Preparing for the Unthinkable: CBRN and HAZMAT Medical Training

15 November 2023
In an era marked by evolving security concerns and numerous possibilities for industrial accidents, the need for being able to treat victims exposed to Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) incidents and Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) emergencies, is pressing. These critical incidents occur during conflicts when, for example, chemical warfare agents are used or missiles are targeted at chemical pipelines, factories or nuclear power stations. However, accidental HAZMAT releases, e.g. of toxic industrial chemicals, also pose significant threats. HAZMAT incidents can happen anytime and anywhere, also in peacetime. An example was seen with the nuclear accident in Fukushima in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami. Irrespective of the root cause, managing contaminated victims is an immense challenge for first responders. To expand response capabilities, the ICRC has developed the CBRN/HAZMAT medical course as an extension of decontamination training. This handbook serves as pre-course reading material and, together with the course, presents the foundation for safely managing contaminated victims. Rather than setting out mandatory regulations, it presents examples of best practices to aid members of emergency services who will be the first to arrive at the scene of CBRN/HAZMAT incidents, as well as second responders who will care for patients during the initial hospital phases. It can also be read on its own by anyone starting to reflect around such an emergency response, or for those with a healthcare background to consult the factsheets at the end. A note on using the handbook: The intended audience is broad, with a diverse knowledge base.