6. A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE
The main objective of the A-TEAM project is to develop and test a new approach to advanced technical training using an integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and dynamic simulation modeling to create fully interactive multi-media content within a real-time knowledge-based system framework for the domain of emergency management applications. This has two major dimensions:
Both problems have an obvious European dimension, since on the one hand, the pooling of all available experience is essential in the domain of low-frequency high-consequence events, and on the other hand many of these events can have trans-boundary characteristics.
Advanced technical training for an industrial work force is an important element of competitiveness; using information technology to exploit multi-media technology and the internet to provide this training in an attractive and flexible style compatible with the pressures and demands of working environment is extremely import. Besides, standardised training, related to the European regulatory framework (e.g., Seveso II, EMAS, ISO 14000) through tools based on IT and accessible for distributed users over the Internet improves the possibilities for work force mobility.
This European dimension of the problem domain is well reflected in the project consortium, that brings together eight partners from seven countries with a wide range of compatible experience. By pooling know how and experience of this group, a consistent European approach can be developed. This added value of the consortium is underlined by the five test cases in five different countries and institutional settings. This rich and diverse set will again allow the consortium to distil a common, European strategy from this experience for the continuing exploitation of the project results.
The project addresses several European policies, both in the area of emergency management as well as in the area of life-long learning and continuous training of the work force. Experience shows that almost all significant technological emergencies in the past have been caused or have been affected either by human errors or by lack of proper awareness/knowledge from the part of involved people.
As a result, authorities, technical standardisation bodies, insurance companies and industrial companies have all come to understand that training should be key ingredient of modern management programmes in relevant industrial sites all over the world.
A good example of this can be found in the ISO 14001 standard (approved in October 1996) and in the well know Seveso II Directive (96/82/EC). For example, ISO 14001 standard requires both that proper training procedures should be in place to identify and satisfy training needs for employees. Council Directive 96/82/EC of 9 December 1996 on the control of major- accident hazards involving dangerous substances (Seveso II), and in particular Article 11 on Emergency Plans, and Annex III, planning for emergencies, provide the framework for the training system. A-TEAM can help to provide assistance in the implementation of the Directive to both operators of hazardous installations as well as the competent authorities, to related sectors such as the transportation of hazardous material, and to professional and voluntary intervention forces including the very large number of fire-fighters that have to deal with this type of emergencies.
From a more general European policy perspective, A-TEAM also addresses the larger issue of sustainable development. To quote from the Council resolution of 1 February 1993, A European Community programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development:
Civil protection and environmental emergencies
During the period of this Programme, this aspect of the Community's activity will be stepped up both as a practical contribution to the creation of a People's Europe and, more importantly, to reflect political and economic developments within and outside the Community. Two particular aspects will determine the choice of priorities in this area:
A-TEAM is designed to contribute to the implementation of these policies by developing a coherent framework, based on the best available knowledge and state-of-the art information technology.
Contribution to Community social objectives
A-TEAM addresses the management of technological and environmental emergencies, quality of life, health and safety Aiming to improve emergency management and preparedness through advanced training for technological and environmental risks, A-TEAM directly addresses the quality of life and health and safety, including working conditions in industries that involve hazardous substances and hazardous operations. With that, A-TEAM makes an obvious contribution to the related social objectives of the European Community. The costs of technological and environmental emergencies in terms of human life, material damage, and degradation of the human environment can be enormous, as the examples from Seveso to Chernobyl amply demonstrate. Quality of life, health and safety are directly affected by technological and environmental emergencies, so that any improvement in their management and control will automatically, and most directly, improve the quality of life, health and safety.
A-TEAM also contributes to the preservation and enhancement of the environment: both technological and environmental emergencies tend to be destructive not only in terms of life and material property, but also the environment, which should be obvious for cases such as toxic spills or forest fires. While environmental pollution stems primarily from more or less continuous sources, and the total mass fraction of these sources by far exceeds accidental releases, the non-linear dose-response to toxic substances make accidental releases of high volumes and therefor ambient concentrations much more important. Acute toxicity levels may be exceeded, leading to the possibility of major damage to the environment.
This is reflected in the Council Resolution on a European Community programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development, which states that most chemical agents are potentially hazardous if incorrectly applied or if released in large quantities either by design or accident. The resolution also reflects on emergency response, and thus implicitly on the necessary training of the industrial work force and intervention forces, in this context, stating the need to improve emergency response in the face of growing risks arising from large industrial concentrations, and the production, storage and transportation of toxic or hazardous substances and wastes; in addition, there is a special need to intensify international co-operation to improve response mechanisms in the case of grave environmental catastrophes such as forest fires and oil spills. Improved management of these accidents through better training will lead to a minimisation of such accidental releases of hazardous and toxic chemicals, benefiting the environment, or the destruction of natural resources through forest fires, which in turn is a contribution to sustainable development.
Training inherently improves employment prospects. In an increasingly complex and competitive working environment characterised by increasing globalisation, advanced skills improve employment prospects, directly, and indirectly: The aftermath of a major emergency is often characterised by a severe disruption of economic activities, from plant closures to re- routing of traffic, like after the recent fire catastrophes in the Mont Blanc and most recently the Tauern tunnels, or the most recent explosion at a chemical plant in Wuppertal, Germany. A-TEAM will integrate a broad range of European know-how, that may not only improve the skill, or develop new skills in emergency management of the European labour force working in high risk areas and civil protection, it will also open opportunities for the export of this training technology and thus, hopefully, help to create jobs in growth oriented high-tech service industries.
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