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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Spatial Modeling of Point Source Hazards: Securing the Chemical Industry of the United States Against Terrorist Agendas

Elijah Evans

Advisor:  Dr. Michael E. Hodgson



In the United States, there are more than 23,000 chemical facilities collectively reporting a maximum daily handling of 265 billion pounds of hazardous materials. Terrorist agendas , both realized (the events of September 11, 2001) and those yet to be realized, have brought focus to the vulnerabilities of our nation‘s critical infrastructure and key resources, such as these chemical facilities, and spurred the federal government to expend millions of dollars to make them secure. This thesis modeled the potential chemical exposure produced by all 23,461 facilities upon the population of the United States and compared this potential exposure landscape with the distribution of federal funds designed to secure them. This potential exposure landscape was derived through the new application of advanced spatial modeling techniques at the national scale, the results of which were used to answer two primary research questions:

  1. What is the spatial distribution of potential exposure to chemical releases from fixed-site facilities in the United States?
  2. What is the relationship between potential exposure to chemical releases from fixed-site facilities and the distribution of federal funds targeted for the reduction of risk associated with them?

This study found that Texas, California, and Massachusetts host the largest portions of potential exposure. The highest accumulations (top 10%) of potential exposure are found in urbanized areas of all sizes and are not limited to the largest cities in the country. Modeled potential exposure and annual federal funding were only moderately correlated (Spearman = 0.621), while State population was found to correlate strongly with federal funding with a Spearman correlation coefficient of 0.724.

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