How Denmark is practising its response to a chemical weapons attack

Denmark’s National Police will join a series of public and private organizations next week in practicing its response to a hypothetical chemical weapons attack.

How Denmark is practising its response to a chemical weapons attack
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

How would police and other emergency services respond if Denmark were to find itself under attack by chemical weapons? 

The National Police will carry out its crisis response exercise for such a scenario on September 12th.

“Chemical events” are the subject of the exercise, which is entitled Krisøv 2019 (Crisis Exercise 2019), the National Police said in a press release.

The exercise will involve maintaining infrastructure such as transport, food supplies and communication in such a situation of crisis.

The specific scenario which will form the background for the exercise will be a chemical weapons attack in south-eastern Jutland, according to the press release. All levels of society will be tested, from government to local authorities.

Ministries, police, emergency services, health services, companies, media and embassies will all be involved in the trial run, which will aim to demonstrate Denmark’s preparedness for a national crisis.

“Fortunately, Denmark is a peaceful country. But you cannot rule that we may one day be hit by one or more serious incidents. We have to be ready for a major emergency,” Ulrik Keller, head of the Danish emergency services’ Centre for Crisis Response (Beredskabsstyrelsens Center for Krisestyring) said in the press statement.

Similar exercises have been conducted once every other year in Denmark since 2003, although 2019 is set to be the most wide-ranging thus far, with over 30 organizations or authorities set to take part.

“We will push participants on their abilities to respond and work together to guide society through one or more serious incidents with as few consequences for the public as possible,” National Police head of training Michael Kristiansen said.

“The aim of this exercise is to learn so we can develop and improve our crisis control systems and capacities in general. So the tempo will be high, so we can see where any cracks might begin to appear in a national crisis control system under pressure,” Kristiansen added.

Participants will be presented with dilemmas relating to challenges including rescue, evacuation, maintaining law and order, first aid and foreign diplomacy.

The exercise will be followed by an evaluation process which will help participating actors to adjust and improve their existing response protocols.

The exercise can be followed on Twitter by searching the hashtag #KRISØV2019.

READ ALSO: Why Denmark sets off sirens once a year

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Orange bosses summoned to ministry after phone glitch leaves French emergency services uncontactable

The French government on Thursday summoned the head of the Orange telecom operator after a network outage that left people unable to reach emergency services.

Orange bosses summoned to ministry after phone glitch leaves French emergency services uncontactable
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

A person in the western Morbihan region suffering from a heart condition was reported dead after failing to put through an emergency call during the outage which lasted for several hours on Wednesday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said.

While it was not certain that the death was caused directly by long delays in getting through, “what is beyond doubt is that people have told us that they tried calling several times and that they couldn’t get an operator immediately,” he told reporters.

Two people with heart conditions in the overseas territory of La Réunion were also reported dead.

Calling the outage a “serious and unacceptable malfunction”, Darmanin said that Stephane Richard, the CEO of Orange which is France’s biggest telecom company, had been summoned early on Thursday to his ministry “to tell us the current state of play”.

Darmanin reported on Wednesday evening that some emergency call centres “are having difficulty receiving calls due to a technical problem from the operator”.

“Everything is being done to resolve these malfunctions as quickly as possible,” he tweeted.

By Thursday morning the emergency numbers – 17 for police, 15 for ambulance, 18 for firefighters and 112 for all emergencies – were back up and running, although temporary numbers set up overnight were also left in place.

READ ALSO Emergency in France – who to call and what to say

Health Minister Olivier Véran said the breakdown was “obviously due to a maintenance problem” by French telecoms group Orange.

The maintenance carried out “by Orange would have caused fairly random breakdowns, with up to a 30-percent drop in some regions”, Véran told the TF1 channel.

Orange confirmed to AFP that a “technical incident on a router had greatly disrupted VoIP (voice over internet protocol), internet calls in some regions”.

A source close to the case ruled out any kind of “hacking”.

Problems were reported across the country from 6pm, causing havoc for emergency services.

Emergency doctor and head of the Samu-Urgences emergency medical services union François Braun said “people were unable to access the service, calls were not coming through, others were cut off in the middle of a conversation”.

He said that almost all of France’s departments were affected, adding that calls usually peak around 7pm.

“We don’t know what consequences this breakdown will have, it’s too early to say,” he said.