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Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (often abbreviated to CBRN defense or CBRND) is protective measures taken in situations in which any of these four hazards are present. To account for improvised devices, the term CBRNE (E for explosives) is used. CBRN defense consists of CBRN passive protection, contamination avoidance and CBRN mitigation.

CBRN weapons or agents are often referred to as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, this is not entirely correct. Although CBRNe agents often cause mass destruction, this is not necessarily the case. Terrorist use of CBRNe agents may cause a limited number of casualties, but a large terrorizing and disruption of society. Terrorist use of CBRNe agents, intended to cause terror instead of mass casualties, is therefore often referred to as weapons of mass disruption.[1]

A CBRN incident differs from a hazardous material incident in both effect scope (i.e., CBRNe can be a mass casualty situation) and in intent. CBRN incidents are responded to under the assumption that they are deliberate, malicious acts with the intention to kill, sicken, and/or disrupt society. Evidence preservation and perpetrator apprehension are of greater concern with CBRN incidents than with HAZMAT incidents.

Recent analysis has concluded that worldwide government spending on CBRN defence products and services will reach $8.38bn in 2011.[2]


In English the term CBRN is a replacement for the cold war term NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical), which had replaced the term ABC (atomic, biological, and chemical) that was used in the fifties. The addition of the R (for radiological) is a consequence of the "new" threat of a radiological weapon (also known as "dirty bombs"), in addition to end the joke among members of the Chemical Corps which called "NBC as NoBody Cares". In the new millennium, the term CBRNe was introduced as an extension of CBRN - the e in this term representing the enhanced (improvised) explosives threat.[3]

In Spanish the term NRBQ (Nuclear, Radiológico, Bacteriológico y Químico) has replaced NBQ.

By country


The term CBRN is in common use in disaster and emergency services organizations across the country.[4] Since July 2005, the Canadian Forces also started using the term CBRN Defence, instead of NBC Defence, due to the increased threat of dirty bomb use (which is radiological in nature). CBRNe is a new term that is being used in both civilian and military organisations. The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit is a Canadian Forces unit, under the direction of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, charged with supporting "the Government of Canada in order to prevent, control and mitigate CBRN threats to Canada, Canadians and Canadian interests.".

At the provincial level, cities are provided opportunities for their emergency services with CBRN training. In Ontario, fire departments in Windsor, Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Peterborough, Ontario and Toronto (Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Police Service, Toronto EMS, and Heavy Urban Search and Rescue) have obtained CBRN standing at NFPA Standard 472 Awareness Level 3.[5]

The Ontario Provincial Police's UCRT (Urban Search & Rescue / CBRNe Response Team) is a specialized team responsible for CBRNe incident response for the province of Ontario. The team was formed in 2002 and was called the Provincial Emergency Response Team (PERT) until 2010, when the name was changed to UCRT.[citation needed]

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has had CBRN response capabilities since the early 1990s and advanced training from 1998.[6] Hong Kong Fire Services HAZMAT and Hong Kong Police EOD teams handle CBRN calls, with the latter dealing with explosive devices.[6]


The Indian Army ordered 16 CBRN monitoring vehicles, of which the first 8 were inducted in December 2010. It was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by Ordnance Factories Board.[7]


The Argentine Armed Forces has several CRBN response teams. The Batallón de Ingenieros QBN 601 of the Argentine Army, was the first CRBN response team created, in the 1990s, as a part of the country's Rapid Deployment Force. Civil defense, and firemen from Policía Federal Argentina teams also have CRBN training.


The Irish Police Force, the Garda Síochána, have a number of nationwide CBRN response teams. The teams are based regionally and began responding from 2008. They are trained by the Garda Tactical Training Unit.[citation needed]


The Malaysian Army formed a CBRN unit, Peperangan Nuklear, Biologi dan Kimia 3 Divisyen (English: Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Warfare Division 3; PNBK 3D) in April 2002.[8]

The Royal Malaysia Police has CBRN providers. The Pasukan Gerakan Khas (PGK) has two special operations detachments with HAZMAT expertise - 69 Commandos and Special Actions Unit. The Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) also has a CBRN unit. Both PGK and FRU teams handle CBRN calls, before an army PNBK unit responds.[9]


The Spanish Army 1st CBRN Regiment 'Valencia' was formed in March 2005.Training in the defence against CBRN agents as part of combat support is the main aim of exercise 'Grifo' (Griffin) – the most important of this type that the Army undertakes. The National Police and the Spanish Civil Guard have their own CBRN units. The Military Emergencies Unit and emergency services have CBRN training.[10] [11]

United Kingdom

CBRN is also used by the UK Home Office as a civil designation.[12] Police, fire and ambulance services in the UK must all have some level of CBRN providers. Within the ambulance service this is performed by the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) and Special Operations Response Team (SORT). Since the introduction of new equipment to UK fire services under the New Dimension programme, CBRN decontamination of personnel (including members of the public) has become a task carried out by fire services in the UK and they regularly train for such scenarios.

United States

The United States Army uses CBRN as an abbreviation for their Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Operations Specialists (MOS). The United States Army trains all US Army soldiers pursuing a career in CBRN at the United States Army CBRN School at Fort Leonard Wood.

The USAF uses Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC 3E9X1) Emergency Management, who are also CBRN Specialists. The USAF trains all US Airmen pursuing a career in counter-CBRN operations at the USAF CBRN School at Fort Leonard Wood.

The USMC uses CBRN as an abbreviation for two military occupational specialties. The Marine Corps runs a CBRN School to train Marine CBRN Defense Officers and Marine CBRN Defense Specialists at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. See also: Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (USMC CBIRF)


In May 2012, BioPrepWatch reported that the Russian ordered over 100 "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. According to the article, Soviet military engineers invented the capsules in the 1960s. A company is currently producing the capsules in a factory in Russia.[13]

See also


  1. Radiological weapons use by terrorists by ib consultancy
  2. "THE CBRN DEFENCE MARKET 2011-2021". visiongain. Retrieved 30 May 2011. 
  3. What is CBRNe by ib consultancy
  4. Calgary Health Region CBRN Training
  5. [1]
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Hong Kong’s Response to a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear Attack". Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  7. [2]
  8. Bernama (April 2011). "PNBK 3D capable handling terrorist threats". Penerangan. Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  9. Thompson, Leroy (December 2008). "Malaysian Special Forces". Special Weapons. Retrieved 2011-05-11. 
  10. 1st Regiment 'Valencia' Opens the ‘Tap’ to CBRN Defence. Spanish Army. Retrieved 2011-12-01
  11. (Spanish) UMR, CBRN training. Spanish Defense. Retrieved 2011-12-01
  12. UK Resilience - Emergencies - CBRN
  13. Purlain, Ted (29 May 2013). "Russian security service orders VIP CBRN-proof baby cradles". BioPrepWatch. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 


  • John Eldridge, ed (2006). Jane's Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense 2006–2007 (19th ed.). Coulsdon, Surrey, UK; Alexandria, Va.: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 0-7106-2763-7. 

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