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Objectives and benefits

Main - primary objectives

The main objective of the Action was to evaluate and improve the reliability of neighborhood-scale emergency response tools based on a comprehensive and cross-national approach. This would be achieved by providing both a substantially improved scientific background and comprehensive practical guidance for the use of models for tracking and predicting the dispersion of airborne hazards, resulting from accidental or deliberate releases in complex urban and industrial environments.

Secondary objectives

  • To collect, summarize and document information on national research activities in the field of local-scale airborne hazards modelling.
  • To gather available scientific, operational, administrative and managerial expertise addressing the Action topic.
  • To address the impact of uncertainties in source term descriptions for accidental or deliberate releases on risk assessment.
  • To inventory models, tools and methodologies currently applied in the context of emergency management and local-scale threat reduction.
  • To categorize and characterize local-scale threat scenarios considering the specifics of neighbourhood-scale dispersion of airborne toxic agents.
  • To identify and document the practical problems encountered by first responders, personnel of civil protection, security management and stakeholders when confronted with outputs from modelling tools.
  • To develop and establish scientifically and practically justified means and methods for assessing the performance of local-scale airborne hazard dispersion models.
  • To collect, prepare and publish reference data sets qualified for testing the performance of local-scale emergency response models.

How were the objectives achieved?

  • By combining scientific and institutional expertise: Directly linking scientists and developers with managers and stakeholders from civil protection and security authorities would facilitate the harmonization and synergistic interaction of the scientific knowledge with the operational practices for accidental release events. In the frame of the Action a Panel of External Experts, composed by civil protection and security personnel was established and participated in key meetings this way ensuring a continuous exchange of information and feedbacks for the duration of the Action.
  • By developing a cross-national transdisciplinary information forum: In this context, the Action formed a cross-national and multi-institutional platform collecting the necessary manpower and knowledge from the scientific community (Universities and Research Institutions) and legislative / executive bodies that will be maintained even beyond the Action. Web- and e-utilities were implemented to manage the forum during the Action and in following years.
  • By organizing a series of open workshops and symposia at least once per year. During these events, topics such as threat characterization, tools and models applied, model testing, validation and implementation and the integration of models into existing and future (environmental and urban) information management systems were discussed and documented. The workshops and symposia widened the information input and fostered the immediate dissemination of results produced by the Action.
  • By implementing a continuous dissemination of results: The results produced by the Action were and are still being published regularly by submitting papers on selected topics of the Action, presenting the Action results at international conferences and by publishing the proceedings of Symposia organized by the Action. Inviting stakeholders and members of corresponding legal bodies to meetings and symposia significantly improved the information exchange between the scientific community and potential users.
  • By organizing Short Term Scientific Missions (STSM): In order to intensify the work on individual tasks of the Action, such as preparing test data sets or testing local-scale emergency response tools, a significant number of STSM's were organized. The involvement of early-stage researchers and young scientists wias particularly encouraged.
  • By maintaining a web page: A website was established for efficient information exchange between the members of the Action, dissemination of results and for improving public awareness.

Benefits of the Action

  • Formation of a dedicated trans-disciplinary cross-national pool of information exchange intended to last even beyond the lifetime of the Action.
  • Bringing together experts from both the scientific developers of accidental release models and the operational communities which immediately helped to increase the confidence and to improve the communication and information exchange between them. For example, the scientific community widely accepts that local-scale emergency response modelling requires dedicated approaches fundamentally different from standard air quality management tools. However, the executive bodies such as national and local civil protection authorities or emergency management are often not fully aware of the profound limitations of existing models and tools and the tremendous potential of new dedicated methodologies. Moreover, model development became more efficient if developers maintain a professional dialog with end-users.
  • With the scientific expertise and manpower provided by the COST Action, it was possible to identify sources of modelling uncertainty. This enabled efficient targeted improvements such as a more reliable characterization of source terms or a scientifically justified representation of transient dispersion phenomena as they dominate the local scale dispersion.
  • European security research programs as well as local-scale emergency management directly benefited from a documented standard for testing existing as well as future accidental release models and methodologies, enabling the quality of model results to be evaluated and compared based on objective criteria. The practical guidance for a proficient use of local-scale airborne hazards dispersion tools developed within the scope of the Action proved particularly beneficial for executive bodies and decision makers.

Target groups & end users

Target groups for the outcomes of the Action were equally the scientific community as well as legislative and executive bodies. Model developers were provided with tools and measures to assess the quality of time dependent local-scale dispersion modelling, to identify and quantify potential weak points and gaps and to improve model performance. The users and decision makers got comparable information on different modelling approaches and an application-oriented practical guidance for the implementation of local-scale dispersion modelling in emergency management systems.