technical systems are complex, with many dependent subsystems. The failure of one element within this system can cascade throughout the chain, causing a series of failures leading to a disaster. Technical hazards are increasing due to the scope of technological expansion. They include industrial activity that includes dangerous conditions, processes, all transport systems (land, sea, air), defensive or offensive weapons systems and power plants.

A new set of emerging technological risks under the Sendai Framework include Information and communications technology (ICT)-related hazards. The increasing dependence upon complex large-scale network architectures of information technologies also increases exposure to cyber security threats. These threats include computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, malware, spoofing attacks, identity theft, the theft and illegal disclosure of data, the loss of data and contamination of data. They have the potential to disrupt essential infrastructure operations such as communication, health, banking, transportation, energy, education and many other services.

Risk factors

  • Ageing, abandoned or idle installations.
  • Insufficient institutional and legal capacities.
  • Natural hazards: storms, landslides, floods or earthquakes can cause industrial accidents.

Vulnerable areas

  • Residential communities around industrial establishments tend to be most at risk because of their proximity.

Risk reduction measures

  • Assess the risks before planning and building critical infrastructure.
  • Develop policies and practices for continuity management.
  • Integrate the risks into planning, foresee and reduce cascading effects.
  • Create a hazard map to identify people at risk and their vulnerability.
  • Draft national, regional and local response plans.
  • Put in place early warning/monitoring systems to inform response.
  • Ensure contingency and response plans are in place at a national and local level to evacuate people on time.
  • Assess new technologies.
  • Improve crisis communication before, during and after the event.
  • Organize training and exercises for complex scenarios involving multiple interdependent failures.
  • Educate and raise awareness on potential risks.

Latest Technical Disaster additions in the Knowledge Base

Cover and source: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
This paper explores the challenges associated with the concentration of cloud services, the possible risks, and actions to manage those risks. The assessment focuses on resilience—to anticipate and prepare for hazards, reduce their impact, and recover.
In 2019, the tailings dam at a Brazilian iron ore mine failed. The mudslide caused a catastrophe for people and the environment.
ETH Zurich
The health effects on local residents following a nuclear power plant accident are diverse, not only because of radiation exposure but also because of changes in lifestyle and social environment.
Open Access Government
Recent heavy downpours in the Lower Volta area of Ghana led to the worst flooding in the region’s history. The flooding was caused by a spillage (a deliberate release of water) from the Akosombo Dam
Conversation Media Group, the
A research team recently employed deep learning techniques to scrutinize dam operation patterns and assess their effectiveness. Their findings were published in the Journal of Hydrology.
Pohang University of Science and Technology
This research letter investigates stakeholders' needs with regard to fire risk reduction in the Veluwe area in the Netherlands.
Aerial photography of solar photovoltaic bases in desert areas
In Kenya and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa where power outages are a regular occurrence, distributed renewable energy installations like those at Top Care are emerging as a resilient and increasingly attractive solution.
World Resources Institute
A new study has provided new insights into the extensive impact of metal mining contamination on rivers and floodplains across the world, with an estimated 23 million people believed to be affected by potentially dangerous concentrations of toxic waste.
University of Lincoln

Is this page useful?

Yes No Report an issue on this page

Thank you. If you have 2 minutes, we would benefit from additional feedback (link opens in a new window).