In what is a rapidly changing and increasingly challenging global environment, the importance of maintaining international cooperation in countering CBRNe threats has never been more crucial.
The successful management of any form of cross-border hazard - be it biological, chemical, nuclear or otherwise - relies on targeted, sustained and collaborative action.
The value of developing a cohesive approach to CBRNe response was just one of the topics touched on by Henriette Geiger in her opening speech at the Annual General Meeting of the European Union CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence in Brussels in June 2019, in which she stated:
"We are facing challenges today that go beyond national borders and [that] cannot be tackled alone.
"This is true for cooperation on CBRN matters, as witnessed by recent CBRN attacks and events in Europe...[and] also by the re-emergence of epidemic diseases."
Countering invisible threats
Fast forward just nine months, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is demonstrating all too starkly just how vitally important it is to maintain global cooperation in the fight against an invisible yet deadly threat.
From governments to tech companies to international agencies, the race is on to put in place measures that can help to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The challenge in any crisis situation though is in ensuring that those personnel operating on the frontline of emergency response are sufficiently trained and equipped to handle what can often be complex, highly charged and in many cases unprecedented emergency situations.
The role of realistic CBRNe training
When planning exercises for diverse CBRNe or HazMat threats, a key priority is to develop relevant scenarios that facilitate optimum readiness, maintain maximum levels of safety and present minimal regulatory burden.
In the last decade, there has been an increasing interest in the use of hands-on training exercises using simulators to enable civilian and military CBRNe practitioners to test their technical knowledge in a manner that is realistic, cost-effective and safe.
Classroom learning will always continue to provide value in helping build theoretical understanding of the science and technology that underpins CBRNe defence.
But it is through the provision of realistic training that knowledge and competency can truly be put to the test.
Hands-on training that uses actual equipment (or its simulator equivalent) can help to build deeper understanding of the key science that underpins the release, dispersal and measurement of CBRNe agents.
By incorporating the use of simulator detectors in the context of CBRNe exercises, there is also the opportunity for personnel to gain familiarity both with the chemical and physical properties of specific hazards and with the ways that these hazards may affect individuals, equipment and infrastructure.
The value of international collaboration
At a time when international cooperation can offer significant benefits, the cooperative research agreement (CRADA) signed between Argon Electronics UK Ltd and the the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is an initiative that promises to both bolster and re-envision the delivery of realistic hands-on CBRNe training.
The two-year agreement, valued at $2.55 million, merges LLNL's game-changing Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS) technology with Argon Electronics' extensive experience in the creation and development of simulation hardware and software.
While the project is currently focused on enhancing the provision of radiation training, there is the ability for the same technology to be applied across the broader range of CBRNe response, and in doing so to substantially raise the bar of emergency preparedness.
As the events of COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated, the consequences of CBRNe emergencies can stretch national capabilities to their very limits.
While responsibility for first response remains with individual nations, there is also much to be gained from countries working together, combining their resources and developing common frameworks in order to mitigate against the effects of future global threats.