The Police National CBRN Centre in Warwickshire has significantly upgraded its CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) response training with the use of Argon Electronics simulators.  The equipment offers great flexibility in planning exercises, enabling instructors to prepare realistic scenarios where the trainees do not know what to expect. Argon’s portable detectors can simulate the identification of a wide range of agents by responding to electronic simulation sources that represent chemical vapours, toxic industrial substances or false positives.

Background

The emergency services are faced with many different challenges and no two incidents are ever the same. This is largely due to the fact that, in recent years, the range of potential incidents has increased considerably, spanning from the dangers of entering illicit labs to dealing with the threat of terrorist attacks, especially those involving radiological and toxic substances.

There are, therefore, many challenges to meet in training first responders to deal with a range of CBRN incidents and to provide the best service many training establishments are considering some of the advanced technology now available – in particular, simulation instruments and software – to specify, equip and plan for the most appropriate training techniques.  First responder organisations can then ensure that personnel are adequately trained to deal effectively with CRBN threats.

The problem

Traditionally, CBRN response training has involved trainees carrying real detection instruments, searching for small quantities of real (and therefore dangerous) simulants and even, in the case of preparing for nuclear hazards, responding to hand-written signs showing the level of radiation present at a given location.  These methods have, of course, been useful in training responders to deal with CBRN threats but compared to the options available today, they are unsatisfactory.

For example, using real detectors in training temporarily takes equipment out of service.  Worse still, it poses the risk of it being damaged and decommissioned for a far longer time while it is repaired, recalibrated or replaced.  There are also personal risks to trainees during exercises that involve simulants of hazardous substances, since even small quantities of this material can pose a real health hazard. Compliance with environmental legislation also presents training challenges. As for using hand-written signs as indicators of contamination, this is of limited benefit since it does not allow trainees to develop any understanding of how to handle and use detection instruments or how to interpret the readings they provide under stressful conditions.

The solution

In contrast to the many difficulties outlined above, the use of simulation equipment has recently provided a much-needed upgrade to CBRN response training and is currently enabling the delivery of a highly efficient, flexible and cost-effective service.  The equipment used by the Police National CBRN Centre at Ryton-on-Dunsmore (PN CBRN C) comprises a variety of CBRN training simulators, including Argon’s PlumeSIM system, EPD-Mk2-SIM dosimeter simulators, and a number of Argon’s LCD3.2e-SIM simulators.  Also included are the AP4C-SIM (with its accessory the S4PE-SIM), the RDS-200-SIM and the ECAM-SIM.

The PN CBRN C was established in 2003 to oversee the Police’s capacity and capability to deal with CBRN incidents and so sets the standard for CBRN response in the UK.  It is a multi-agency body, embedding Paramedics and Fire & Rescue Service staff with Police Officers to form the team.  The PN CBRN C Operations Centre acts as a 24/7 central resource for UK emergency services, providing access to specialist advisors of other bodies and a central point for advice in the event of an incident.  All knowledge and learning is fed back into training exercises that are designed in many forms from commander level downwards.  “This is the venue where national guidance is set and where the CBRN response trainers for local police forces are trained,” explained Steven Pike, Managing Director of Argon Electronics.  “After carrying out a thorough evaluation of our simulators, the PN CBRN C saw first-hand how the operational flexibility of equipment enhances CBRN training exercises and therefore the capability to counter CBRN incidents.  As a result, the PN CBRN C contracted us to supply our state-of-the-art simulators to ‘train the trainers’.”

Training the trainers is a key responsibility for the PN CBRN C, as these trainers then go out and work with police forces around the UK.  It is therefore essential that training is delivered consistently and quality assurance is key.

The Argon equipment provided is unique in that all actions carried out by the trainee, from the moment the unit is switched on, are logged, and this data can be subsequently reviewed by the instructor, providing an indisputable record of what was done (or, indeed, not done).  This is important for trainers, who will typically be training a group of four or more trainees simultaneously and are naturally unable to observe what every student is doing at any one time.

The Argon simulation equipment is playing an important role in improving the quality and consistency of training at PN CBRN C.  Argon’s programmable electronic simulation sources are capable of simulating a wide range of threats from nerve, blister, blood and choking agents, with measurements for contamination, decontamination, persistency and false positives.  In each case, the exact functionality, look and feel of real life in-service equipment is replicated, making it easy for trainees to transfer their knowledge from the training centre to the field of operations.  Within months of using the Argon equipment, the PN CBRN C began promoting the equipment to local police forces and began to receive enquiries almost immediately.

One of the training sergeants at PN CBRN C stated “The equipment is easy for our trainers to set up and for the trainees to use. A wide range of realistic scenarios can be created to match the needs and capabilities of trainees and because every action taken by each student is recorded by the instruments we can use the collective data to make on-going improvements to the quality of training.”

Equipment was recently used at multi-agency exercise in Birmingham, where a simulated terrorist attack was staged to test the reactions of the emergency services and also public reaction and response to direction during such an incident.  The exercise simulated a scenario where a highly toxic chemical was released inside the International Convention Centre.  Most participants knew they were taking part in an emergency services exercise but were not given exact details. The Argon simulators were crucial in helping instructors to effectively evaluate trainee performance and where the PN CBRN C need to further develop exercises and provide the best possible training.

The PN CBRN C contract is one of many recently secured by Argon, demonstrating that an increasing number of organisations are discovering how effectively its simulators can contribute towards the quality and efficiency of CBRN response training.

Argon Electronics
Argon Electronics was established in 1987 and has since become a world leader in the development and manufacture of hazardous material detector simulators, most notably in the fields of military Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defence. Our simulators have applications from civil response to unconventional terrorism and accidental release, and international treaty verification, with a growing presence in the nuclear energy generation and education markets.