Proceedings of a Workshop
Improving International Resilience and Response to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Events
Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) events are rare, but can be highly destructive. In addition to potentially causing large numbers of fatalities and injuries, these events may also “destabilize governments, create conditions that exacerbate violence, or promote terrorism.” They may overwhelm the infrastructure and response capacity of the nations where they occur, especially those lacking specialized resources. They can also trigger global economic effects: a single CBRN event that damages facilities in one place can affect supply chains and operations worldwide. Strengthening national and international resilience and capacity to respond to CBRN events is seen as a global security priority.
Despite the fact that partner nations are often willing and able to assist in responding to CBRN events, effectively delivering international assistance is challenging, and requires preparation and a supportive environment. The earthquake, tsunami, and resultant nuclear reactor meltdown in Tohoku, Japan in 2011 constituted a CBRN event with an international response. The case illustrates how an efficient CBRN response requires interoperability among the domestic and foreign governments, first responders, organizations involved with humanitarian assistance, and the private sector.
Specifically, the major needs for international coordinated response to CBRN events include:
- The capacity to communicate and coordinate effectively among governments, non-governmental and organizations involved with humanitarian assistance (NGOs), and the private sector for low-probability high-impact events,
- Timely and useful sharing of technical data, and
- A common understanding of interoperability challenges among governments, the NGO community, and the private sector, built through international exercises and other mechanisms.
In order to help illuminate the major needs for an international coordinated response to CBRN events, highlight major challenges, and develop a common basis for future discussions, an ad hoc committee under the auspices of the Forum on Resilience to International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Events of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine organized an international, science-based CBRN resilience workshop. The workshop, or simulated drill, was held in Tokyo, Japan on October 23-25, 2017. The National Academies collaborated with Niigata University and the Japan National Research Institute for Earth Sciences and Disaster Resilience (NIED) to plan and organize the workshop. The workshop and proceedings are intended to increase understanding of the communication, interoperability, and coordination issues that arise among various international stakeholders who are responsible for responding to CBRN events.
Participants included experts from the international community, public and government sector, the private and industrial sector, the academic community, and NGOs. The workshop used a hypothetical, catastrophic chemical incident to guide discussion among international actors on how to navigate needs and communication during each
stage of a large-scale chemical release and fire. Workshop discussions consisted of a mix of plenary and smaller discussion groups. These discussions illuminated existing mechanisms for requesting, providing, or receiving assistance and explored new approaches that could create smoother channels for communication, coordination, and collaboration among nations during catastrophic events.
SETTING THE STAGE
Much of the first half-day of the workshop was devoted to plenary talks designed to orient the participants and provide background for the scenario-based resilience exercise. Keiko Tamura of Niigata University and Lauren Alexander Augustine of the National Academies welcomed participants and reviewed preparations for the workshop, which included a series of meetings in the United States and Japan during 2016 and 2017. These included several conferences to discuss CBRN risks arising from terrorism and natural disasters, covering topics such as increasing awareness on the part of localities of the hazardous materials present and impacts on risks. The preparatory discussions also advanced the development of the scenario used in the resilience exercise, described below.
Lessons from Past CBRN Events
David Kauffman of the Center for Naval Analyses highlighted several lessons from past CBRN events, such as the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 in the United States. For example, many of the technical capabilities needed to respond to CBRN events and other disasters exist outside of government, which implies that the local government agencies and other first responders need to be aware of these capabilities and how to potentially access and utilize them. Also, social media gives private sector volunteer groups the capacity to self-organize efforts to contribute assistance and resources. Cascading and complex CBRN events and other disasters have the potential to strain or exhaust the technical and other response capabilities of the countries where they occur. During CBRN events that test the response capabilities of individual countries, a key question is how industrialized countries can better support one another in response to these catastrophes.
Strengthening the Capacity to Collaborate
Haruo Hayashi, president of Japan’s National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, covered several notable aspects of the Japanese policy context relevant to CBRN event response. One objective for the workshop was to strengthen the international communities and systems through which industrialized countries provide assistance in response to catastrophes. Such efforts can have a broader impact by helping to bolster emergency response and resilience in other emergencies. He cited the Japanese and English versions of the official websites covering the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, noting that the English version has less information. This may imply that requesting international collaboration in response to disasters is not a major focus in Japan, but might also reflect the fact that response to nuclear incidents in Japan is very much “top-down” compared with earthquakes and other natural disasters where local governments play a lead role.
Dr. Hayahi also provided an overview of several significant and plausible earthquake scenarios that could occur in Japan at any time. Key questions for the future include (1) How are needs—for response, recovery, technical support, people, assets etc.—identified in CBRN and other disasters? (2) How are capabilities from outside Japan identified and located: (3) How are requests for assistance made and answered? How are resources coordinated internationally and across sectors?
Daniel Blumenthal, U.S. Department of Energy, discussed one example of U.S. government provision of assistance in CBRN events. In the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the National Nuclear Security Administration monitored radiation levels in northeast Japan using Aerial Monitoring Systems. This provided a picture of how radiation levels in various locations were changing over time.
M. Michel Bosco, European University, provided an overview of European mechanisms for enhancing international cooperation in responding to CBRN events and other disasters. In addition to European Union (EU) policy frameworks and entities focused on emergency and disaster response within Europe, the EU has mechanisms in place that facilitate European assistance around the world. These include the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC), which has a pool of pre-committed resources as well as funding to fill gaps and transport assistance. For example, the ERCC provided assistance in 26 incidents in 2015, including the April earthquake in Nepal and the July forest fires in Greece.
Mr. Bosco also described EU efforts in the R&D and innovation realms aimed at strengthening international collaboration in responding to CBRN events and other disasters. These include funding for collaborative, multidisciplinary, international research projects across a range of topics, such as critical infrastructure protection, ethical and social dimensions of disaster response, crisis management, and the impact of climate change on disaster resilience. The
EU also provides support to practitioner networks that help define the requirements for R&D programs and perform reality checks on how well these programs are meeting the needs of practitioners. Non-EU countries can participate in the teams undertaking this work.
THE RESILIENCE EXERCISE
As background to the scenario used as the basis for the resilience exercise, Masanori Hamada, Waseda University, discussed the real-life risks of a chemical event in Tokyo Bay. There is now considerable experience within Japan and around the world with earthquake and tsunami damage to industrial facilities. For example, oil tanks subject to ground motion due to earthquakes are prone to catch on fire or explode. Tilting and settlement from soil liquefaction caused by earthquakes is a particular risk for industrial facilities built on reclaimed land, as many are around Tokyo Bay. Motion from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake caused a number of LPG (liquid propane gas) tanks to explode in the Tokyo area, several hundred miles from the epicenter. Efforts are underway to develop and implement enhanced earthquake resistance measures in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.
Workshop Discussion Structure
The workshop discussion proceeded through a series of modules, representing different stages of the scenario and aspects of the response. The participants were divided into three groups for these discussions. Module One covered the initial response (the first three days after the incident), Module Two covered ongoing response (focusing on requests for international resources and response to offers of assistance 4 to 21 days after the incident), and Module Three covered sustained operations (covering the same time period as Module Two, but focused on receiving, coordinating, and deploying international resources).
Scenario Key Elements
The scenario that was developed was intended to stimulate conversation and bound the discussions, rather than serve as a comprehensive or accurate depiction of a realistic unfolding incident. Key elements of the initial scenario provided to workshop participants included the following:
- The incident coincides with the opening of the Tokyo Motor Show, which typically attracts about 800,000 international visitors over a 10-day period and is held at Tokyo Big Sight, a major exhibition center on the Tokyo Bay waterfront.
- In the early morning hours before the opening of the Motor Show, an explosion near the Port of Kawasaki in Tokyo Bay rocks the entire Tokyo metropolitan area. A large Liquid Natural Gas tanker was proceeding into the harbor at appropriate speed and then changed course and ran ashore, colliding with a chemical depot. When the vessel changed course it was contacted by radio and did not answer. The adjacent industrial complex—over 13 square kilometers—has been ignited and fires are spreading.
- The explosion launches debris that ruptures large oil tanks, expelling a high volume of oil into Tokyo Bay. The Japan Coast Guard stops all traffic into and out of the Bay.
- The flames and smoke of the chemical fire blow inland toward the heart of Tokyo, and its population of nearly 14 million people. Smoke is heading toward the Tokyo Big Sight complex, only 18 kilometers north of the impact site.
Unconfirmed reports emerge on the death of birds and small mammals near the Port of Kawasaki. Local residents are reporting severe respiratory distress and are beginning to evacuate the area, causing backups on the subway and street. Japanese authorities recommend that residents shelter in place, avoid breathing fumes or smoke, and only drink bottled water.
Scenario Updates and Subsequent Developments
Several scenario updates provided additional details intended to highlight the challenges of responding to a cascading CBRN event and stimulate discussion among the participants about response and international cooperation. Continuation of the chemical fires, strains on firefighting and healthcare capabilities, the need for expanded evacuation efforts, infrastructure challenges (e.g. electricity, transportation) resulting from the incident, and continued lack of clarity over whether the incident was an act of terrorism or not, hindered and complicated response efforts. The final scenario update for several weeks after the incident contemplated thousands of fatalities and injuries, continued challenges in
cleaning the oil and chemical spills (despite the fires having been extinguished), widespread environmental damage, continued infrastructure and emergency response problems, and devastating economic impacts.
ISSUES AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE FACILITATOR
Theodore “Ted” Macklin, president of TOMAR Research Inc. and former U.S. government official, facilitated the workshop discussion. He compiled the following set of issues and observations that arose during the module discussions and plenary sessions and led a “hot wash” discussion that framed the final plenary discussion at the workshop. This compilation reflects his own perspective of the themes that emerged during the discussions and does not represent a consensus of workshop participants or the views of individual participants.
Delays in Information Sharing and Coordination May Impair Response Efforts
Internal and external deficiencies in coordinated communications and messaging create inefficiencies and delays in response efforts for the affected country. Information-sharing gaps—both within and between organizations—may cause a delay in time-sensitive response efforts. Communication gaps may be due to cultural norms or operational security procedures. Identifying these communication gaps and finding solutions that support lifesaving response operations before a real-world incident occurs is critical. Possible approaches to addressing this issue include efforts to better connect communications systems in order to streamline transmissions and exchange of information, and ensure dissemination of adequate and pertinent information. Once communications systems are better connected, an explicit communication strategy can aid dissemination and ensure effective coordinated messaging.
Governments May Leverage Social Media as Tools for Information Gathering and Dissemination, and Tracking / Locating Affected Areas
In many countries, the public has come to use and rely on social media as a source of information during times of crisis. Governments may also be able to use social media to glean critical response information. While there may be concerns that the public could post innaccurate information or misinformation, there are tools that can aggregate trends that mitigate inaccurate social media postings. Additionally, responders can obtain some level of situational awareness for both effects and response operations by monitoring a curated social media feed. Possible approaches to addressing this issue include public-private cooperation to strengthen processes for monitoring and geo-locating areas where the need for response services are most acute.
Lack of an International Situational Awareness and Resource Management Capability May Hinder International Response
Gaps in international information gathering and dissemination can impede situational awareness and lead to the deployment of redundant and obsolete resources to an affected host country in a large-scale incident. Currently, there is no existing organization or centralized entity responsible for receipt and dissemination of valid, timely, and reliable information or for the coordination of international resources. Each request and offer of support is a distinct interaction between the affected nation and prospective donors. Initial response operations may be chaotic, especially in complex emergencies. Use of a centralized information system to catalog and track offers of support can help capture and report data during an incident and better enable systematic resource management. Possible approaches to addressing this issue include exploring the feasibility of an international information and resource monitoring capability charged with maintaining situational awareness of both the needs of the affected nations and the capabilities available from donor nations.
Agencies Use Varied Definitions in Incident Response Terminology
During an international incident, language barriers or lack of technical expertise and/or knowledge may constrain effective and efficient coordination and response. For example, workshop participants came from different cultures, had various levels of technical expertise, and represented many disciplines. Therefore, they used varied technical language in their discussions. Often participants were confused or had to seek clarification during discussions. In a large-scale disaster, while many organizations may have useful resources or capabilities, if things are described using different terms or in different languages, a lack or false sense of understanding may exist. These differences can unintentionally create confusion and impact communication. Possible approaches to addressing this issue include efforts to standardize terminology, symbology, metrics, unit typing, and employment procedures.
Entry Regulations in Affected Nations May Hinder Entry of International Response Capabilities
Laws and policies may limit the ability to expedite delivery of goods and services through the customs network of the affected nation. A mechanism for granting immediate access to materials during a time of crisis through the suspension of customs regulations, import taxes, and fees could speed response. Possible approaches to addressing this issue include developing legal instruments and perhaps a shared library of legal documents (e.g. legal memoranda, diplomatic notes, temporary regulatory waivers) to facilitate a more rapid, coordinated response to an international emergency. These could include prearranged, international mutual aid agreements that waive customs regulations, tariffs, and subsequent bureaucratic barriers that may hinder or delay delivery of international assistance. An affected nation could activate such waivers through a Declaration of Emergency, or similar executive action. Developing such legal instruments and maintaining an updated library of legal documents would require resources and clear assignments of responsibility.
Strengthened Central Coordination in the Affected Nation Can Facilitate International Assistance Following a CBRN Event
The primary responsibility of the initial disaster response rests with the government of the affected nation. Despite the need for international assistance following a large-scale CBRN incident, it may be difficult to identify needs and coordinate requests for international assistance due to limited situational awareness and a lack of familiarity with the capabilities and procedures of responding nations and NGOs. A possible approach to addressing this issue is to develop a senior leadership group drawn from the agencies of the affected nation’s government. This group could assist in identifying capability gaps and needs from outside sources. It could also reduce piecemeal requests and help build a more unified approach among the various government agencies. This group could also provide the guidance to activate the requests, mechanisms, and frameworks for international assistance to the affected nation. A domestic agency working with the leadership group could develop tools and methods to facilitate operational and tactical planning, track the progress of operations, and share situational awareness to strengthen coordination among affected nation and international response stakeholders.
Preexisting Public-Private Relationships Can Facilitate Domestic and International Response
Response to a complex incident requires the coordinated efforts and resources of numerous independent agencies, organizations, jurisdictions, sectors, and disciplines. Bringing together key stakeholders from multiple sectors and agencies is critical to the development of partnerships in incident management and response operations. Yet, efficient coordination between government and non-government organizations and between countries may be difficult to achieve for any number of reasons. Donor nations may not be able to provide government-to-government support until the affected nation declares an official state of emergency. Possible approaches to addressing this issue might involve building on the developing trend of NGOs providing direct support to local governments during the initial stages of response. This would require strengthening key working relationships between sectors and organizations that are potentially involved. Planning efforts could focus on including appropriate private sector entities. This would allow for the identification of the key roles, responsibilities, and structures of national response and facilitate a more coordinated effort.
Updating the Doctrine for International Assistance and Response Could Improve Cooperation
Existing international mutual assistance frameworks for large-scale catastrophic incidents may have been developed years ago, and might not reflect technological changes or recent experience with CBRN events and other disasters. A possible approach to addressing this issue would be to evaluate and update these frameworks on an international basis. For example, an international framework for mutual assistance could be tied to pre-existing international organizations such as United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC), or Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Lack of Defined Roles and Responsibilities Can Hinder Response Efforts
Roles and responsibilities of government agencies in affected nations, such as “lead government coordination agency,”may differ depending on the type of hazard. For example, response to an earthquake may indicate a different lead coordinating agency than that of a terror attack. Large-scale response efforts will require elements that are functionally common to many hazards. For example, transportation, communications, firefighting, emergency man-
agement, mass care, or logistics management and resource support are functional elements of the response effort. If the capabilities and resources of domestic departments, agencies, and organizations are not aligned, this may lead to lack of unity and effectiveness in the response effort. Possible approaches to addressing this issue are policies and plans that specify emergency support functions. Coordinating, primary and support agencies may be designated for each functional element in order to facilitate quick activation and deployment of critical resources in support of incident response.
International Disaster Preparednesss and Emergency Response Competencies Can Be Assessed and Improved Through Training and Exercises
Preparing for all-hazards, cascading, catastrophic incidents is extraordinarily challenging, not only because of the potential magnitude of the incident, but also because of the inherent need for close coordination across governmental sectors and agencies. Effective all-hazards incident response coordination demands a cross-functional, institutionalized understanding of each response agency’s roles and responsibilities and the limitations in their capabilities and capacities. One possible approach to addressing this issue would be to assess preparedness and capabilities through multiagency training and exercises. Institutionalized training and exercise programs not only prepare emergency response practitioners and governmental leadership to respond to incidents and emergencies, but also create the conditions where participants can share perspectives and develop trust and relationships. One potential downside to training and exercises would emerge if they are undertaken in a manner similar to a theatrical play, where scripted lines must be properly delivered, and any mistakes are an embarrassment. The key to disaster resilience is a realistic understanding of the capabilities and capacities that are on-hand, what will be needed, how to quickly obtain any outstanding capabilities, and a commitment to continuously improve preparedness. Periodic international interagency exercises and training could help foster relationships and improve resilience prior to an emergency occurring.
DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Tom Arrison as a factual proceedings of what occurred at the meeting. The statements made are those of the author or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
PLANNING COMMITTEE: David J. Kaufman, Center for Naval Analyses (chair); Ann Lesperance, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (vice chair); John M. Holmes, Independent Consultant; Andrew S. Natsios, Texas A&M University; Timothy J. Scott, The Dow Chemical Company; and Brent H. Woodworth, Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Foundation. STAFF: Lauren Alexander Augustine, executive director, Gulf Research Program; Micah Lowenthal, senior director, Committee on International Security & Arms Control; Sherrie Forrest, senior program officer, Resilient America Roundtable; and Gwynne Evans-Lomayesva, senior program assistant, Policy and Global Affairs.
REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Thomas Bostick, (retired) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Kevin Heaslip, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Ann Lesperance, Northwest Regional Technology Center for Homeland Security, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Marilyn Baker, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as the review coordinator. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.
SPONSORS: This workshop was supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Science for Peace and Security Program, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of State, and Dow Chemical.
For additional information, visit http://www.nationalacademies.org/pga.
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Improving International Resilience and Response to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Events: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25666.
Policy and Global Affairs
Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.