Survival Essentials: CBRN

With much attention being focused on Syria and the reports of chemical weapons being employed there, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a vital aspect of survival that I believe is neglected.  CBRN (chemical, biological,  radiological,  nuclear) knowledge should be considered critical to any long term survival strategy.  But, it is something I hear very few people discussing.

Some of the silence may be due to the incredible lack of information readily available.  Some may be due to the incredible lack of interest.  Believe me, the technical information about this subject is very boring.  Most would rather go to the range and pretend they are a high-speed death machine than actually have to think and plan.  Most of us know those types of preppers, if you can call them that, won’t last a month in a real survival situation.  They concentrate on the one aspect of survival they are least likely to use: their trigger finger.

But, any survivalist or survival group that doesn’t possess at least a minor education on CBRN is failing to plan, and therefore, planning to fail.  A CBRN incident does not have to be a chemical weapon launched with a missile or dropped from a plane.  Trains carrying tankers of toxic chemicals derail, refineries explode, and, as seen in Japan, nuclear disasters can occur.  Understanding these situations, how to avoid them, determine what they are, assess the risks, and create a defensive strategy should be on the mind of any dedicated survivalist.

If you have served in the military any time over the last 40 years, you were given basic NBC (nuclear, biological,  chemical) training.  And, you probably hated it.  Nobody likes working in the sun dressed in MOPP4 or having their breathing hindered by a gasmask.  It was important, but when I say it was basic, most have no idea just how basic it is.  In a nutshell, basic NBC training is designed to ensure continued mission capability, not survival of all concerned.  There is a little discussed aspect to military planning called, “acceptable losses.”  If it is your family, friends, and community, there are no acceptable losses.

You have to leave the ideas implanted in your mind by the military behind.  You are not part of the machine.  Your priority is the survival of your friends and loved ones.  A 50% casualty rate, which may be acceptable during a critical military mission, is in no way acceptable to a true survivalist.

Within your family or survival community, you must have someone trained in CBRN or CBRN defense.  Preferably,  several.  It is only in those more advanced training schools that you truly begin to understand CBRN and its various threats.  Basic NBC education is virtually meaningless in a true disaster of a CBRN nature.

You must also resist the temptation to listen to so-called experts on television news programs.  Those of you who were old enough to watch the news after 9/11/01 will remember the duct tape and plastic wrap instructions that were given out as a defense against an NBC attack by terrorists.  It was nonsense.   But, how many people still believe that to be a plausible method of defense? Most likely, most of the people who heard it on television.

Having someone within your group who can determine dispersion method, agent type, persistence,  effects, and mitigation/avoidance procedures should be a priority.   Those skills are not learned in standard military NBC training.  To acquire them, you have to attend CBRN Defense school or attend  AIT at Chemical school and become a chemical specialist.  Adding those skills and personnel to your group will go a long way in both survival AND avoiding the panic associated with such an event.

For instance,  people are still talking about Fukushima and the horror of nuclear disaster.  But, where are the piles of burned, irradiated bodies?  How many people have died from the effects of radiation?  What are the effects of that radioactivity?  Do you know how it is measured and how dosages are rated on a scale?  If not, you probably believe thousands of people have died from it and citizens on the west coast of the United States are also dying from the disaster in Japan.  But, they aren’t.

You probably believe that the dreaded “Dirty Bomb” is the most horrifying and effective weapon in the terrorist’s arsenal.  Did you know its the least effective means of dispersing a radiological agent?  The most effective aspect of the oft mentioned device is its ability to create panic.  As far as deadliness is concerned, its probably not on the minds of any real terrorists.  At least, not if they understand CBRN.

Do you know how to determine the affected area following an attack or disaster?  Do you know what level of shielding is necessary to prevent irradiation?  Do you know where to go and what to do if your local nuclear reactor has a meltdown?  How far do you have to go? Which direction?  And for how long?  When dealing with radioactive particles, what is the greatest risk?  How do you mitigate it?  How do you treat the sick?

These answers are not found in your standard NBC course.  Find them.  Get educated.  Take a real course and keep all of your study material.   If you are still in the military, volunteer to attend CBRN defense school.  Every unit is required to have a certain number of personnel trained through CBRN Defense.  Its relatively easy to get a slot for the school because most people have no interest in it and don’t volunteer.   Be that guy.  You will thank me later.  Hopefully because you are smarter and not because you survived a disaster.  Either way, you won’t regret it.

Ross Elder, Distinguished Honor Graduate – CBRN Defense School 2010