Taking place just weeks after the Paris Terrorist Attacks and in the midth of a further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, NCT CBRNe Europe 2015 seemed to be taking place just at the right time. Speakers and delegations took up the opportunity to discuss these prominent issues in Europe against the background of persisting challenges related to CBRNe. A first assessment and lessons learned from the European response to the Ebola outbreak couldn’t miss neither of course.
After a break of only five months, it was time again for the third edition of NCT CBRNe Europe – taking place this time in Brussels from February 12-13 with end-users, decision makers and CBRN experts from all over Europe. Like last year’s event in Leipzig, Germany, this year’s NCT CBRNe Europe was held again in a challenging international environment. Besides the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the fight against ISIS in the Near East, it was especially the violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the present terrorist threat in Europe, after the attacks in France and Belgium that directed presentations and topics to be discussed during the conference. Tragically, the event was followed by the shootings in Copenhagen just one day later, showing that the menace of terrorism in Europe is intensifying and, together with terrorism, the threat of non-conventional attacks. It is therefore an understatement to say that NCT CBRNe Europe took place at the right time, at the right place.
Besides the traditional informal networking program of NCT CBRNe Europe with live music, drinks and local food, the 2-day conference followed-up on its predecessor events in the Netherlands and Germany. While setting topics such as national, European and NATO CBRN defense organization and best practices, as well as technological integration and standardization on the agenda, it was especially the case-studies on the Ebola outbreak and multiple CBRN incidents in Belgium, France, Italy and the Czech Republic that were discussed intensely. Also, against the background of current events in Europe, various respective scenarios were debated, such as incidents in densely populated areas or during major events. Likewise, the industry or governmental institutions such as CEA, France provided state of the art solutions for countering this threat. Chaired by Lt Col Bernd Allert from the German Armed Forces JCBRN Command, NCT CBRNe Europe provided again a forum not to miss on the European CBRN defense event agenda.
Taking place in the hometown of NATO, the organization didn’t miss the opportunity to open the conference with some of its highest representatives in the field of CBRN defense. Starting with the keynote speech of Wolfgang Rudischhauser (Director, NATO WMD Non-Proliferation Center) on the international challenge of CBRN proliferation and terrorism, Colonel Jiri Gajdos (Director, NATO Joint CBRN Center of Excellence) gave an introduction on most recent developments in NATO CBRN Defense Planning and Operations Support in the next two years. Dr Victor Korendovych (Deputy Head of the Mission of Ukraine to NATO) put these assessments at last into the context of the very fragile European security structure – remembering the presence of chemical plants and waste within the ATO zone and the location of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya in southeastern Ukraine being only a little less than 100 kilometers away from Crimea or the conflict regions in the East.
After the Opening, Lt Col Patrice Petit (SDIS67, France) gave an introduction into Chemical Defense approaches of the French Fire Brigades, cross-border cooperation and standardization with their German counterparts, followed by an introduction of Lt Col Alan Gavel (Population Protection Institute, Czech Republic) into biodefense approaches in his country. In the end, Major Julio Ortega (CBRN Defense School, Spain) concluded the previous presentations, discussing WMD proliferation threats, the incorporation of NATO doctrine on the national level as well as military and civil CBRN defense organization and respective standardization. The afternoon discussions were afterwards based on several case-studies on medical stockpiling (Alexander Heyl, Heyltex), major event security (Lt Col Bernd Allert, German Armed Forces JCBRN Command), the transportation of Ebola patients (Dr Pavel Castulik, Czech Medical Society of J.E. Purkyne) and the respective preparedness of European hospitals (Dr Karin Ellen Veldkamp, LUMC, the Netherlands).
The first day of the event was rounded-up by an informal networking reception in Belgian style: taking place at the Music Village, just next to the magnificent Grand Place in Brussels, typical Belgian food was served together with traditional Belgian beer and live music for everyone’s taste and dancing shoes.
The second conference day of the NCT CBRNe Europe then approached issues of CBRN detection, reconnaissance, recovery and decontamination from a more technological point of view. Starting with the new concept of Analytical Task Forces at Fire Brigades in Germany (Lt Col Mario Koenig, Analytical Task Force Mannheim, Germany), the Belgian National Police presented case-studies of chemical incidents in Belgium and their potential threat to densely populated areas (Superintendent Joris de Baerdemaeker, Belgian National Police). The Italian Fire Brigade’s Directorate also presented case-studies of approaches from detection to recovery in case of radiological incidents (Dr Emanuele Pianese, Central Directorate for Emergency and Technical Rescue, Italy), while Maurice Kemmeren from the Dutch Institute for Physical Safety gave an introduction on mass casualty decontamination. Additionally, Lt Col Dr Martin Weber from the Central Institute of Medical Service of the German Armed Forces presented on the challenge of chemical contamination of potable water. Accompanied by presentations on state of the art crisis management projects such as CRISMA (Robert Miskuf, PSCE, Belgium) and the integration of innovative CBRNe technologies in France (Laurent Olmedo, CEA, France), top industry representatives from Bruker Daltonics (Alexander Mueller) and Cristanini (Maj. Marc Jacoby) presented on industry solutions as well as future challenges in CBRN recce and decontamination.