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

Documents and publications
This case study aims to present the lessons learned from Lebanon’s Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF) as an example of developing post-disaster recovery governance structures in a context of FCV, specifically under compounded crises.
Research briefs
New research in the journal Risk Analysis has confirmed that longer freight trains bring with them a higher risk of derailment. The study found that a 100-car train is more than twice as likely to experience a derailment than a 50-car train.
The Society for Risk Analysis (SRA)
Research briefs
In a new study, data from New York City and the surrounding area was analyzed to understand how severe weather drives power outages and who is most at risk, particularly in urban areas.
Conversation Media Group, the
Cover and source: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Documents and publications
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.
Research briefs
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
Research briefs
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
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