Public Safety Canada’s CBRNE team

By Reg Fountain, Public Safety Canada

Over the past year, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Team within Public Safety Canada has been a moving force on a number of programs and initiatives.

Since the inception of the CBRNE Resilience Strategy and Action Plan for Canada, the CBRNE Team, in concert with its federal, provincial and territorial partners, has worked tirelessly on programs to increase the CBRNE knowledge base across Canada.  Thanks to the efforts of provincial representatives, there now exists a toolkit for CBRNE emergency planning (NS), a provincial risk assessment template (NB), a national CBRNE emergency contact list (MB) and the  baseline criteria for the engagement of provincial, federal and/or international assets in CBRNE consequence management incidents (BC).

The CBRNE Team, again with federal, provincial and territorial representatives, has revised and updated CBRNE Resilience Action Plan. The 2012 iteration of the Plan focuses the federal and provincial/territorial efforts on delivery of tangible products that will increase the efficiency and interoperability of CBRNE emergency responders.

The 2012 Action Plan was approved by federal, provincial, and territorial Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management (SOREM) in February.

The CBRNE Team has also been involved in international CBRNE efforts.  For example, the team participates in a working group with four countries (United Kingdom, United States, Australia and Canada) concerned with countering terrorism and dealing with the threats of chemical, biological and radiological contaminants, and collectively shares best practices, lessons learned and advances in CBR-related technology. During the coming year, issues of mass decontamination in a post-biological terrorist event, the use of social media in public alerting protocols and development of medical counter-measures for CBR incidents will be the heart of the group’s strategic work plan.

One of the major Team initiatives has been the development of the Federal CBRNE Plan.  This plan uses the Emergency Management Framework for Canada as its doctrinal foundation and incorporates the four components of emergency management into its overall structure.  More importantly, the Federal CBRNE Plan details the tasks undertaken by federal departments and agencies in the prevention and mitigation of CBRNE incidents,  the present and planned level of preparedness for CBRNE incidents across Canada, and  the capabilities  required for a federal response or to assist the provinces and territories in recovering from such an event.

The Federal CBRNE Plan will describe a number of capability packages that are configured to meet the expected needs of provinces and territories dealing with the effects of CBRNE contamination.  Research into medical response capabilities indicates that in most Canadian urban centres, having five simultaneous casualties requiring the same level of critical life-saving treatment will overload the medical care system.  The 2007 London bombing with over 700 casualties demonstrates the potential for provincial/territorial health system overload and provides an additional basis for a specific level of federal preparedness.  It is expected that any mass casualty event (CBRNE or other causes) will require a national response; therefore, one of the main assumptions used in the development of the plan is for the employment of an effective initial consequence management response at the incident site (or where needed) within 24 hours of an approved request.

The Federal CBRNE Plan will be presented to senior federal officials in early summer 2012 for approval.   The Federal CBRNE Plan will be exercised as soon as possible and an evaluated functional exercise is planned for 2013.

With the release of the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan by the Canadian Prime Minister and the President of the United States, the CBRNE Team looks to increase bilateral resilience with the inclusion of CBRNE as one of the areas of consideration.  Over the next five years, this initiative will develop a CBRNE Mutual Assistance Concept of Operations, establish joint training opportunities and share lessons learned, establish bilateral information-exchange opportunities to facilitate the sharing of advances in science and technology and establish a strategy that can enhance bilateral interoperability for a CBRNE response.

Add to these undertakings the Team’s continued work with Public Safety Canada’s Interoperability Development Office, in the further development of an Emergency Management Planning Application, situational awareness and alerting protocols and information exchange processes, and it is a full task list for any organization.

The CBRNE Team has been extremely productive.  It is through the shared efforts of our federal, provincial and territorial colleagues that the Team has progressed so far– and it is with this superb level of coordinated support that the Team will continue to make strides forward in 2012!