Global Threats - CBRNe Protection, Preparedness, and Response during High Visibility Events (HVEs)

By Maj. Georgios Gkanalas, EOD/IEDD/CBRNe SME 116 Combat Wing, Hellenic Air Force, Greece

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this document are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Greek Government. Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorized, provided the source is acknowledged and the publisher is given prior notice and sent a copy.

«Suggested actions and measures against possible threats during HVEs, concerning Chemical-Biological-Radio-Nuclear and Explosive materials and devices, as well as the combination of those, during HVEs ».

As the tensions between East and West are rising and the Global Geostrategic relations are shifting with blistering speed, many of the existing State strategies and plans are becoming obsolete and even inactive, requiring thorough examination and review.

Military tensions at the Eastern flank of Europe, amidst the resurrection-revision of Mackinder and Spykman theories, are responsible for a possible global conflict that is most likely to lead the World towards a horrifying and bleak future.

Many of the involving States or Organizations are changing their direct involvement in military operations by using non-state actors (proxies) in order to intrude and inflict damage into their opponent’s military and political infrastructure, using standard or hybrid methods. Provocation and fake news are used, to misinform and disorientate public opinion, and in many cases, the perpetrator is the one who tries to consider as the victim in people’s eyes.

In other «geostrategic theaters» of the World, the use of proxies and the blatant perversion of truth is amply provided by States, even by the invocation of International Organizations, such as the UN, EU, etc. Such actions happened and still happening in the South-Eastern edge of Europe, where Turkey is organizing massive intrusions of State guided and supported «Immigrants», against the territorial sovereignty of Greece.

Taking into consideration all of the above cases, we can assume that there is a high probability of heading into some actions (attacks), mostly against political targets and Urban Environments (UEs), in order to produce chaos and political implications against the opponent.

However, even at this very moment, many events are taking place globally with the maximum exposure of spectators, such as the Winter Olympic Games in China. During the past years, many others are taking place with various light or serious implications. One of the most known cases is the Boston Marathon Bombing on April 15, 2013, where terrorists detonated Pressure Cooker IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) killing three (3) people and injuring hundreds.

Other events like NFL Super Bowl, Olympic Games and Paralympics, many summits and ministerial meetings, the European Football Championships, and also coronations, swearing-in ceremonies, etc. happening frequently all over the Globe. These events are known as HVEs and are usually organized by a State with the possible help of other States, Organizations, and Alliances.

Organizing such events is a very challenging task in that organizing State will become for a brief period of time, usually a few hours or days, the focus of all international social and media networks. So, it is very easy to understand that the possibility of the smallest error or the smallest incident, will cause immediate international attention and trigger various political and other consequences.

HVEs generally are defined e.g., by NATO’s publications as: «Events of National or International significance planned by, or with the authorities, or the ones that require direct involvement of the Government».

In order to provide constant physical security to the participants during an HVE, authorities must provide adequate protection measures and have already trained and well-prepared Response Teams (RTs), as well as coordinated plans and directives, thus minimizing the possible response timeframes.

Threats against HVEs are expected mostly in UEs and as concerning the CBRNe area, will be designed to employ new Weapon Systems (WS), especially the already ubiquitous Unmanned Systems (Drones) and maybe the combination of those, using a mix of upgraded and more lethal Explosives, Chemical Agents (CA) and/or Toxic Industrial Hazards (TIH). Also, we must constantly keep in mind the possibility to encounter some Radiological and/or Nuclear Agents in the form of dust or other contaminated materials. Organizing States and supporting authorities must provide the highest possible levels of Protection, using detecting and disposing of CBRNe agents, defeating Weapon Systems and devices, providing collective protection (COLPRO) and health support to the participants, ensuring adequate surveillance and monitoring means and equipment, given political and prosecutorial coverage, providing the RTs with properly prepared plans for Normal and Contingency Operations, as well as the respective training.

I chose to speak briefly about the Response sector of the present paper, in order to focus mostly on Preparedness, as far as in my opinion, being the most important factor in the effort of countering the CBRNe threats during HVEs.

The reaction times of RTs and related authorities will play a significant role in the final Response for a CBRNe incident during an HVE. They are going to judge the final outcome and most likely the number of casualties amongst the spectators and even the supporting personnel. These times are closely related to the next factor (Preparedness), and I think the three (3) basic factors are proportionally related inside the very simple «algorithm» ruling the mitigation of the effects of a probable attack during HVEs.

Additionally, the amount of Response Forces and the intensity of their reaction, will definitely affect the corrective actions and change the final outcome, thus the inflicted damage and casualties, and also will be a strong «Show of Force» factor, in order to deter any future attacks.

On the other hand, Preparedness is the most important factor in every aspect concerning Tactical, Operational, and even Strategic CBRNe Operations. Constantly, is amongst our primary considerations during the Operational planning of EOD/IEDD/CBRNe tasks and closely related with the «Human Factor», and with the level of personal perception and of course the Tactical Awareness during the Operations.

In the case of CBRNe attacks during HVEs, preparedness is again one of the most important factors for achieving the final goal. National preparations such as political, security, and military coordination Boards, Risk Analysis calculations, and Lessons Learned meetings, will significantly affect the final upshot. Issuing revised and updated Plans and procedures, as well as the distribution of Joint SOPs (Standing Operating Procedures) during those incidents, will ease the coordination between different entities by clarifying their roles and responsibilities. But Preparedness by definition means to be ready to implement your knowledge at a certain time during a certain situation. So, you must keep constantly your abilities tested by training your RTs and related authorities and performing «Dry Runs» (exercises) of possible events.

Governments, should thoroughly scan and analyze previous Global incidents, by reaching out to reports and related papers. If necessary, should seek International Assistant about planning, training, and logistics issues (tools, materials, and equipment).

Every Nation should also seek help and consultation from (trustworthy) neighboring countries and achieve new and updated regional agreements for assistance.

Preparedness is the most important factor to prevent and/or minimize losses during a CBRNe attack in HVEs. Also important is the rate of Response during such incidents which is proportionally related to Preparedness. The final outcome translated into Protection measures originated from the combination of the above factors.

In conclusion, living in such interesting, unstable, and unpredictable times, we’re exposed to constant challenges and dangers. Political, economical, and military factors force many countries to act dangerously irrational. The modern perception of «hybrid warfare» led most of them to implement asymmetric threats in the form of attacks against civilian and military targets using non-conventional tactics and weapons. One form of these attacks is the use of CBRNe agents during HVEs, discussed in the present paper.

The only way to prevent and minimize the effects of such events, is the thorough and constant Preparedness of the friendly forces, in order to protect the general population from the horrifying effects of those attacks.

And as the Roman Poet Virgil said: «In utrumque paratus», or «Be ready for all the possibilities».


Major Gkanalas is active-duty EOD/IEDD/CBRNe SME, serving in Hellenic Air Force (HAF) for the last 30 years. He graduated from HAF’s NCO Academy in 1992 as a General Armorer and he volunteered to attend HAF’s EOD School in 1997 and ever since has entered the EOD Community. He worked as Ordnance loader and Weapons Maintainer on F-4E aircraft and F-16C/D Blk 52+Adv. At the time being he’s the EOD Head of 116Combat Wing as well as the Ammunition – Explosives QA Officer of the Air Base. He graduated from US NAVSCOLEOD, Eglin AFB, FL in 2009 and he has participated in many training and operational missions (USA, Israel, Thailand, UK, Slovakia etc,). Major Gkanalas is a frequent participant in various related webinars, conventions and expos and he has extensive experience as trainer and speaker. He lives with his wife and two daughters in the town of Patras at the South – West of Greece, near the birthplace of the Olympic Games.