As Emergency Management matures in Canada resulting in more standardized protocols, there is increasing acknowledgement of the necessity of unique but standardized approaches to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) response. CBRNE stakeholders in Canada concur that there exists a resultant problem: How to encourage greater standardization and interoperability in CBRNE related operations so as to achieve risk reduction in that arena.
In April of 2005 the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) tabled its report on National Security in Canada. One focus of that Report was the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Initiative (led by the then OCIPEP now Public Safety Canada) to which Budget 2001 had allocated $10 million to fund the purchase of CBRN equipment for municipal and provincial first responders.
One of the clearest criticisms of that Report was directed at the process used by Government to allocate the funds and at the resultant “diluting (of) the response capacity.” The Canadian CBRNE Recommended Equipment List (REL) acknowledges that Government officials faced many challenges in allocating that funding. They were faced with strict timelines on this post 911 initiative and were forced to move quickly in the absence of CBRN risk information as well as with cripplingly limited first responder knowledge of CBRN equipment. However, the 2005 OAG evaluation was a thorough one that unearthed key information about how CBRN(E) response capacity was evolving in Canada. The 2005 Report identified critical issues and made a number of recommendations that have since guided significant efforts to improve the response readiness of Canadian responders should a CBRN(E) event occur. (Report of the Auditor General of Canada, 2005. Sections 2.141-2.173)
In fact, the genesis of the REL project can be found in the 2005 Report.
Key among them were the absence of:
In the context of these absences and with the additional layer of caution about liability, government officials were only able to give ad hoc advice which the OAG identified as the basis for: considerable variation in the capabilities of CBRN equipment purchased and in the training required for its proper operation. These variations would translate into problems with interoperability and surge capacity. The OAG further noted: differences in the protection levels and wearing times of various suits and breathing apparatus and in the ability to reliably detect and quantify a broad spectrum of chemical and biological agents. (Report of the Auditor General of Canada, 2005. Section2.160)
With the objective of developing an instrument that would enable Canadian response organizations and their communities to plan with improved fiscal efficiency to reduce risk and achieve greater interoperability, the REL brought together a committee of Canadian experts to develop a CBRNE Recommended Equipment List. The committee included designates from the Chiefs and Membership Associations of Canadian Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services, along with representatives from Standards and Training institutions, and expertise relative to public safety, security, science and technology.
The REL would not have been possible without the funding support provided by the Centre for Security Science (CSS). The CSS is co-administered by Public Safety Canada and Defence Research & Development Canada. It houses the Chemical, Biological Radiological and Nuclear Research and Technology Initiative, known as CRTI. The CRTI represents a best practice model for expertise and leadership in the federal science and technology community with its move toward intensive interdepartmental and external collaboration. Two of the principal thrusts of the CRTI were: the creation of Laboratory Clusters and the funding of science and technology projects. Both are designed to bring together communities to effectively prepare for CBRNE threats.
CRTI Project # 08-105RD, under the CSS, provided the framework for the creation of this document. The managing federal partner was the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) which was also component of CSS.
The CSS has also invested in exploring the U.S. National Incident Management System (NIMS) and components of it such as Capability-Based Planning (CBP) for applicability within the Canadian context. This document is sensitive to that work and has been created as a complementary piece. As well, the REL has been created in consideration of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Resilience Strategy and Action Plan for Canada.
The support and mentorship of the United States (US) InterAgency Board (IAB) has been critical to the development of the REL. At the outset, the REL Project Technical Committee recognized the potential value in “Canadianizing” the U.S. IAB Standard Equipment List (SEL) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Authorized Equipment List (AEL). The Committee anticipated that the US IAB would provide assistance such that their existing material could be utilized as raw material for the REL. The level of support provided by the IAB, as well as several other participating American organizations, has been well beyond what anyone may have reasonably anticipated or expected. As a result, the REL is currently much more than it originally set out to be. The original project goal was to produce a paper document printed for distribution in Canada. Instead, with the generous contribution of our US colleagues, the REL, with appropriate hyperlinks, is available as a downloadable electronic document. The hyperlinks connect the REL through the U.S. Responder Knowledge Base (RKB) to extensive supplementary information specific to the technology itemized in the lists. This raising of the bar with respect to the Project goals improves access to the REL and increases its ultimate value to Canadian communities and emergency services agencies.
The SEL and the AEL differ from the REL in that: