Keeping society safe from CBRN threats

All over the world, the risk of hazardous chemical, biological, radiological and or nuclear (CBRN) attacks in military or even civil scenarios is very real and potentially devastating to both people and the environment. However, there are ways to protect ourselves, requiring advanced technical equipment.

CBRN threats can arise during war, accidents and acts of terrorism. An accident involving hazardous substances is serious. An intentional CBRN attack can lead to catastrophe.

“Modern technology has made the production of hazardous substances easier now than it was just a few years ago. The risk that extremists will use CBRN threats has increased,” says Nils-Erik Lindblom who works with CBRN at Saab.

In many places, it has already happened. In 1995, a Japanese cult released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway. Thirteen people were killed and more than 2,000 injured. Another example occurred in 2001 when anthrax bacteria was released in the US and anthrax scares were observed all over the world, even in Sweden. Chemical weapons have also been used in the Syrian civil war, and it is still unclear to the world how many people have lost their lives in different chemical weapon attacks in the country.

How to protect ourselves

Saab is highly proactive in CBRN research and development, seeking new and emerging technologies to combat these constant, highly volatile risks.

 “This actually links well to our company vision; it’s a human right to feel safe,” Nils-Erik continues.

The effect a CBRN attack can have on society can be minimised by using sensors deployed on stationary units, vehicles and personnel, and by exchanging real-time warnings and reports between forces and headquarters via a CBRN AWR system (Automatic Warning and Reporting). Decision support is also crucial as it helps the operator make fast and accurate decisions, which is a key factor in limiting the effects of CBRN threats.

The warning system has already been used by the Swedish Armed Forces, for example, during President Obama’s visit to Stockholm in 2013. Mobile sensor units were mounted on vehicles to detect any threats from harmful emissions. A customer in Kuwait has also ordered the system.

Time and cost efficient

Saab’s solutions to counter or manage CBRN attacks include modular detection devices, automatic warning and reporting software and hardware, protective clothing, decontamination equipment, diagnostic tools and containers for transporting hazardous substances.

“With the right tools and counter measures in place you minimise the need to employ a wide spread of specialist CBRN personnel throughout the operational forces, reducing not only the critically important time to action, but also training and personnel management costs,” says Nils-Erik.

Those who can benefit from Saab’s CBRN solutions include armed forces, homeland security, rescue services, police, customs service, radiation protection institutes and nuclear power plants.

The Swedish Armed Forces have loaned their equipment to the police and rescue services on several occasions, including one instance when it was suspected that hazardous substances had been sent to embassies.