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Thinking the Unthinkable - Chemical biological radiological and nuclear.

21st January 2020

Thinking the Unthinkable - Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear.

Tim Otter, Chief Executive at Lutra Associates


I was asked to address the closed session for Event Organizers about CBRN. The headlines are: Chemical biological radiological and nuclear is a nasty, persistent and expensive subject. It’s a threat of choice. The cost of ignoring it will be enormous, dwarfing that of preparing for it and it does not go away. There are no bed clothes to pull over your head.


The threat is changing to include; new and homemade agents, assassination attacks and professional state as well as amateur users. Events such as; the attempted assassinations of the Skripals in Salisbury, the assassinations of Kim Jong Nam at KUL and of Litvinenko in London and finally Syria, show CBRN is a complex subject and that many of the recent developments render most risk assessments and much official security and recovery advice obsolete if not downright dangerous.


The crime scenes are extensive and voracious in terms of money and resources; finding, quantifying, managing, investigating and decontaminating CBRN are major issues. Salisbury has cost several tens of millions of pounds so far and will cost a lot more by the time the accountants have finished sharpening their pencils.


I predicted that we would hear much more about CBRN. Four months after the initial Salisbury attacks it rears up again like a snake in the grass to critically injure two innocent passers-by and to show how complex, resource hungry and persistent CBRN is. Grossly simplifying an horrendously complex situation imagine the attendance at the next event if 4 months after you gave your stadium the all clear there were more casualties from the previous attack or the public discovered you had not done everything in your power to prevent or minimise the effects of an attack.


Is it serendipity? This week as the latest casualties from the Salisbury attacks were fighting for their lives Shoko Ashahara (aka Chizuo Matsumoto) , the mastermind behind the 1994 and 1995 Matsumoto and Tokyo Sarin and Anthrax attacks by his sect, the Aum Shinrikyo, and six of his followers were executed. More will follow. The attacks killed 13 and injured 6000 or more.


CBRN is a complex technical subject and has implications across all functional areas in the event of an incident and hence why we feel raising awareness is so important and a holistic solution is needed. Acquiring CBRN capability is much more complex than acquiring new technology or building a stadium. Help is available to think plan, train, and prepare Games organisers and it does not always come from the local authorities. You are not on your own and we are here to help you but the earlier the discussion starts about CBRN the better.