Regional cooperation to improve CBRN responses
The risk of possible use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents by terrorists, or incidents resulting from natural or man-made disasters, continues to pose serious threats to civilian populations internationally. Being able to effectively manage this risk is of particular importance to first responders in the Balkans and the Caucasus.
“We look at other events in the world, like the use of chemical agents against civilian populations in Iraq, and it demands that we assess the risk for our societies,” said LtCol Petar Petrov from the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence. “To be prepared, we need a deep analysis of existing threats, and expertise from the international community, to prevent similar events from happening in our region,” he added.
From 20 to 24 April, rescue teams, police officers and other first responders from six NATO and four partner countries (Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) took part in a training course in Bulgaria to learn how to effectively respond to these dangerous threats and to mitigate consequences to lives.
The course is a joint initiative by Bulgaria and Moldova and is funded by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme. It aims to enhance regional cooperation in managing CBRN incidents.
“The geopolitical situation of the country, as in many neighbouring countries, is unstable. This course gave some lessons about the behaviour and actions in cases of incidents, including CBRN accidents, in the immediate vicinity of the border,” said Eduard Ambrosii, senior specialist in chemical and radiological protection at the Civil Protection and Emergency Situation Service of Moldova.
Bridging theory to practice
The curriculum introduced an international group of 34 emergency response personnel to a wide range of concepts including chemical warfare agents and civil-military interactions.
Trainees also took part in practical demonstrations of CBRN capabilities such as decontaminating equipment and providing first aid to victims.
The course allowed participants to develop a common understanding of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and CBRN threats from a political, military and disaster response perspective.
“We are addressing serious proliferation challenges which remain an urgent international priority,” said Vesselin Garvalov from NATO’s WMD Non-Proliferation Centre.”The policy of support for non-proliferation will continue to play a major role in the achievement of NATO’s security objectives,” he continued.
Participants also discussed the actions required during the initial response phase to a CBRN incident, thereby contributing to greater efficiency in the use and delivery of national and international assistance.
Supporting national capabilities
A regional approach to countering CBRN threats largely depends on the strength of national capabilities in the area. To support this, one of the objectives of the course was to equip trainees to plan, organise and conduct first responders training sessions in their respective countries.
“It was an interesting and useful course for us,” said Maksym Dovhanovskyi, head of the sector for CBRN Protection of the State Emergency Service in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine. “The materials from this course will be used for training special CBRN teams and they also will be present at the workshop for leading officers of radiation, biological and chemical protection of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine," he explained.
The event also provided a forum for trainees to share best practices and lessons learned from real incidents.