"It is important that exercises like the CBRN of today be done jointly with other apparatus of the State, today here with the Fire Brigade. The more we work this way, the more we grow together, because each of us has specific professional skills to share. We should encourage this way of interacting, because we learn the procedures, we know the people and we also deepen the use of the means. As I hoped, these are activities that we should make better known because they are all initiatives in favor of the population. For example, I would see this type of exercise even in a real scenario, in an urban context. Why not? It would be a way to be known, to show that we work for the good of all, to say that we train, that we have the means and personnel and that in case of need we are capable and therefore we can guarantee security to the people. And the consensus would also increase ... "
Perfect synthesis, by the commander of the Terrestrial Support Operative Forces, gen. ca Giuseppenicola Tota, of what was the CBRN Interagency Effort 2019 exercise, from 2 to September 13 in the training area of Santa Severa, near Rome.
The exercise, at the home of the 7 ° CBRN Defense Regiment "Cremona" (specialist unit of the Army in the field chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear), was an inter-force event and joined with other State Bodies, primarily the Fire Brigade, with the Military Corps of the Red Cross.
Various demonstrations, different scenarios, already tested within NATO. That of 11 September, which was attended by representatives of the university world and of the Ministries of Interior and Health, was dedicated to an intervention in a clandestine laboratory of chemicals, with the leakage of chlorine and a wounded person to be stabilized and transported.
It is only a coincidence that the day was the 11 September, but the truth is that now, from 18 years, this date makes one think, because from that attack the world has not been the same anymore.
We all remember exactly what we were doing as the plane entered New York's Twin Tower. And we all know that we are less and less safe at home, that we are under constant terrorist threat and that what has been declared to the Western world is an "asymmetric war" that can manifest itself with bombs, blows of kalashnikovs or anthrax and chlorine. Well then, civil and shared defense exercises like this CBRN type are welcome. And not to be afraid, but exactly for its opposite: to be aware that there are men and women, in this case of the Army (7 ° "Cremona" regiment in the first place but also the Alpini of the 9 ° regiment and a crew of AB 412 dell'Aves), of the Fire Brigade, of the Military Red Cross, which oversee our safety, which in the event of a chemical / bacteriological attack are ready to intervene, at home and, with different set-up and rules of engagement, all 'abroad. This is why it is important to know these realities, which are Italian excellences. It is important to know that an attack, of any kind, would be prepared for those who have to move in the emergency.
"The objectives are to maintain the ability of the 7 ° regiment to deploy a task force in operation and to coordinate and manage the activity of the operational units. But the aim is also to improve the synergy of the various components that operate on the national territory "explained the commander of the 7 ° CBRN Defense Regiment "Cremona", Colonel Fabrizio Benigni.
The simulation, set in the area of today's Estonia, a NATO country, assumed conflicting nations for years due to territorial and resource issues, with activities of terrorist groups also supported from outside that threaten the territorial integrity of the country with a series of actions of various types up to the most dangerous, a CBRN attack. This is the place taken into consideration to then develop everything, simulating the activity of host nation.
Firefighters actually played the role of Estonian vvf. Same thing the Red Cross did. The "Cremona" regiment coordinated and talked with theArea Control Center of Rieti, which is the apical center of the network warning and reporting National CBRN, under the command of the ten. Colonel Francesco Venettilli. Various training areas were used in Santa Severa, in communication with the NUBICH area of the CBRN school in Rieti, used in the various scenarios.
Il CBRN Area Control Center of Rieti, recalled the ten. with the. Venettilli, is the national CBRN network, composed of many cells that are on the national territory. All, of course, following a legislative directive.
To explain a little better how it works, let's think of control units such as telephone ones, in this case of detection of toxic substance leakage. The first ones to be activated are those at the local level in the event area.
A higher level in the communication then serves to validate the information, to standardize the data arrived up to that moment and to provide a cone of relapse of contamination, temporary until the teams arrive on the ground, who have the opportunity to define the entity of the fact and the points on which to intervene. The specialist units make more careful surveys and identify the perfect contamination area.
The specialists of the 7 regiment go on the ground, take all the data, analyze them and identify the substance. From a national point of view, it should be clarified that this type of chain has a parallel connection with the Ministry of the Interior, as well as with the Defense, which also involves the Police forces in the event of an attack on Italian soil.
For similar events, in the national territory, the competence is however of the fire brigade, because it is about Civil defence.
In the event that the fact is serious and the area involved is too wide and maybe the vvf are not able to intervene on everything in a timely manner because, for example, there are many people (immediate decontamination on large numbers is difficult, ed), they could ask - and there are interministerial plans that provide for it - the collaboration of the CBRN component or others of the Army and of the Armed Forces in general. In this case also the military contributes to the "package" of civil defense, where every state body has a role, in order to react in the event of a terrorist act.
The Santa Severa exercise therefore began with the discovery of chemical agents and remote sensing. Subsequently, a reconnaissance team was sent to the site and was able to take samples to confirm the presence of the chemical, in this case chlorine.
The fire brigade made the specific vehicle for the NBCR and personnel with suitable protection arrive on site. There was smoke moving into an urban area, spilled liquids and a wounded man on the ground. Then, a motorcar that is used in urban areas came into action, which is part of the plan used for the Civil Defense emergency (in the Rome area, for example, it can be used for subway, tunnel, etc. ...).
Always and in any case, the main requirement must be promptness and immediacy in the response.
Therefore, the operators immediately intervened in the area, with suitable protection, and already prepared a primary decontamination for the rescuers, which have a maximum autonomy of thirty minutes, according to the duration of the oxygen.
Two contact teams have verified the state of consciousness of the man on the ground, loaded him on the special stretcher and transported him to a safe place where he was hospitalized ad hoc. At the same time, effective local contamination was verified with portable instrumentation.
Following the intervention of the vvf, the specialist units of the 7 ° regiment were also alerted in support, intervening to verify how this type of spill has contaminated the external environment, to ensure the safety of those in the area.
The command has also alerted units on the CBRN reconnaissance vehicle for further tests on the chemical and to outline the perimeter contaminated with flags, the hot line that divides the area of alleged contamination. Of course, the weather and wind conditions must always be considered to better identify the procedures within the defined area.
The monitors showed the details of the joint operation.
It must be said that those who intervene work under particular protective suits, reminiscent of those of the astronauts, difficult to wear and especially in these situations under stress, when everything must be done, quickly and well and there is a lack of oxygen down there. It is not easy.
In the end, everything is decontaminated with special showers, men and vehicles.
"On the territory the 7 regiment intervenes in support of the entire Civil Defense organization that sees in the Fire Department the role of first responder, with specialized activities such as, for example, those of decontamination or monitoring activities after an event has been ascertained through the analyzes made by our field laboratories ", explained the col. Benigni, further demonstrating the importance of these joint exercises and the connection with the territory.
“It is the third year that we VVF are participating in this ever more extended exercise. Important, because in addition to the coordination part there is the operational one, which is fundamental for civil defense activities, such as the support to the population in case of possible CBRN type terrorist attacks but also the training and the continuous training of the personnel of all provincial commands and detachments, for a widespread coverage of the territory if needed. At the central level there are many such exercises, like this one with the 7 Army Regiment. I very much believe in the synergistic activity between different organizations that have the same goal, in this case the safeguard of the population. The VVFs are the first responders, they respond first and immediately and must therefore have the ability and knowledge to identify precisely the areas to be delimited and from there, then, everything starts, from monitoring to decontamination activity to sampling and analysis", the comment of the engineer Cristina D'Angelo, deputy central director of civil defense of the national fire brigade.
It is clear that decontamination requires the involvement of all that is the national organization, from the first responder component of vvf to the police force to the health one, precisely because of the very high involvement that a CBRN event on the territory can have.
“For this type of activity the exercises that we have been doing for three years now with the advanced NBCR unit of the VVFs, serve to deepen the capacities, to interact and to put our respective procedures into a system. The preparation of a CBRN specialist requires appropriate procedures, training and interaction with all those that are the components and a long experience, because in this sector we cannot improvise. For this training and training activity are essential. The activities are innumerable in Italy and abroad in the Nato area and also serve to test the instrumentation on various scenarios, also to assess the impact on the health of personnel and civilians ", clarified with the Benigni.
In the last few years the concept of "dual use" of the Army and of the FA in general has been used and abused. But this has always been the case, just think of the Royal Army in Messina in the 1908 to help the population after the earthquake. Or today, with CIMIC cells in various operational theaters or aid in disasters, at home and abroad, whenever it is needed, each with its own roles and skills. With those differences, which are precisely the excellence and added value of Italian military and civil defense, and precisely for this reason able to dialogue constructively.
"Joint exercises, in Italy and abroad and many with other NATO countries, bring improvements and open prospects", is the observation of the gen. Tota at the end of the day. "Clearly the Italian Armed Forces are not limited to doing exercises in CBRN, but they work for the population, here as elsewhere, as we did, for example, in Sarajevo, re-establishing the library and without hanging posters to let them know. We are not self-referential, we work in silence ... And this kind of collaboration, interforce and with the various bodies of the State, has always been there. And the more you go on, the more experience you get. And also the fact that so many young people who pass in the Police or Fire Department come from the Army, we amalgamate very much from this point of view ".
Photo: Italian Army