Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Laurelwood resident safety and actuarial estimates

This point, from Fulton Wilcox - the driving force behind NOPE's business case study of the Laurelwood housing issue, considers the perspective of potential civilian tenants at Earle, which transitions well from yesterday's thoughts about MP safety of base personnel.


One public input that the Navy did not comment on was my query regarding
the explosive safety and routine activities such as explosives disposal on
the prospective residents of Laurelwood. Safety is distinct from security, because
it is inherent to munitions management rather than on terrorism.

Essentially, the EIS conveys the story that if Laurelwood residents,
guests and services people live and transit Earle outside explosive safety
arcs, they must be safe from the effects of explosions. On the other hand,
being fairly near large explosions, planned or accidental, is a shock, as
many experienced during the recent NWS Earle "controlled burns."

Even outside safety arcs, some explosions might do physical damage -
blow out windows, generate long-range stray shrapnel, etc. From the perspective of
Laurelwood's viability, the "shock and awe" effects from planned and accidental
explosions themselves could pose risks of injury and death.

Therefore, in my comment on the DEIS, I very specifically asked
for actuarial estimates of the impact in Laurelwood residents of
explosions, computed based on DOD Explosives Safety Board engineering rules. DOD
has the means, including software-implemented tools, to create such
quantified estimates. However, the Navy aligned my safety query into the one size
fits all security response, without responding to my request (see below) of
the estimated effects on Laurelwood residents and others using the roadway
of planned and accidental explosions.

Effects short of injury still could pose liability and commercial
acceptance issues - who wants to live near a blasting site?

If, as some suppose, technological evolution has left the Navy with
a growing amount of "slow moving" munitions inventory at Earle, the number
of controlled burns might need to increase to get rid of those obsolete weapons.

The Navy did a superficial job of addressing comments on the DEIS, and
in this case it offered no response at all. I mention this lapse in case it
is helpful to future communications or litigation.


Text of response regarding "Safety"

In the NWS Earle mission context, "safety" can be described as keeping the people safe from the munitions. Given the law of large numbers (and the large amount of munitions at NWS Earle), it is simply a matter of time untils ome of the munitions explode or burn. Department of Defense actuarial tables and engineering rules embodied in predictive software such as Safer help quantify that risk and the consequences of explosion.

However, the draft EIS implies that the tenants in Laurelwood will be "safe"from the effects of munitions explosion because Laurelwood housing is physically outside "explosive safety arcs," as are route alignments 1-3. If route alignment 4 is chosen (which it was), the draft EIS states that the NWS Earle commander will move the relevant munitions in order to shift an existing explosives safety arc away from the road. Being outside the "arcs" is certainly a threshold requirement, but not the whole story in dealing with civilian housing risk.

Explosive safety arcs are the equivalent of "100 year flood" boundaries, and blast or projectile fragments will in fact go beyond the safety arc, just as there have been a lot of floods above the 100 year level. Also, as evidenced in a recent terrorist vehicle bomb attack on a hotel in Pakistan, what was probably a 2,000 pound or so bomb blew out windows in CNN News headquarters two miles from the explosion, far beyond the 1,250 foot "arc."

What the EIS should include are the actuarial projections for Laurelwood residents that would result if Navy experts use DOD analytic tools and techniques to answer the question "what are the expected number of deaths and injuries among those living at Laurelwood over thirty years from munitions stored in the 300 or so storage points and in temporary or open storage or in trucks or train cars?" That expected value may be small, but it is not zero. Note that some munitions "cook" rather than explode (or do both), and another question is whether Laurelwood might have to be evacuated and for how long because of dangerous fumes.

The EIS is therefore not satisfactory in quantifying the safety impact of munitions handling on Laurelwood residents

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