Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes can damage infrastructure and result in secondary environmental impacts such as immediate or potential releases of hazardous materials. These can pose acute risks to human life and health, and adversely affect surrounding environments that are vital for livelihoods. Natural disasters may also trigger physical impacts such as salt water intrusion, mudslides, slope instability and flooding.
Disaster response teams are faced with the difficult task of not only dealing with the disaster at hand, but also identifying and responding appropriately to these potential environmental impacts. However, thousands of toxic chemicals
could be involved in any given disaster, each with its own toxicity profile, and with a multitude of exposure pathways (e.g. air, water and soil) and receptors (e.g. humans, livestock, fishing grounds). In such complex situations, it can be easy to overlook or misjudge important risks. At the same time, given the often overwhelming demands of disaster situations, complex and full-fledged environmental assessments would be inappropriate. Therefore, a practical, accurate, yet simple tool is required to assist initial response teams such as United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams.
With these challenges in mind, FEAT is a carefully balanced compromise between simplicity and scientific rigor, with emphasis on usefulness to response mechanisms such as UNDAC teams. It provides quick answers in complex disaster situations, even in the absence of specialized technical resources or expertise.
In summary, FEAT is a “first aid” tool to identify environmental impacts, and support initial response actions in disaster contexts. It does not take the place of in-depth environmental assessments, which may be appropriate at later stages of the disaster response. Findings from use of the FEAT should be communicated quickly to appropriate organizations so that appropriate actions can be taken, as described in this document.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.