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Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) incidents, be they intentional or accidental, are of concern to humanitarian actors who might be requested to respond to the consequences of such events and where such incidents may effect on-going humanitarian activities.

Humanitarian relief work and disaster management takes place in different political, geographic, economic and cultural environments. CBRN incidents add yet another challenge to these complex situations, as seen in recent disasters and conflicts . Lessons learnt from the Fukushima earthquake in Japan have shown that there is discrepancy between the various agencies' preparedness and response approaches . The current situation in the Middle East is putting pressure on humanitarian actors operational on the ground to protect and prepare themselves for a potential CBRN incident, as well as think through and prepare to assist directly or indirectly affected populations. CBRN preparedness begins with staff safety and security, and may include the set-up of response mechanisms for CBRN events, the continuation of humanitarian activities through alternative means, and the management of ‘knock-on’ effects, such as the large displacement of populations. Action may also include recognizing and publicizing the fact that humanitarian organisations will not likely be in a position to respond in any effective way to any CBRN incident of magnitude, other than to protect staff and support secondary consequences.

CBRN preparedness is a broad topic which concerns a wide array of actors with increasing cross-over between topics (including medical/health, decontamination, crisis management, hazardous materials, sanitation, transport, civil defence and civil protection, and military). Similarly, various actors may have different approaches to CBRN preparedness/response with respect to internal policies, operational requirements, and risk management mechanisms. Ultimately, the focus and interests of various agencies or organizations will depend on the type of CBRN event, as well as the agency mandate and scope of activities and requests by the Host Nation.

Preparedness for Chemical Incidents – Available Resources

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) incidents, be they intentional or accidental, are of concern to humanitarian actors who might be requested to respond to the consequences of such events and where such incidents may effect on-going humanitarian activities.

The below list of resources provide information on chemical incidents.

Chemical incident response

General information on chemicals

  • Concise information on chemicals, in the form of International Chemical Safety Cards, which are developed by WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO), can be viewed on the ILO website: www.ilo.org/dyn/icsc/showcard.home