Improving civil preparedness for a CBRN incident in Europe

Improving civil preparedness for a CBRN incident in Europe

By Philip Amison

Although it is something we never hope to have to experience, it’s important that societies are as well prepared as they can be to respond to a major chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear (CBRN) incident.

The European Union recognised this need through a 2014 call for proposals under the Secure Societies strand of its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme:

Fast detection of exposure or contamination with CBRN substances (including toxins) using traceable tools and rapid identification of critically exposed individuals is essential to gain time in the triage of victims in case of accidents or terrorist attack. Research on traceability and monitoring of a large number of people in case of a massive CBRN incident is therefore needed to differentiate between contaminated and/or exposed persons and those individuals not contaminated (persons on-site or in hospital zones).

In response, Loughborough University led a bid which resulted in the funding of the TOXI-Triage project (Integrated and Adaptive Responses to Toxic Emergencies for Rapid Triage: Engineering the Roadmap from Casualty to Patient to Survivor).

TOXI-Triage will explore whether civilian preparedness for a CBRN event can be strengthened and distributed in support of clinical treatment of poisoning throughout Europe and the wider world. The project will, amongst other things, seek to equip emergency services with advanced methods to determine the level of exposure to poisons in humans.

The approach will be to embed advanced technology into routine community medical care of every-day toxic injuries. Crucially, these systems will be designed to be deployed seamlessly for CBRN incidents that would otherwise overwhelm emergency services anywhere in the world today.

TOXI-Triage represents a truly interdisciplinary response. The project brings together nineteen teams from seven European member states, led by Loughborough University. The Loughborough team, alone, includes experts in chemistry; security and intelligence studies; information management; healthcare ergonomics; and crisis and conflict communication. The wider team, drawn from across Europe, includes clinicians, technology-based SMEs, universities, urban search and rescue specialists, and multi-national corporations with experience in large scale networks and systems.

Dr James Reynolds, Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry at Loughborough University preparing a prototype breath analyser for toxicity monitoring.

Dr James Reynolds, Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry at Loughborough University preparing a prototype breath analyser for toxicity monitoring.

Professor Mark Freeman, who leads Loughborough’s security and resilience research, said:

Societies around the world are changing rapidly and face major potential environmental hazards and human-induced threats. To address these challenges, at Loughborough we have adopted an interdisciplinary approach that brings together individual, organisational and community resilience, innovations in using information to aid decision-makers, and cutting-edge technology.

The TOXI-triage project is scheduled to run from 2015 until 2019. Project partners include the Universities of Loughborough (UK), Helsinki (FI), Edinburgh (UK), Athens (GR), Hannover (DE), Paderborn (DE) and JYU (FI), the Police National CBRN Centre (UK), the Oslo University Hospital (NO), the Fire Rescue Brigades of Moravia (CZ) and South Savo (FI), the MoD of Greece, and industry partners GAS (DE), Airsense (DE), Environics (FI), UFZ (DE), T4i Engineering (UK) and ATOS (ES).

For further information about the TOXI-Triage project, contact Paul Thomas at

For information about Loughborough University’s security and resilience research, contact Mark Freeman at

Philip Amison is the Research Challenges Development Manager in the Research Office at Loughborough University.