The fourth edition of NCT Middle East took place from the 6th to the 8th November 2017 in Doha, Qatar, with over 120 delegates from the region. The event offered a unique networking opportunity, bringing together local first-responders, industry representatives, decision-makers and influencers in the growing CBRNe community of the State of Qatar. With its comprehensive program, outstanding knowledge-sharing opportunities and live capability demonstration, NCT Middle East proved again to be an excellent networking forum for CBRNe defense and response in the region. The current political situation in the region did little to deter the outcome of NCT Middle East 2017, a testament to the growing influence of NCT events in the region and the success of our partnership with the Qatari National Committee for the Prohibition of Weapons (NCPW).
Opening Plenary and the FIFA World Cup Preparations
The two days of conferences, workshop and industry exhibition kicked off with a live-streamed Opening Plenary on Day 1, and opening remarks from Brig. Gen. (Air) Hassen Saleh Al Nesf, Vice Chairman of the National Committee for the Prohibition of Weapons (NCPW). This was followed by keynote speeches and presentations from Maj. Eng. Ali Hassan Al-Rashid, Internal Security Forces (Lekhwiya), Brig. Gen. (Staff) Abdullah M. Albaker, Qatar Armed Forces (QAF) and finally by Dr. Nasser Al Ansari, from Al Wakra Hospital, speaking under the umbrella of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). These keynote presentations addressed several key elements of CBRNe defense, response and preparedness, including an in-depth analysis of NCPW’s objectives and achievements since its formation. All presentations highlighted the increasingly complex and enduring threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction within the Middle East, and how the State of Qatar is prepared to counter them. On the other hand, Dr. Naser Al Ansari provided a different approach and perspective as a medical practitioner specialized in biological threats, particularly in relation to High Visibility Events (HVE) and outlining the lessons learned with a global outlook.
The theme surrounding HVEs in the opening plenary was fittingly followed by the session dedicated to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, particularly the security challenges that are being faced in its preparation. The session welcomed the contribution of high-level speakers, such as Jassim Al Kaabi, the National Security Manager at the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. Mr. Al Kaabi highlighted the importance of preparedness and the potential threats that come with hosting HVEs. The emphasis of Mr. Al Kaabi’s presentation was on the State of Qatar’s current and future capabilities, as well as the importance of hosting the largest sporting event in the region’s history.
Live Capability Demonstration
The live CBRNe demonstration took place on the second day of the event and featured multiple local response units amid a simulated chemical emergency at a car park just off the main highway. The demonstration was made unique through the cooperation between five first responder groups: Civil Defense, Internal Security Force ‘Lekhwiya’, Qatar Red Crescent, the Chemical Defense Team and Medical Services as part of the Qatar Armed Forces.
The demonstration kicked off with a chemical spill emitting a toxic gas into the surrounding building containing civilians. This sparked the first response by the Hazmat Unit as part of the Civil Defense Forces tasked with identifying the threat. The Hazmat Unit initially provided the reconnaissance, detection and protection equipment, whereas the Medical Services & Red Crescent provided the necessary ambulatory and aftercare. The remaining first responders all took part in decontaminating and assisting the victims that had been injured with burns or from the inhalation of noxious gasses. As this process ensued, the decontamination of first responder vehicles and personnel followed smoothly as the victims were either being treated on site or rushed to one of Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) nearby hospitals for further treatment.
Most importantly, the live capability demonstration provided a unique opportunity to witness the complexities faced by the emergency responder first-hand, particularly in such a warm climate. Additionally, it allowed the audience to witness new methods in a distinctive environment and to identify important capability gaps for the benefit of the first responders involved.
Medical Countermeasures and the Syrian Civil War
Day three started with the highly anticipated session on “Medical Countermeasures for CBRNe Emergencies”. The session was led by notable experts on the matter including Dr. Levent Kenar, Chief of Medical CBRN Defense at the University of Health Sciences Ankara, Turkey and Dr. Walid Othman AbouGalala who holds two positions: first as Executive Director for Major Incident Planning at Hamad Medical Corporation and also as a Consultant Emergency Preparedness and Response within the Ministry of Public Health. A recurring theme of this session highlighted the capability gaps in the aftercare of victims by medical response units which the speakers touched upon. Both presentations complimented each other wherein Dr. AbouGalala discussed the current state of aftercare practices in Qatar, with references to the international standards they strive to uphold. Meanwhile, Dr. Kenar highlighted the evident capability gaps by medical response units that can be seen in Syria which later came to light once again during the workshop on the Syrian Civil War. Due to Dr. Kenar’s current focus on the Turkey-Syria border, he was able to offer a first-hand outlook on the lack of a coherent strategy and capability in Syria, tying in fluently with the Workshop that would follow.
The recurring theme emphasized throughout the previous session related to numerous chemical attacks which have taken place during the Syrian Civil War, which is why NCT Middle East 2017 featured a highly successful workshop session on this very topic. Presentations by Raed Al Saleh, Chief of the White Helmets in Syria and Dr. Osama Sallom Alabd, Manager of Aleppo Office for Syrian American Medical Society provided first-hand insight on the matter. Both presenters focused on the chemical attack in the rebel held town of Khan Shaykhun that took place in April. The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Syria recently stated that they had substantial evidence suggesting that the chemical attack had been carried out by Syrian Government Forces, hence the timely manner of both presenter’s input. Additionally, the workshop also featured a presentation by Dr. Subhi Ejjeh, Head of Disaster Preparedness at the Qatar Red Crescent Society. His presentation focused on the organizations aims and current missions on a global level, and how their efforts can be seen as an example for medical preparedness in case of a CBRNe threat.
Addressing several aspects of CBRNe emergency preparedness and response in Qatar and the wider region, the fourth edition of NCT Middle East once again successfully brought together all the relevant stakeholders in the field. It provided the perfect networking and knowledge-sharing platform, as well as the chance to discuss the latest CBRNe solutions and capabilities with first-responders, industry representatives and government officials.