Fifth Annual CBRNe Convergence 201223 May 2013 0
Firstly, it is worth acknowledging the impact and damage that Hurricane Sandy did to the whole of the US Eastern Seaboard, especially New York and its surrounding region. Our thoughts are with those individuals and communities that were affected by it. Our event was a microcosm for many of those circumstances, with a degree of disruption that required exceptional management and a ‘Dunkirk spirit’.
CBRNe World tracked Sandy as soon as it was announced, but thankfully, the Norfolk region was largely unaffected. The impact was felt on the pre-Conference days, the Monday and Tuesday, and those who planned to arrive either before Monday or from Tuesday late afternoon were able to get in. The biggest impact on the event was on the flight schedule, but the airlines were quick to re-route people and those who followed our travel advisories were able to get in with the least disruption.
The Pre-Conference workshop on standards, ably chaired by Steve Johnson and Tod Companion, the Program Manager for Standards Identification and Development at DHS, brought together presentations from Frank Kaemper from Nato ACT, Laurent Olmedo from the French CEA, Anthony Thomas from Interpol and various members of NIST and ANSI for the afternoon session. The workshop participants were then able to join the delegates, exhibitors and speakers who had braved the bad weather in the pre-Conference Icebreaker.
We had over 650 individuals registered for the event, and with only a small handful of cancellations, we were left with some trepidation as to how many people were going to turn up. The journey times of some of the people that made it awed us: Commissioner Eric Yap and the Singapore Civil Defence Force endured a 40 hour journey, Jim Murphy MP, the UK Shadow Defence Secretary, had three of his flights cancelled or re-scheduled, yet managed to turn up to the event only two hours late!
Day One finished with the charity auction of the carnival masks that we had specially built for our CBRN South America event (by the artisans at Maskerade in New Orleans). We had chosen a first responder and a military charity: the Jim Yvorra Leadership Development Foundation (chosen by the International Association of Fire Chiefs) and Hope for the Warriors (chosen by the Chemical Corps Regimental Association). The Editor showed a skill for auctioneering that suggested a hidden past [too many of them! Ed.] and incited a brisk bidding for both masks.
Joint Task Force Civil Support started the second day, despite having many of their elements involved in hurricane clean-up and response operations. Commissioner Eric Yap (looking remarkably fresh despite his journey!) gave yet another stunning presentation and the day concluded with the new Call For Papers session, with a variety of papers that had been judged by a panel chosen from both user and scientific personnel. These proved to be a great success, as did the Poster sessions, which had over 50 posters from a wide variety of agencies and nations. The winning paper was the Fate of Chemical Warfare Agents in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems, from the Air Force Institute of Technology and the EPA, ably explained by 2nd Lt. Allen Janeczko.
The final day exercise is always exciting, but this year it was spectacular. Organised and compered by the local FBI WMD Co-ordinator, Jason Freed, it was a three-hour demonstration of the region’s capability. The terrorists and their lab were in the mylar buildings in the middle of the Harbor Park baseball stadium, with the 200 viewers watching the action from the comfort of the stands. Following the tactical action, there was a decontamination of the SWAT and FBI teams, the forensics squad went in to take samples, while the EOD team disrupted a chemical dispersal device that was in a suitcase (the x-ray of the bag appearing on the baseball screens was an especially nice touch!). There was a secondary device that released an agent cloud and contaminated a group of citizens, and the various hazmat crews in the region responded with both hasty and mass decon.
The view of the delegates was universal: we had managed to put on an excellent conference in very trying circumstances. While the numbers were down on what we all expected, the Waterside Marriott, Activate Events and CBRNe World still managed to keep all the plates spinning and provide a inspiring and educational programme.