Disaster Planning – CBR

While working with an organisation recently I saw in action the CBR procedures triggered when an envelope containing a white powder suspected to be CBR material arrived at reception. Correct handling procedures were followed, rooms were closed off, air conditioning shutdown and people were prevented from moving to contain any possible outbreak. A specialist agency was called to attend and tested the powder which fortunately was not a significant threat. I have to commend the organisation as it was a textbook execution by an organisation who were prepared.

CBR incidents involve a chemical, biological or radioactive substance used by a terrorist actor. Examples of these incidents include:

  • Toyko Subway 1995 Sarin attack killed 12
  • United States 2001 Anthrax attack killed 5

CBR incidents are rare due to the availability of materials and complexity. False alarms and hoaxes tend to make the majority of incidents. Efficient planning means these need not be a huge disruption but do require different plans than that of other threats.

Here are some recommendations from http://www.cpni.gov.uk/

  • Review plans for protecting staff in the event of a terrorist threat or attack. Remember that evacuation may not be the best solution. You will need to be guided by the emergency services on the day.
  • An attack involving radiological and biological material may not be immediately apparent and may only be recognised when larger numbers of staff than expected report in with sickness.
  • Plan for the shutdown of systems that may contribute to the movement of airborne hazards (e.g. computer equipment containing fans).
  • Ensure that doors can be closed quickly if required
  • If your external windows are not permanently sealed shut, develop plans for closing them in response to a warning or incident.
  • Examine the feasibility of emergency shutdown of air-handling systems and ensure that any such plans are well rehearsed.
  • Where a hazard can be isolated by leaving the immediate area, do so as quickly as possible, closing doors and windows as you go.
  • Move those directly affected by an incident to a safe location as close as possible to the scene of the incident, so as to minimise spread of contamination.
  • Separate those directly affected by an incident from those not involved so as to minimise the risk of inadvertent cross-contamination.
  • Ask people not to wander off – though you cannot contain them against their will.
  • You do not need to make any special arrangements beyond normal first aid provision. The emergency services will take responsibility for treatment of casualties.
Exert from – CNPI
Image by Geoffrey Whiteway (2012) via Stockvault

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