ATF Übungsberichte (english version)

ATF exercises in Germany and abroad

On exercise

Europe tralns for dlsasters by Mario König and Ralf Rudolph

Complete Review as pdf

The EU Community procedere was set up to help to facilitate and smooth coperation between different EU member states' auxiliary forces hould a large scale disaster occur that a single nation would be unable to cope with on its own. Part of this procedure is the EUDREXseries of international exercises, one of which took place in October 2004 near Wiener Neustadt in Austria. The exercise, which spread across several military training grounds, involved 1,900 personnel, most of them Austrian, reinforced by teams from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Latvia and Germany.

Heavy quake

The disaster/damage scenario was set in the fictitious nation of Tritolia. A heavy earthquake had destroyed a large city, damaging a great amount of industrial infrastructure. This included apharmaceutical company's research laboratories, which were involved in vaccination production (biological situation). There were damaged sites involving radiation equipment, which had to be located and recovered; and several scenarios were played out in which salvage operations in connection with the release of chemicals were required.

The German contingent consisted of a salvage unit SE-BABC of the THW (organisation for the maintenance of supplies in an emergency ) which practised salvage operations, along with CBRN specialists from SEEBA (Rapid Response Unit Rescue Abroad), and a section of Mannheim Fire Brigade, which was to support the THW with its CBRN reconnaissance component.

The exercise invoived numerous scenarios, designed to test co-operation between different EU member states

In the course of the two and a half day exercise, which took place non-stop around the clock, the German contingent was used at eight different disaster/damage sites.
In terms of personnel and equipment, the SE-BABC consists of one section troop to lead the unit, a second rescue group, and two specialist groups -one for evacuation and the other for position finding. For its own protection, the SE-BABC is equipped with basic tracking equipment and a component for self-decontamination. This unit was piloted over the course of several months. Now, its performance was to be tested during EUDREX. As part of a multi-phase programme, other THW sites will be prepared for this specialist task.


Mannheim Fire Brigade's CBRN reconnaissance unit used during EUDREX is a building block of the Analytical Task Force, which has been pilot at four sites since 2004. The ATF's task is to offer support to the respective officers-in-charge during large or complicated disaster/damage situations involving chemical release. For this purpose, these units have comprehensive analytical equipment, including equipment for substance identification. In the case of the biological situation in the fictitious pharmaceutical company, the task was to take samples and pack them for distribution. With support from the THW operations centre and the Joint Reporting and Operations Centre (JROC), possible laboratories for the analysis of these samples were identified, and informed accordingly.
At the nuclear disaster/damage site, the radiation source had to be located, the danger zone sealed off correctly, and a strategy for saving human lives developed, during which rescue personnel were to be exposed to as little radiation as possible.

The exercise, which spread across several military training grounds, involved personnel from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Latvia and Germany


When rescuing an injured person from a shaft/ weil with an ammonia atmosphere, fire brigade personnel worked with colleagues from Vienna. In further exercises involving methanol and ammonia releases, the task was to support rescue personnel with measuring equipment and/or to contain the areas at risk. In order to make the situation realistic, actual chemicals, albeit in small quantities, were released for the purpose of the measuring tasks. In a train accident during which thionyl chloride was released, the substance had to be identified by its labelling, the risk zone had to be assessed, and measurements carried out in the vicinity of the tank wagon.


The findings described below highlight the experiences from the perspective of the CBRN Reconnaissance Component. The experiences that were gained for the Rescue component are not described in detail here. However, to sum up for the SE-BABC sector, it can be said that the technical equipment and tactics tried out in the run-up to the exercise made it possible to carry out the tasks that were set.

Self-Decontamination ➔ Basic equipment for self-decontamination is absolutely essential. Otherwise a safe deployment would only be possible, were decontamination squads of other units or countries to be available, and this could take several hours. It is good policy to carry compact but light equipment that can be used in different ways, and by a small number of personnel.

Databanks ➔ When using digital databanks, it is helpful if output is also possible in English in order to facilitate communication. Any translation during an operation is time-consuming, and there is always the possibility of misunderstandings and errors.

GPS ➔ The use of small, mobile GPS systems in order to obtain the exact location in the field was a great advantage, as it would not have been possible to give details of the location where samples ormeasurementsweretaken. In many instances, it is impossible to give a street or house number in a destroyed area or on open land. During service operations abroad, it is also rare for maps to be available from which to obtain UTM coordinates. By using the equipment that was being carried it was possible to digitalise and geo-reference local maps and/or aerial photographs, which meant that digital map material with UTM co­ ordinates was available after a short lead time.

Identifying 0fficers-in-Charge ➔ Insufficient identification of team leaders proved to be a disadvantage. Only in the German teamwas an OIC identified in a makeshift manner by a yellow waistcoat. For service operations abroad, the term "officer-in-charge" has yet to be replaced with the expression 'team leader' or another term yet to be decided upon. A first draft on this subject is currently being reviewed by the respective committees.

Foreign languages ➔ AII team members must have basic, and team leaders a good, working knowledge of English, as it is otherwise impossible to have sensible communications during the course of the operation. Unfortunately, not all participants bad the required proficiency in English stipulated by the EUCommunity procedure. In one instance, two team leaders could only communicate with the help of two interpreters from different
teams, as the negotiations took place across three languages. It is not necessary here to go into details about the possible errors in translation and the resulting 'Chinese Whispers' effect, but it is obvious they could lead to dangerous situations.


Had there been a common level of proficiency in English, it would have also been possible to have joint discussions regarding the situation. As it was, many

negotiations had to be worked through 'bilaterally', which took up valuable time unnecessarily.

  • Operational site identification ➔ No international system exists for identifying disaster/damage sites in the field where CBRN risks are likely to arise.
  • Recognised worldwide as the standard for rescue operations, INSARAG Guidelines are only available for SARTeam deployments. Plans for analogous identification system of CBRN sites are being drawn up and
  • suggestions submitted for review.

Team size and equipment ➔ The personnel policy of five individuals for CBRN reconnaissance

was sufficient for the tasks in hand and the equipment used. Technical equipment consisted, in the main, of the reconnaissance vehicle and some additional measuring devices and/or extended sampling equipment. In principle this proved itself and seemed appropriate for the

tasks in hand. As part of the preparations for the exercise, it had been agreed that no analysis of the substances for identification purposes would be carried out, so the equipment carried was sufficient. In real operations, however, where the situation or site is unknown, it must be assumed that more extensive equipment -including a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, further measuringdevicesandthe necessaryrepair equipment - should be carried. In this case, more personnel should also be assigned. It was proven useful that the German team's equipment included components for atomic, biological and chemical hazards. In some scenarios, it was necessary to take over operational sites from other units, which only had radiation protection

Many lessons were learned from the exercise, among them tho need to have a common language, identification of officers in charge and basic equipment requirements

equipment or equipment for detecting chemical hazards. The biological sampling equipment carried could only be tried out at one disaster/damage site. The experiences will be incorporated ante further developments in the future. Of those groups present, it was only the German team that had equipment available that suited the biological situations, which shows that on an international level, there is still a need to catch up with the latest developments in this area.

Supplies ➔ Since both accommodation and catering were provided by those in charge of the exercise, no logistical arrangements had to be made by ourselves. In a real operation, an appropriate resourceandpersonnel approachfor one's own team has to be put in place. The time of total self-sufficiency even in the area of fuel supply is usually set at a minimum of 72 hours' operational duration, and in a real operation would be provided by components of the THW. In order to ensure adequate medical care, each team was obliged to incorporate personnel with life-saving skills, and during the exercise this role was performed by fire brigade personnel.

Communication ➔ In order to ensure Iocal communication, the usual radio and mobile telephones were used. After the local mobile network provider enhanced the mobile network, it was possible to achieve a good data transmission rate at all times, even via GPRSto Germany. In real disaster scenarios, such an infrastructure cannot be relied upon. For this reason, a Satcom system was tentatively, but successfully, used on a trial basis for data transmission. However, for economic reasons an excessive use was avoided.


To sum up, it can be said that both components of the German teamwere able to gain many experiences from this exercise, which will prove useful for national as weil as international operations. Experiences gained in handling the EU mechanism and the integration into local command structures were of great value. lt may be said that the equipment provided to the German civil defence and disaster control services compare weil with those of its Europea neighbours, even if there are still a number of improvements that could be made.


Commitment to the ATF

 practising lesson learned by Mario König and Ralf Rudolph

Complete Review as pdf

The EURATECH exercise, which took place from April 10 —14, 2005, provided the opportunity to try out the changes that had been made to test the newly introduced methods and procedures. The exercise was a major damage scenario in Portes-les-Valence, France, involving 850 participants from five nations. EURATECH involved a goods train loaded with hazardous material derailing in a marshalling yard in the middle of town. As a result of the accident, a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion) occurred and various chemicals were released. In addition, a passenger train packed with several hundred people drove straight into the operational site. The main points of the exercise concentrated on containing the hazmat situation and providing care for several hundred patients, in particular those with bums. The German teamwasassigned one event during EURATECH. First of all, several unknown substances had to be identified and evaluated. The ingredients identified were researched using databanks in order to be able to advise operational command on the substances' characteristics and dangers.

Chemical reactions

In order to assess any successive reactions, the exercise command initiated two scenarios involving chemical reactions that created new substances. The questions asked were: What substances were formed? Howere they to be assessed? Howcould they be detected? To assess the spread, results from the different teams were compared. On our side during the operation, we used the MET (Forecasting computer model for determining the effects of toxic gases). The results of the German team corresponded weli with the spread assessments of French colleagues. Finally, hazmat detection measures were also required. Here, the task consisted of monitoring the municipal area using both reconnaissance vehicles and IR remote reconnaissance equipment. Since no real measurements were possible, this part remained rather theoretical. Within the immediate danger arearound the tank wagons containing hazardous material, one troop wearing chemical protective suits carried out measurements using explosimeters and/or electrochemical measuring devices.

French and German teams prepare themselves for the common tas

Team / equipment

The German team consisted of four THW (Federal Agency for Technical Relief) members, crews from Heidelberg, and 16 operational fire brigade personnel, half from Ludwigshafen (professional fire brigade) and half from Mannheim (professional and volunteer fire brigades). The aim was to keep personnel numbers to a minimum in order not to weaken the brigades that were making their personnel available, and to keep logistic levels as low as possible. As weil as officers-in-charge, operational personnel were needed to drive and operate vehicles, taking samples and on-site measuring with hand-held equipment. In addition, personnel were needed to operate measuring equipment at the stationary laboratory. Last but not least, personnel were also required for securing a suitable infrastructure for communication and documentation tasks. A THW vehicle with telecommunication equipment served for the purposes of documentation and local communication and provided a link with Germany. For area-covering reconnaissance, two performance-enhanced reconnaissance vehicles from Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, and a carrier vehicle for remote reconnaissance equipment, were used. Equipment for the stationary field laboratory was transported in a truck. A command vehicle completed the vehicle fleet, without being actually integrated into the flow of the exercise.

Setting up on location, with the laboratory tent and communications vehicle

Lessons learned

Communication ➔ The provision of VHF 4m band radio traffic was initially problematic and only by improvisation was it possible to ensure sufficient radio quality. As far as local communication and the link to German organisational units were concerned, the use of mobile phones proved successful. However, this is hardly surprising, because the local telephone operator's infrastructure was not destroyed nor were the lines oversubscribed as would be the case in a real incident. In the event of a real operation therefore, this cannot be assumed in a real operation;

Analytical Equipment ➔ A glove box was provided in order to handle particularly hazardous chemicals, and the findings gathered mean that further technical developments can be made to the system. As part of the substance analysis, the IMS (Ion Mobility Spectrometer) was used within the limits of its capability to support the GC/M (Gas Chromatography/MassSpectrometry) during preliminary examinations. In so far as it was possible to analyse samples with a GC/MS, these were all identified.

National Sources of Information ➔ A spart of the exercise, contact was established with the Meditox and TUIS systems as expert networks. In addition to this, via Ludwigshafen fire brigade, the expert advice institutions of Rheinland-Pfalz (German Federal State) were included in the situation assessment. These contacts were made during the exercise via e-mail and mobile phone. The tasks were all processed promptly by the relevant institutions.

Field Lab ➔ As a replacement for the GW-Mess (mobile laboratory), which is not intended for operations abroad, an inf atable tent was modified to serve as a field lab. During this exercise, the setting up of the lab tent including the equipment inside was tested for the first time. The basic planning provedsuccessful. and the system can be further optimised based on findings gained during thexercise, in particuar with regard to work flow within the tent, as welt as working conditions, such as air-conditioning;

Selecting the Operational Team ➔ In selecting a team for the exeicise, the same principles were to apply as in the selection process for a real operational event. In the run-up it has to be established definitively which units may be considered in vIew of their suitability for an operation abroad. The following criteria are essential:

  • Technical equipment
  • Personal equipment (is availability always guaranteed without any lead time?)
  • Organisational preparation (six hours maximum set-up prior to airport departure)
  • Qualification (foreign languages, professional qualification, sociai competence)

Experience has shown that it is important for good teamwork that team members have already got to know each other in ihe run-up to the operation and that a certain routine is established in dealing with one another. In particular where fire brigades and federal states are concerned, a change in one's way of thinking is imperative, and it should be considered whether current procedures will continue to meet objectives.


Acquiring Information ➔ The national resources for obtaining information prior to and during the operation stil have to be optimised. For this purpose, those involved wil eva uate their experiences in terms of which information requirements exist in which phase, and which sources of information are able to deliver the bes information in the shortest time possible.

Transport Logistics ➔ To be efficient in areas further afield, appropriate transport logistics have to be put in place to ensure rapid availability within the operational theatre.

Lead time

With a maximum lead time of five hours until operational readiness on site, a marching time of no more than five to six hours should be needed subsequently to reach the target area. It is imperative that intervention takes place as soon as possible, particularly in the event of a biological or chemica incident, but coping with very ong journeys can create considerable stress for the operational team. For longer distances, this would mean investigating the possibility of air transport. It is possible to ship the ATF (Analytical Task Force) material in its entirety on Euro-size pallets.

Internal Documentation ➔ Detailed information on the current situation is generaly marked wiih the date and time of receipt. If the document is thus marked, it can be easily ascertained how current any report is and/or in which sequence the reports were received.

Integration of the THW ➔ The integration of the THW can be viewed as highly successful. During the course of the exercise and during the subsequent evaluation the following areas were identified where the THW is able to provide optimum support for the ATF abroad

  • Providing accommodation, supplying provisions, ensuring adequate power supply (ie infrastructure)
  • Ensuring communication for voice and data transmission on a local and international level
  • Ensuring operational documentation, including detailing and analysing situations


In conclusion it may be said that it was possible to fulfil the tasks that were set during the EUDREX exercise as weil as during the EURATECH exercise. Both events were seen as an opportunity to examine the ATF's technology and organisational structures in terms of their suitability and fitness. Several insights were gained which could also be implemented in order to optimise the operational flow during operation at home.