Written by Kevin Cresswell
VIP Executive Protection (EP) teams are vulnerable to attack through many ‘traditional’ approaches including violent encounters and explosives. The Protection of VIP’s is not just concerned with visible threats but the use of less visible, potentially more life threatening threats: including chemical and biological materials and radiation challenges.
Information about CBRN capabilities by state and non-state actors is incomplete by many countries, never mind commercial entities running EP teams. Rogue nations possess various types of chemical weapons, including nerve, blister, blood, and vomiting agents, as well as some biological weapons, including anthrax, smallpox, and cholera. These regimes and terrorist groups sponsored are capable of deploying its stockpile of chemical agents through a variety of means, including military systems, aircraft and unconventional means such as drones or hand carried as in the case of recent nerve agent attacks in the KL airport in 2017, UK in 2018 and in Russia in August 2020.
By focussing the scope of CBRN close protection specifically on technically viable threats, appropriate Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) can be developed. These SOP’s, developed with an understanding of the threat, determine the requirement for advanced preparation and the training and equipping of protective details. Most of the responses required in CBRN incidents are currently served by tactically sound close protection procedures, but it’s no longer sufficient.
EP teams in the commercial world are recognizing the threat and seeking to raise their response to the potential for a CBRN threat. A “USSS” Close Protection Vehicle (CPV-CBRN), equipped with CBRN, detection, clearance, sampling, presumptive testing and identification, personal protection, medical countermeasures, decontamination equipment and command and control situational awareness, safe counter assault and detection capability, sterile extraction and cleanup capability is on the wishlist, but not for everyone, although teams operating in remote areas such as oil and gas fields in the middle east should add it to the list for enduring impact.
At the very least the team should be brought up to speed with training and suitable specialist equipment. Although such a high threat scenario of this nature, is likely to receive a multi-agency response, in the first instance they will have to deal and depending upon where in the world they are operating, assistance may be slow to respond and lacking in specialist equipment and knowledge.
CBRNe manufacturers offer a blend of significant technologies to guard against the effects of the deployment of such weapons and a potential CBRN attack using toxic substances, should be at the top of the spectrum list of threats as substances can be relatively easy to deploy, achieve a devastating effect, confusion and panic.
Delivery systems can deliver chemical, biological, and nuclear payloads as a line source, or point source of various concentrations, duration and sizes. These attacks, depending on type of agent used, may have immediate or delayed effects. A VIP detail could be caught up in a much wider direct or indirect attack or in a covert, i.e. concealed dissemination devices.
Integrated Early Warning (EPIEW) is the combined threat awareness and understanding that facilitates effective (timely) decision making to continue protective operations in a CBRN environment. Training in EPIEW key objectives allows for a decrease in the operational risk, to the Principal and increase the operational space, thereby reducing decision times. In order to fully meet these objectives teams should also be equipped with CBRN threat awareness and response equipment, at team level if the availability of a response equipped multi purpose close protection vehicle is ‘pie in the sky.’
Chemical and Biological agents and Radiological material each present different challenges to detection, identification, and response. EP teams need to leverage data from different technologies to increase the confidence level to confirm or deny the presence of CBR agents;
- Radiological/Nuclear: Once dispersed at high concentrations can have immediate effects and require shelter and covering to mitigate its effects. At low concentrations such as the amounts in “dirty bombs” the effects are more psychological than physical and require avoiding ingestion. Detection and identification with current systems is straightforward and accurate.
- Chemical agents: Once dispersed, have mostly immediate effects at high concentrations and require protection and removal of contamination to mitigate effects. Detection and identification are moderately challenging due to the presence of toxic industrial chemicals on a facility that can cause detectors to alarm.
- Biological agents: Once dispersed at high concentrations, have delayed effects (hours to days). Mitigation requires protection, removal of contamination, and medical treatment if exposed.
Biological agents represent the toughest challenge for EP teams in detection and identification, due to their presence in nature and the existence of many near-neighbors that affect the different technology available. In general, detection of an attack and identification of the type requires corroborating responses from multiple technologies.
Such a situation is extremely challenging for the close protection (CP) team, as it involves multiple ‘unusual’ aspects to traditional CP Standard Operating Procedures. The fundamental principles are: rapid identification of hazard, speed, use of protective technology, and medical interventions, including rapid decontamination and basic and advanced life support measures, so to a CBRN VIP response would still be based upon understanding of an adversary’s actions of;
- method of attack
- maximum media impact
These would be overlaid over the team’s response ; shield and hasty extraction of the Principal from the area of threat.
If any indication is needed of the current and potential threat – recent incidents involving Russian and North Korean operatives acting outside their home territories, prove the ability and willingness to deploy CBRN threats. As a further indicator, Russian security service recently ordered more “capsule cradles” which are devices that people can use to protect infants or even small pets in the event of a nuclear, chemical, biological, or radiological threat. Russian military engineers invented the capsules in the 1960s and a company is currently producing the capsules in a factory in Russia. Some have been delivered to Vip protection teams.
Training, of course, will always be the low cost but necessary first option. CBRN EP. Conceptually, it integrates CBRN OSINT, and sensor information from local networks to propagate event information to:
- Detect the event as early as possible to maximize opportunity to mitigate the attack.
- Notify security partners of CBRN events and hazards.
- Improve the situational awareness.
- Provide decision support capabilities for the Team Commander.
- Minimize the operational impact to the Principal, and effect on local population and facilitate a more rapid mitigation response and restoration.
Provision of a CBRN ‘Crash kit” coupled with the specialist CBRN training will elevate awareness and response and teams will now have access to protective, detection, decontamination and first line medical treatment. This additional equipment is predicated on the CBRN ‘Defense in Depth’ concept and aligns with the current government standards for Federal level EP. If deployed it provides integration of any CBRN sensor suites used to detect and identify CBRN threats and hazards for both force health and VIP force protection.
The ability to control the entire system at tactical and operational level on a common operating platform for real time response would also be a requirement for larger managed teams. By unifying priority alerts, video and communication tools into one map-based view, platforms on the market such as STRAX by Defense Equipment Company, allows for improved collaboration across teams and command structures and for a faster, more coordinated response.
Operators should be trained and equipped in the use of a Personal Chemical Threat Detector. to detect all chemical weapons, riot control agents and a range of toxic industrial chemicals including chlorine; all of which can harm VIP’s and their party.
For the event where VIP’s are in attendance, additional chemical threat detection for the whole delegation can be afforded by the use of a point detector system. These devices, designed to be operated 24/7, can be mounted on a moveable pedestal, for example near to the dais, and provide detection and alarm capability for the duration of the meeting.
Wide Area Chemical Threat Detection can be deployed to detect chemical threat over large distances, and is ideal for monitoring streets and avenues through which VIP parades pass. With a range up to several kilometres, passive systems can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Drones equipped with an integrated video camera can direct the sensor to cover the general area or to focus on specific spots where suspicious activity is detected. The availability of a CPV-CBRN, provides for counteract response to a VIP-directed CBRN threat by providing a capability that has a multipurpose role as a means of CBRN profiling in response to the event directly involving your VIP.
Based on the principles of clearance, shield and hasty extraction the CPV-CBRN, such as the TITAN, will provide detection, protection, medical countermeasures and decontamination enabling a full spectrum response operations that fit with your own EP protocols. In addition equipment used during clearance can also be used to aid further investigations by presumptive identification and sampling. The vehicles systems extend not only to the VIP but also to the protection crew who may have had to come into contact with a toxic substance and require a means of decontamination.
The associated sensor data analytics can correlate multiple biological sensors with the ability to distinguish spurious events from biological attacks by integrating sensor information over time and space. The EP Commander can use all of these capabilities over the life of the incident to characterize an event. The addition of chemical and radiological sensors provide the ability for near real time warning for chemical and radiological events. The ability to conduct field confirmatory analysis of biological samples on the installation to inform more rapid decision-making. In the past, these suspect biological samples would have to be transported to a laboratory for higher-level confirmation.
But as we’ve already stated it’s not for everyone and it’s not cheap to stand up a CPV CBRN. Specialist training though, is something that every single team can be put through. Any CBRN VIP Training course should be modular and can be run as a ‘start to finish’ program or dipped in and out of.
Assuming that the EP team are already proficient in basic protective skills, specialist topics covered should include;
- Introduction to Chemical and HAZMAT Threats, Biological Threats, Radiological Threats
- CBRN capabilities
- Types of threat actors, with relevant case studies
- CBRN Accidents or incidents that are not directly terrorism
- Active Terrorist groups and methodologies
- Hoaxes and Diversion
- Basic principles – Protection, models, monitoring and gauging the threat, specialist equipment selection and use
- If applicable, introduction to CPV-CBRN equipment
- Integrating CBRN Skills into the VIP Protection Mission
- SOP’s; Nerve Agent, Blood Agent, General Respiratory Distress, Unknown substance or liquid on the Protectee, Sharp objects, General irritation of skin and eyes and non-acute incidents.
- First line advanced medical
- CBRN planning and operations
- CBRN advanced operations
- CBRN search operations
- CBRN Integrating Detection/ Identification in Close Protection Operations
- Evacuation and Relocation
- Land, Sea and Air considerations
- Fixed location drills, public locations, catastrophic events
- Shooting and driving in PPE
- Incident resolution and re-constitution
- Evidence and forensic Considerations
- Health and Safety considerations
As in all aspects of security the key to any plan is a layered framework. In CBRN protective details should achieve their goals fusing this approach overlaid with the budgetary considerations. There is no excuse for not planning and not training whereas equipment inventory has other considerations. No single technology provides the solution to the problem posed by CBRN threats. Thoughtful and unique solutions are required to address the integration and effective systematic layering of diverse technological approaches within the EP detail. The goal should be to strive for a solution and application that achieves institutionalized CBRN protection at the level needed.
For more information on setting up a CBRN threat capability or specialist training for your VIP EP Program or facility contact the author at; [email protected]