Lebanon has increased its activities in CBRN risk mitigation in response to the rising risk of CBRN events and smuggling of hazardous products through Lebanese territory. In November 2013 the country’s Prime Minister created the CBRN National Team to reinforce the operational capabilities of first responders
Concrete threats to Lebanon’s safety, security and national stability include the unintentional release of hazardous chemical products from Lebanese facilities in densely populated areas; use of CWAs by terrorist organisations within Lebanon and in neighbouring Syria; the risk of infectious disease outbreaks worsened by the growing populations of refugees living in poor conditions and crossing borders without proper medical examinations, and a possible radiological release or nuclear accident in neighbouring countries.
The chemical attacks in Ghouta, Syria in 2013 heightened awareness of the Lebanese authorities of the increasing CBRN risk in the region, calling for a stronger response capacity by national institutions. Subsequently, in 2016 the European Union Joint Research Centre (EU JRC) supported Lebanese Authorities in drafting the National CBRN Action Plan delineating risk factors, setting a framework, and establishing a baseline for interagency cooperation for CBRN events.
EU Technical Assistance project In September 2018, the EU launched the EU Technical Assistance on CBRN Risks Mitigation in Lebanon – a €3.5 million comprehensive programme for specialised equipment provision, technical assistance, and training. This brings together Lebanese Armed Forces, internal security forces, civil defence, Beirut firefighters, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Office of the Prime Minister to increase their preparedness and enhance their technical capabilities for a prompt, coordinated and effective CBRN response.
Only a month later an ISIS terrorist was arrested while attempting to poison a military water tank with chemical products. This event stressed even more the need for Lebanon to increase its preventive and response capabilities.
The three-year EU Technical Assistance (TA) project has been implemented by the consulting firm Business & Strategy Europe (B&S Europe) in partnership with the Security and Freedom in Europe Foundation (SAFE), the Italian Ministry of Defence, and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Italy and France signed an agreement with the EU to provide CBRN technical expertise deploying on-duty CBRN officers and mobile expert teams to conduct CBRN training and exercises to achieve tangible operational results, while reinforcing sustainable ties between Lebanon and EU Member States in this sensitive area of work. Within this framework, the project provided highlevel training, peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching alongside provision of specialised equipment.
The project’s complex training plan used an incremental approach and increasingly complex model. The more the project progressed, the more the beneficiaries were engaged in difficult and intricate activities. Several advanced modules centred on specific aspects of CBRN defence have been designed including highly arduous and selective train-the-trainer modules that allowed the formation of certified CBRN instructors, creating a strong and self-sustainable CBRN training capacity among Lebanese first responders.
The training plan was tailored to the roles of each participating institution involved in the National CBRN Action Plan and Disaster Management Plan. The parallel delivery of highly specialised CBRN equipment represents another additional factor of success that increased the first responders’ CBRN operational capability.
CBRN scenario training
Following the 4 August 2020 blast at the port of Beirut, the worsening Covid-19 outbreak in Lebanon, and to continue training – the Project Team adapted the training plan by introducing e-learning modules. Active virtual sessions are led by highly qualified experts delivering theoretical lessons on CBRN and practical guidance on use of the provided technical equipment.
In the final phase the TA Team created and organised a complex five-week interagency training based on several simulated full-scale CBRN scenarios in the Beirut Port, Karantina, Rayak and Aramoun, involving 400 first responders.
The scenarios included:
- TIC accidental releases in urban areas
- Discovery of a clandestine laboratory producing illicit drugs and CWAs
- Explosion of a chemical IED in a clandestine warehouse
- Sabotage of a chemical facility and hostage-taking A RDD found during an inspection at a checkpoint
- A terrorist attack using a vehicle-borne IED against a truck transporting chemical substances.
These final training activities were designed to build capability to conduct, contribute and support CBRN interagency missions, cooperate in management of a CBRN event, strengthen the Commandand- Control structure (C2), validate coordinating measures, and activate the National Coordination Room during disasters for additional support with national resources.
As in real-life events, several players simulated civilian casualties. Various vehicles were involved, and additional unexpected conditions made management of the situations even more difficult – to challenge and stress the C2 structure and the decision-making process.
In each scenario, an Incident Command Post and Incident Commander were identified in the units depending on the situation, location, magnitude and participating agencies – to guarantee full synchronisation on the scene for prompt life-saving response.
During the trainings the Lebanese agencies demonstrated a high level of commitment and competence, showing a commendable and professional performance.
The EU-funded Technical Assistance on CBRN Risks Mitigation in Lebanon project is an example of successful public-private cooperation between specialist entities and practitioners from EU Member States. This highly technical and operational project highlighted the efforts of the EU to strengthen Lebanon’s security institutions’ resilience facing CBRN threats – while reinforcing their roles as key drivers of stability, safety, and national cohesion.
1 Warning & Reporting sessions to (a) develop an interagency Warning and Reporting structure and related standardised messages for early warning (b) predict hazard areas, and (c) establish an interagency information exchange mechanism institutionalising practices and ensuring multilateral sharing and coordination to assess the impact of CBRN incidents using timely, accurate and evaluated CBRN information
2 Collective Exercises based on five complex scenarios to plan activities and event management – to instruct staff of several institutions to strengthen their C2 structure and plan, and manage and conduct joint operations reinforcing the collaboration between military and civilian actors in accordance with national response plans
3 Table-Top Exercises (TTXs) at staff level to organise and simulate activation of the National Coordination Room during the two most complex scenarios – to coordinate delivery of additional assistance of national assets to support ground operations
4 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) development workshops and After-Action Reviews (AARs) at the end of each practical activity – a participatory approach with agency representatives to refine coordinating measures and applied procedures, analyse resultant critical aspects, and identify best practices and lessons learned.
The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of B&S Europe and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU.
Andrea D’Angelo is Team Leader, Technical Assistance on CBRN Risks Mitigation in Lebanon. A CBRN and security expert with over ten years’ experience in the management and supervision of complex projects, he has led over 50 technical assistance projects funded by the EU and other international donors.
Lt Col Andrea Gloria is CBRN Key Expert Military Component, Technical Assistance on CBRN Risks Mitigation in Lebanon. His previous assignments include duties within the Italian Army, the NATO School Oberammergau as Department Director/CBRN Instructor, and the 7th CBRN defence Regiment as Company Commander, Training Officer and Battalion Commander. He has been involved in the design and support of international CBRN exercises and military operations in Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, and Afghanistan.
Scenario 1: Set-up of decon by Lebanese Civil Defence and Beirut firefighters after an accidental release of TICs (Port of Beirut).