Governing Disasters
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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.
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Chapter 1: What Happened and Lessons Learned: A European and International Perspective

Alberto Alemanno


Alberto Alemanno More than 20 years after the EU eliminated its internal land borders, the Union still lacks an integrated airspace. This seems to the most immediate regulatory lesson learnt from the recent volcanic ash crisis. In this introductory chapter, I provide a first-hand analysis of the regulatory answer developed across Europe in the aftermath of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull and qualify it as a case in point for an analysis of the concept of ‘emergency risk regulation’. While reconstructing the unfolding of the events and the procedures followed by the regulators, I will attempt to address some of the following questions: What did the assessment of the danger of volcanic ash mean for airplanes? Who was competent to take risk-management decisions, such as the controversial flight bans? Is it true that the safe level of volcanic ash was zero? How to explain the shift to a new safety threshold (of 2,000 mg/m3) only five days after the event? Did regulators overact? To what extent did they manage the perceived risk rather than the actual one? 1.1 THE EMERGENCY REGULATORY RESPONSE Following the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull on 14 April 2010, a cloud of ash quickly spread across Europe, helped by favourable winds. As a result, most European civil aviation authorities closed their respective airspaces.1 The flying bans came amid fears that the volcanic ash – a mixture of glass, sand and rock particles – could seriously damage aircraft engines. The national measures were based...

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