Law enforcement and CBRN protection: Setting a new standard

Whether it is a meth lab, HAZMAT incident or act of terrorism, today’s law enforcement officers need to be prepared to respond to incidents that involve chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. 

Existing National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards address CBRN protection for many first responders, such as firefighters, HAZMAT teams, EMS, etc. But, unlike other first responding agencies, no formal standard exists solely to address the tactical, job-specific protection requirements of the law enforcement agencies that are oftentimes the ones responding to these incidents.With law enforcement agencies relying heavily on acquired funding to purchase protective equipment, it is a challenge that many grant programs limit the procurement of CBRN protective ensembles to those that comply with the standards adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). What this means is that some LE agencies are purchasing ensembles that are not designed or tested to meet their specific needs and requirements. There are many options available that are designed specifically for law enforcement, such as Lion’s CBRN Protective Ensembles, but they are currently certified only to meet the NFPA 1994 Standard on Protective Ensembles for First Responders to CBRN Terrorism Incidents. 

That could change soon. The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is developing the NIJ CBRN Protective Ensemble Standard for Law Enforcement. Through a technical and user committee, the NIJ is assessing needs and determining requirements to generate the new CBRN ensemble standard. 

Let’s hope it’s done soon so that our law enforcement officials tasked with responding to these incidents are properly equipped to face whatever threat awaits them, and that manufacturers charged with developing protective ensembles can begin to innovate the next generation of LE CBRN personal protective equipment. 

For more information on the pending standard, visit the CBRN Protection topic area of the NIJ’s website.