Table of Contents

Governing Disasters

Governing Disasters

The Challenges of Emergency Risk Regulation

Edited by Alberto Alemanno

This is the first volume that addresses the complexities of the volcanic ash cloud that overshadowed Europe in April 2011, but has subsequently struck again in Australia, Chile and Europe. It does so from a multidisciplinary perspective, drawing upon research from economics, law, sociology and other fields, as well as volcanology and leading expertise in jet engineering. Whilst our knowledge base is wide-ranging, there is a common focus on the practical lessons of the ash cloud crisis both for subsequent eruptions and for emergency risk regulation more generally.

Chapter 7: Paradigms Lost: Emergency Safety Regulation under Scientific and Technical Uncertainty

Vincent Brannigan

Subjects: economics and finance, transport, environment, disasters, transport, law - academic, european law, regulation and governance, politics and public policy, public policy, urban and regional studies, transport


JOBNAME: Alermanno PAGE: 3 SESS: 5 OUTPUT: Tue Sep 6 13:22:57 2011 7. Paradigms lost: emergency safety regulation under scientific and technical uncertainty Vincent Brannigan 7.1 INTRODUCTION: VOLCANIC ASH 2010 The 2010 shutdown of European airspace exposed critical failures in corporate planning and the international safety regulatory process. After 25 years of work technical regulators had developed a widely publicized regulatory response to a very predictable hazard. The official guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization was not to fly in volcanic ash. Yet when the Icelandic eruption occurred, transport dislocations and business pressure led to a rapid abandonment of the ‘no-fly’ safety regime in a few days. Rapidly approved, legally permitted levels of ash were then trumpeted as ‘safe levels’ by the various airlines. To date there is little or no published scientific evidence justifying the claim of safety. Some members of the airline community are even proposing a covert approval process that would eliminate any public examination of future ash safety evidence. When society regulates a technology it interacts with the technology developers to create a series of expectations and beliefs that can be described as paradigm. The entire ash event is best understood in terms of a paradigm shift in the technological frames used by the airspace safety community. The volcanic ash crisis has important lessons to all those who regulate in an environment of technological and scientific uncertainty. In a ‘crisis management environment’ well-connected parties can find that exploiting...

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