CBRN / HazMat Training Blog

A comparison of exercise scenarios for authentic CBRNe training

Written by Steven Pike on 30 Nov 2017

The 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), signed and ratified by 192 state-parties globally, is a multilateral treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons under international humanitarian law, and requires their destruction within a specified period of time.

The treaty prohibits the developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining of chemical weapons; the direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons; the use of chemical weapons by the military; the assistance, inducement or encouragement of other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity; and the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare.

Thankfully, acquiring, producing, and dispersing chemical agents is more easily said than done, as many CWAs are dangerous to acquire and handle; require highly sophisticated expertise and technology to produce and are often difficult to disperse in a sufficient quantity to inflict harm.

Nonetheless, it is vital not to underestimate the inherent risk to global security of any deliberate chemical attack. With that awareness comes an increasing need for military personnel and first response teams to be prepared for the unique challenges of an act of chemical warfare.


How to ensure the highest levels of safety in CBRNe training scenarios

Written by Steven Pike on 27 Nov 2017

Prominent world events, such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Ebola outbreak and the use of chemical weapons in countries such as Syria and Iraq, highlight the vital importance for the US military and first response units worldwide to be prepared for the most demanding of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive (CBRNe) challenges.

Irrespective of how a release happens, and whether it be accidental or deliberate in nature, it is essential that response teams have the requisite skills to be able to identify, secure and work within any potentially hostile environment.

To this end, the creation of realistic, immersive and compelling scenarios, that accurately portray the challenges that teams will face in the field, is pivotal to effective training.

Research has shown that experiential learning is an incredibly powerful training tool, but when you are working with high-risk substances such as toxic chemicals or radiation, how can CBRNe instructors ensure the most realistic student experience whilst also maintaining the highest levels of safety?

In this blog post we discuss the significance of safety within the context of CBRNe training scenarios and explore the options currently available to provide safe and realistic hands-on training experiences.


How to ensure authenticity in HazMat safety training for industry

Written by Steven Pike on 17 Nov 2017

Major industrial or technological HazMat accidents that involve toxic chemicals are thankfully comparatively rare. However, when a large-scale industrial incident does occur, there is the potential to cause significant damage and disruption to personnel, the general public and the facility.

The storage, transport and manufacture of chemicals brings with it an inherent element of risk. Chemicals can be corrosive or toxic or react explosively, with the potential for considerable impact on human life and the environment, and with many thousands of chemicals in commercial use worldwide, there is the ever present risk of accidental release.

Chemical spills and accidents can happen, on a small and large scale, anywhere chemicals are found - from factories, to oil rigs to tanker trucks, shipping vessels and railway transport - and can occur with surprising frequency.

Just a few recent examples of smaller industrial-related HazMat incidents in the US in 2017 (all of which were successfully contained) have included a mercury spill at the Cincinnati VA Medical Centre due to the movement of an old pipe during construction work; an ammonia leak at a Butterball plant in Jonesboro Arkansas after a power outage; a polyethylene holding tank catching fire at a chemical plant in Gales Ferry, Connecticut; and a chemical scare at Flint Hills Resources in Illinois.

There are clearly defined procedures and working practices in place within industrial facilities to help assess and manage risk, and individual sectors of industry within the US and UK are also subject to their own specific regulations.

The fact remains though that the hazardous nature of the processes involved in the handling or manufacture of chemicals, together with the ever-present potential for human error means it is essential that emergency response teams are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to handle chemical incidents.

The ongoing challenge for HazMat instructors working within an industrial setting (or indeed any environment where there is a HazMat risk) is to devise training scenarios that provide an authentic live-incident experience for their trainees.


The vital role of personal dosimeters in radiation safety training

Written by Steven Pike on 15 Nov 2017

A key objective of radiation safety training emergency preparedness is the ability for military personnel and first responders to be able to identify, evaluate and react to a wide spectrum of potentially hazardous events.For those tasked with handling the unique challenges of radiological incidents, the importance of maintaining personal safety is paramount.

Radiation is an invisible force that is constantly around us. It takes the form of natural radiation (such as radioactive radon gases, terrestrial gamma radiation or cosmic radiation) and is also a by-product of man-made radioactive materials (as a result of medical radiotherapy procedures, occupational radiation exposure or radioactive discharges) some of which can be immensely powerful.


How offsite release exercises can maximise HazMat safety training

Written by Steven Pike on 10 Nov 2017

Providing first responders and senior management with access to high quality, realistic and regular HazMat safety training opportunities is crucial in ensuring that they are thoroughly equipped to handle any real-world response, whatever the context.

The vital importance of wide-area HazMat emergency preparedness was brought into sharp focus in two recent toxic chemical incidents on both sides of the Atlantic in August 2017.

On August 31 in the US town of Crosby, Texas, floodwaters caused by tropical storm Harvey led to a power shutdown at a chemical plant, which resulted in a series of small explosions and the release of what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) described as “a hazardous smoke plume.”

A 1.5 mile exclusion zone was placed around the plant, and while evacuation of residents immediately outside the exclusion zone was not mandatory, the Texas commission on environmental quality urged local residents to stay inside, keep windows and doors closed and to limit physical activity.

Meanwhile on the South Coast of the UK, an unidentified chemical plume swept over the seaside area of Beachy Head over the August Bank Holiday weekend, resulting in more than 150 beachgoers requiring hospital treatment for symptoms ranging from streaming eyes and burning throats to vomiting and respiratory problems.

Toxic plumes have the potential to drift significant distances, as was evidenced in January 2013, when a foul-smelling gas cloud that originated in Rouen, France, prompted thousands of calls to the emergency services all across England’s South Coast and as far north as South-East London.

Fortunately these types of wide-area public emergency HazMat incidents are fairly rare. But they do highlight the crucial importance for first response teams and management to have hands-on training to handle unexpected chemical hazard events with speed, confidence and efficiency.


The value of applied learning for radiation safety training

Written by Steven Pike on 24 Oct 2017


Creating realistic training scenarios that replicate the invisible threat of radiation is a vital and ongoing challenge for CBRNe and HazMat instructors worldwide, whether that training is provided within the context of military training exercises or as a teaching aid for first responders.

Most radiation detection instruments are in themselves fairly straight-forward to use. But ensuring that trainees understand readings, changes in units of measurement, shielding, survey, contamination avoidance and decontamination procedures can be difficult.

The skill lies in the CBRNe or HazMat instructor’s ability to create applied, hands-on training scenarios that enable participants to experience all the features of a radiation incident in as life-like a context as possible.


7 essential features to look for in HazMat safety training simulators

Written by Steven Pike on 20 Oct 2017

An essential requirement of every CBRNe and HazMat responder is to be able to provide rapid, safe and effective response in the event of a civil or military emergency.  And critical to that preparedness is the creation of Real Experience Training scenarios which ensure personnel can demonstrate their proficiency in handling any situation with confidence and control.

The ever expanding array of fielded detection systems has generated a critical need for versatile new platforms that deliver the highest possible standards in training. As such, hazardous material detector simulators have a vital role to play in creating realistic CBRNe and HazMat safety training exercises that are scalable, versatile, repeatable and, above all else, safe.

In this blog post we explore 7 key factors to keep in mind when sourcing simulator detectors for your training scenarios.


The key attributes of effective CBRN and HazMat training

Written by Steven Pike on 12 Oct 2017

Realistic CBRN and HazMat training scenarios have a crucial role to play in providing first responders and military personnel with life-saving knowledge and preparedness for CBRN incidents.  

A cornerstone of the CBRN training process is the design and delivery of hands-on scenarios that prepare participants, with as much realism as possible, for the physical, environmental and psychological challenges of real-life CBRN events.

In this blog post we explore the key qualities of effective CBRN instruction, the importance of creating authentic training scenarios and the vital contribution of electronic simulation detectors in delivering effective CBRN and HazMat training.


The benefits of simulators for radiation safety training

Written by Steven Pike on 06 Oct 2017

In March 2017, the UK Public Health Executive (PHE), published the results of a survey that explored the radiological impact of the transport of radioactive material by road and rail.

It calculated the number of packages of radioactive material consigned by road to be in the region of 110,000 to 150,000 per year, with 76% comprising the transport of radiopharmaceuticals for medical purposes, 20% for the civil nuclear industry and 4% for industrial radioactive sources.


PlumeSIM provides exciting addition to Steel Beasts HazMat training

Written by Steven Pike on 25 Sep 2017

With the growing risk worldwide of chemical and radiological threat within both military and civilian settings, there is an increasing need for a high quality and cost-effective means of incorporating support for CBRN and HazMat Hazards into existing training systems.

While in some cases, CBRN Hazard capability can be achieved by standalone technology (such as the wide-area, instrumented training system PlumeSIM,) in other situations it can be helpful for users to be able to simulate a scenario that replicates a combination of hazards that includes, but is not necessarily limited to, specific CBRN threats. In such circumstances too, it can also be preferable for users to be able to incorporate any additional CBRN hazard capability into their own existing simulation system.