Assessing CBRN risks with hazard modelling and prediction

The need for hazard modelling and hazard prediction 

Hazard modelling and prediction centres around answering ‘what-ifs’. It’s the proactive and preparation-focused step before incidents happen and incident response is mobilised. While this can inform the creation of incident response strategies, its focus is to explore and understand what risks are present before we can begin to think about considering what the next steps should be based on these results.  

Whether it’s a known environment or a new asset, this approach helps stakeholders gain situational awareness about what might happen if an incident were to occur. By running a hazard model – or series of models with different sets of conditions – practitioners can perform a proactive CBRN/HazMat risk assessment on this threat. 

This is important for many sectors and regulatory processes. It’s a necessity for planning health and safety management, as well as planning for major events. It empowers both proactive and reactive action, providing information that guides risk mitigation measures as well as strategic response.  

Whatever the scenario, it’s important for stakeholders within high-risk environments to understand the potential impacts of a CBRN/HazMat release enabling them to develop appropriate contingency and mitigation plans, and inform their operations to optimise people’s safety and meet regulatory requirements. 

For example, no matter how slim the risk may be, a chemical plant is ultimately at risk of an accidental material release. It’s therefore their responsibility to understand what the worst-case scenario could be and create strategic action plans or safety policies accordingly. Similarly, if government authorities and waste management agencies are planning to introduce a new incinerator, they are required to assess the potential risks and adapt their building plans to mitigate any potential harmful effects on the surrounding community and environment. 

Riskaware looks at hazard modelling and prediction from both a broad scope and a detailed perspective. Our experienced team provide consultancy for bespoke needs and incident parameters, to help our clients understand how an incident may evolve, the potential scale of the impact, and how these effects could be tackled. The answers to these questions inform organisations’ actions and enable them to evidence their risk assessments and compliance activities.   

Why bespoke modelling is necessary 

Each client will have different objectives for hazard modelling – this may be because they’re in different sectors, following different regulations, or analysing a different scenario with a unique environment. Therefore, each project requires bespoke understanding and models with individualised parameters in order to gain specific, actionable intelligence. 

There are also many different questions that could be asked which makes it challenging to narrow down the model’s scope. If there’s a material release in an urban area, how many people will be affected? Where will the material travel or disperse over time? What areas need to be cordoned off, if any? Is it safer for people to stay inside or to be evacuated?  

CBRN/HazMat events are often defined by similar variables, but the outcomes of these variables will vary based on unique elements of the location, the mission goal, and other key factors. We take time to understand the aims of the client and the question being asked before determining which model is the most appropriate for the situation. This includes determining the complexity, the accuracy, and the nature of the modelling required.  

Bespoke modelling of this kind is especially useful for high-risk, high-impact events. These scenarios necessitate specific, and often multifaceted, questions that a tailored model can answer more precisely. In this case, the Riskaware team are able to develop solutions that are purpose-built to provide more acute intelligence for the challenge at hand.  

The importance of bespoke incident modelling intelligence

What factors we consider  

The outcome of any potential incident will be affected by a variety of surrounding factors. Some key factors include: 

  • Meteorology (wind and weather) 
  • Urban Topography 
  • Landscape Topography 
  • Population Density 
  • Date and Time 
  • Location 

These factors will be incorporated into hazard models, depending on various conditions for the model including the scale, scope, and environment involved. When modelling a known event, we can additionally include specific dates and locations to get create more accurate conditions in the model.  

Scale 

This will affect the geographical area considered within the model. This will resultantly determine the use of meteorological, environmental, time series and other factors. 

For example, an incident predicted to impact a very large area (100s of km2) might require the use of a long-range dispersion model and numerical weather prediction data; an incident of a more local scale would require a different approach, with a shorter-range model and more local datasets used. 

Scope 

Different scenarios can be modelled by changing the setup of the model, and the way in which it is run. A worst-case scenario may model strong winds blowing towards a populated area. Alternatively, a statistical study using many individual simulations could give an understanding of the likelihood and potential extents of various impacts. Similarly, the impacts of a ruptured storage tank could be modelled as a sudden explosion versus a slow leak. 

Environment 

The environment in which the incident takes place will determine what geographical – whether urban or rural – factors need to be considered in a model. 

For example, when planning for a major event in an urban area, we would include the effects of the urban environment on the hazard. 

Examples of different hazard modelling scenarios 

1. Dispersion modelling  

Industrial health & safety 

Industrial sites handling hazardous material will be required to implement health and safety and resilience measures that meet regulatory requirements. Dispersion modelling can provide a detailed study for various potential incidents to help create compliant mitigation or response strategies. 

Dispersion modelling use cases: 

  • Modelling the movements of airborne CBRN hazards as the outcome from a fire, leak, or spillage 
  • Determining the quantity of a hazardous material that can be stored on site to inform licensing requirements 
  • Determining what emergency response resources are needed  
  • Creating an emergency action plan for staff and nearby residents 
  • Implementing appropriate health and safety policies 
  • Running training drills on top of an action plan 
  • Testing the effectiveness of different intervention measures 
  • Identifying and optimising deployment strategies for monitoring equipment (such as detectors) 

Major event planning 

Stakeholders can perform dispersion modelling to assess the potential risks surrounding an event and determine how best to protect people. This may include malicious actions or accidents. Modelling hypothetical incidents for a concert held in a public square for example, will help determine security measures, emergency response plans, capacity, and more. 

Additionally, if the location of a major event is known in advance stakeholders can use our sensor placement tool to optimise the placement of CBRN sensors. This allows users to detect potential hazards in a timely manner and react accordingly.  

2. Combined indoor/outdoor modelling  

Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and government  

CNI and government buildings are a use case well suited to combined indoor/outdoor modelling. This models and predicts the movements of airborne hazards between outdoor and indoor environments, and vice versa. 

Indoor/outdoor models will help determine whether an evacuation is necessary or whether people are safer staying indoors. They can model the flow of the hazard, considering ventilation, doors and windows, and assess the relative risk of both environments. 

Major events  

Similarly, indoor/outdoor modelling may be included in the risk assessments for major events, to help plan evacuation and sheltering strategies. This will be particularly relevant for events help in stadiums that include large numbers and large areas of outdoor to indoor ventilation, such as the Olympics or other major sports events. 

Industrial Sites 

If a hazard is released at an industrial site, we can model the potential risk to employees indoors, those on site but outdoors, and also to nearby residents. This will allow the organisation to determine shelter or evacuation strategies for each group. 

3. Meteorological modelling

If specific incident parameters aren’t known, meteorological datasets can be used to help determine what may happen. Using years of historical data, combined with carefully planned modelling campaigns, we can produce statistical estimates of the potential hazards presented by a potential incident which can be used to inform mitigation and response planning. We can also define bespoke meteorology to explore different potential incident parameters and scenarios. 

If the model is for a specific event, we can use the date and location to more accurately determine the effect of meteorological factors. For example, we can combine weather data with geographical features to better account for wind flow effects like channelling [urban canyons] and other impacts of the urban environment. 

 

Riskaware provide CBRN/HazMat consultancy, underpinned by military-grade incident modelling capabilities, to help our clients assess the potential risks of hazards and plan accordingly. We’ll work closely with you to understand your requirements, including compliance, insurance, and health and safety needs, as well as the unique incident environment. This allows us to recommend and build the models you need to empower more informed decision-making. 

Find out more about our hazard modelling and prediction capabilities and explore our CBRN/HazMat consultancy services here.

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