COVID-19, Stories from the Frontline

By Elisa Morin, Consultant, IB Consultancy

The CBRNe Society and IB Consultancy hosted their first NCT Talks on May 13th, gathering panelists from all over the world to share their experience in the fight against COVID-19. This webinar was the opportunity for the CBRNe Society to honor its commitment to create a platform for CBRNe stakeholders to exchange knowledge, build partnerships and promote innovation, in the safest way possible. For this first edition of the NCT Talks, BG (ret.) William King, retired Commanding General of the 20th CBRNE Command was present as a subject matter expert. His numerous years of active duty within the US Army and his expertise on complex CBRNe challenges were a valuable contribution to the discussions. For this first webinar, our team of panelists was composed of high-level stakeholders and first responders who are working at the frontline of this battle against COVID-19, and who shared with us their experience and the lessons learned from this crisis.

JB Cuartas, Branch Chief of Response Operational Planning - Region II, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

First in line, Mr. JB Cuartas, Branch Chief of Response Operational Planning - Region II, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), USA, shared his experience in the NYC area and notably brought us an interesting perspective on resources allocation at federal and local level, highlighting that the fundamental resources to manage during this crisis was first and foremost human.

Mr. Sjaak de Gouw, Director of Public Health at the Regional Health Service Hollands Midden, The Netherlands

Then, Mr. Sjaak de Gouw, Director of Public Health at the Regional Health Service Hollands Midden, in The Netherlands, gave us a very comprehensive overview of the crisis management in the Netherlands and raised the issue of the complex duality between the Dutch Public Healthcare and the Dutch General Safety Department.

Lt. Col. Edoardo Cavalieri d’Oro, Head of CBRN Unit, Fire Department City of Milano, Italy

From the Italian frontline, Lt. Col. Edoardo Cavalieri d’Oro, Head of CBRN Unit, Fire Department City of Milano, Italy, and third panelist of the NCT Talks, made a very interesting case study on the COVID-19 management in the city of Milan in Italy, which was one of the first cities to be hit by the virus in Europe.

Lt. Dr. Manuel Tamani, CBRN Manager, Emilia Romagna Region, Italian Red Cross Military Corps, Italy

Lt. Dr. Manuel Tamani, CBRN Manager, Emilia Romagna Region, at the Italian Red Cross Military Corps, Italy, highlighted the lack of preparedness of the Italian health system to respond to such a pandemic and especially emphasized the PPE stockpiling issue as well as the lack of training for health personnel on how to properly use PPE.

Sgt. Omar Mendoza, Hazmat leader at the Special Administrative Unit, Bogotá Fire Department, Colombia

As the Bogotá Fire Department was celebrating its 125th anniversary, Sgt. Omar Mendoza, Hazmat leader at the Special Administrative Unit, Bogotá Fire Department, Colombia, shared with us the way the COVID-19 crisis had affected their everyday life and its impact on the city.

BG (ret.) John Galatas, Senior Bio Consultant at Hotzone Solutions Group, The Netherlands

Lastly, BG (ret.) John Galatas, Senior Bio Consultant at Hotzone Solutions Group, The Netherlands, offered clarity on the different types of COVID-19 tests and introduced the Hotzone Solutions’s Rapid Covid Test.

The opportunity was given to panelists and attendees to ask questions and engage in discussions following each intervention, thus bringing even more insights and points of view from different actors involved in this crisis. This first NCT Talks was a great opportunity to raise awareness to better understand the COVID-19 crisis and the necessary capabilities to respond to this threat. Eventually, the more first responders and other actors involved in this crisis share their experience and understanding of the current situation, the more we learn from each other, and the better prepared we will be to face the next crisis. As stated by one of the panelists during his presentation, the biological component of CBRNe threats is what we are currently facing, and for this reason, more than ever, platforms to discuss these threats should be developed and used. Therefore, we all invite you to join our next NCT Talks on June 17 from 13:00 to 15:00 (Amsterdam time) addressing the following topic: "Rethinking CBRN preparedness and response in the post-COVID-19 era”. The recording of the NCT Talks “COVID-19, Stories from the frontline” can be viewed here. The presentations of the NCT Talks can be downloaded here.