How Do Governments Respond to CBRN Incidents?

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear substances and explosives (CBRN) are materials that can pose significant dangers to human health and the environment. They can also cause significant disruption to the economy and social order. CBRN threats can be carried out using weapons or through deliberate contamination. The threat of terrorism, in particular, may rely on the use of CBRN to achieve political or terrorist objectives.

Consequently, national governments are concerned about the use of these materials for illegal purposes. They are therefore working to develop laws and regulations that prevent the acquisition and possession of these harmful substances by non-state actors, while ensuring that law enforcement authorities have access to the information they need in order to carry out their duties.

In the United States, the federal Department of Homeland Security has set up an integrated team to respond to incidents involving radiation or nuclear materials. This team, the Nuclear Incident Response Team (NIRT), is activated by DHS and operates under their direction, authority and control. The NIRT includes Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) special teams with extensive nuclear, radiological, and CBRN expertise and capability, as well as medical and toxicological support capabilities.

In addition, the EPA has established a Consequence Management Advisory Division (CMAD), which is a unique national team that provides leadership, expert support, and capability to all impacted communities 24/7/365. CMAD maintains critical partnerships with government, industry, and other national experts to ensure the availability of science-based solutions during both CBRN and all-hazard disaster events. It also supports the standardization of CBRN response across the nation by developing and implementing the National Qualification System.

The GNDA has established a CBRN subcommittee, which is responsible for the development and publication of standards that address common data elements and Rad/Nuc terminology for interoperability between national systems. This effort is guided by the GNDA’s CBRN Community of Interest, which works closely with the Preventive Rad/Nuc Detection subcommittee.

Fire and rescue services often play a major role in responding to CBRN incidents. They are also expected to have specialised training in specialist CBRN responses, and access to CBRN-specific personal protective equipment.

The Irish national police force, the Garda Siochana, has a number of CBRN teams nationwide. These have been trained through a dedicated programme and are now a normal part of the emergency response portfolio of the service. They can be deployed to a wide variety of incidents, and are routinely involved in hazmat and chemical incident response activities. The UK fire and rescue service has a similar capability, as is the case in many other countries. cbrn

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