Technological and biological hazard preparedness

Technological and biological emergencies, sometimes called 'CBRN' (short for chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear hazards), can have devastating and long lasting impacts on people's lives and livelihoods. The IFRC supports National Societies worldwide to effectively prepare for and respond to technological emergencies using a multi-hazard approach.

About technological and biological hazards

The risks of technological and biological hazards are increasing due to technological advances and an increase in the number of people living in areas close to CBRN sites.

With the nuclear age and more use of chemicals in industry and agriculture, many emergencies involving ionizing radiation and hazardous chemicals have occurred since the middle of the 20th century. 

In the last 50 years, more than 8,000 technological disasters have happened globally due to industrial, transportation, or miscellaneous accidents.

The increasing frequency of climate-related disasters, such as wildfires and flooding, is also increasing the risk of 'Natech events'—technological accidents caused by natural hazards.

Our global technological and biological preparedness programme guides Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on how to improve their readiness to respond to these disasters.

What do we do?

Increase knowledge

We provide guidance and support to National Societies to help them understand CBRN risks and put in place effective operational procedures. And we raise awareness within communities of the risks and potential consequences of CBRN hazards.

Capacity building

We provide technological and biological hazard preparedness training which includes how to use specialist equipment, technical safety procedures and drill exercises. We advise National Societies on proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), shelters and detection equipment. And we foster peer-to-peer support between members.

Advocacy and outreach

We support improved international cooperation for technological and biological emergency planning, preparedness and response. And we advocate for stronger humanitarian considerations within safety standards and frameworks in international networks.

Watch: Preparing for technological and biological hazards

Multi-hazard approach

The IFRC addresses technological and biological hazards through a multi-hazard approach. This means we:

  • Plan for different hazardous events threatening the same exposed elements (with or without temporal coincidence);
  • Plan for hazardous events occurring at the same time or within quick succession, such as Natech events
  • Consider the totality of relevant hazards in a defined geographical area, how they relate to one another and how vulnerabilities may overlap or compound
  • Consider economic, ecological and social risks linked to these hazards