Madrid City Fire Department: Our Response


by Dr. David Ruiz de Léon, PhD. Corporal Firefighter, Madrid City Fire Department, Spain

CBRNe emergencies have different characteristics than those addressed by other Civil Protection services. The greatest challenge is adapting the operational procedures, teams, and equipment to risks that emerge parallel to the technological evolution.

Madrid City Fire Department (MFD) is betting on implementing a system that allows not to stray from new threats and to be prepared for emerging risks. To do this, it divides its objectives into 3 goals: material means, training, and participation in R&D projects.

CBRNe Response

The specialized teams in CBRNe emergencies face a wide range of situations. Depending on the capacities, characteristics, and specialization of the departments, these emergencies can be more related to technological risks or cover more specific areas, such as environmental risks or nuclear risks.

In Spain, the nuclear risk, linked to emergencies at Nuclear Power Plants or war risk, is a state responsibility, while CBR risks are usually assumed by the autonomous communities or local administrations.

In any of the cases, the very definition of CBRNe risk implies a continuous adaptation of the emergency response to technological evolution. That is why, on many occasions, operating procedures and capabilities are lagging behind the risk itself.

The MFD is no stranger to this casuistry and seeks to adapt its material and human resources to the new challenges that arise.

Nowadays, the first response to CBR incidents is attended by any of the 13 fire stations of the Madrid City FD. All the first response vehicles have a minimum material to deal with the emergency at first, and all the personnel knows the first response in this kind of event. Subsequently or while the resources of the nearest station are activated, a second specialized response is activated with personnel and means more trained in this type of incident. These vehicles are found in 2 of the 13 stations that the MFD currently has. Both stations (9th and 10th fire stations) have the same material but are strategically located (one in the north and one in the south), allowing response times to be reduced.

CBRN Detection Van and hydrocarbon collection container

Although the MFD does not have a specialized CBRN response unit, there is a training unit for this type of risk. This unit is made up of instructors who provide training to the rest of the personnel. On the other hand, different functions are carried out from the unit, such as:

– Study and testing of new materials and acquisitions

– Study of new risks and development of operating procedures

– Development and participation in national and international research projects

– Preparation of special operations aimed at special events (for instance, COVID decontamination units, NATO summit, etc)

– Establishment of collaboration agreements with universities and other centers of interest.

The CBR Unit is currently in the process of implementing important developments Most of the events of this type faced by the MFD have been gas leaks, the overturning of tanker vehicles, accidents in companies or universities with product spills or leaks, interventions with sick or deceased people in the presence of biological risk, and the reception of letters with some suspicious powder by some public officials. Nevertheless, the variety of CBR risks has been increasing exponentially in recent years, mainly with the widespread use of new energies.

The appearance of electric or hybrid vehicles powered by hydrogen, LPG, or CNG entails an adaptation of operating procedures and a challenge in training all personnel in new action techniques.

In addition, in an increasingly globalized world, terrorist threats, as well as industrial accidents or natural hazards, know no borders, which requires civil protection services to anticipate and prepare for hitherto unknown events.

Hydrocarbon collection container

It is for all this that the MFD is in the process of implementing its CBR capabilities. This evolution is reflected in several aspects.

Hydrocarbon collection container

Material Resources

Currently, the MFD has 2 decontamination trucks, 2 double-cabin vehicles with containers of special protection, detection, and transfer material, 2 double-cabin vehicles with hydrocarbon collection and containment and, transfer containers. In addition, there is a van with CBR detection material that has a command post.

Current detection capabilities are based on the most common risks in the City of Madrid, consisting of multi-gas detectors, with the most frequent gases, and single-gas detectors specific for 12 compounds.

From the radiological point of view, the MFD has α, β, and Ƴ radiation detectors, as well as dosimeters and equipment to detect radiological contamination.

During this year, it is planned to incorporate detectors for toxic industrial compounds (TICs) and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) based on flame photometry, identification equipment with Raman spectroscopy, gas detectors of different technologies, and extended connectivity to allow for the reception of remote and geo-localised data.

On the other hand, the MFD does not currently have sampling equipment or procedures. For this reason, work is underway to acquire equipment to conduct solid, liquid, and gaseous sampling.

Inside the detection van


The MFD’s CBR unit is working on the design of a training plan to establish the minimum requirements for training in this type of risk and for achieving the rank of an instructor. An RBQ Curriculum is being studied and implemented and is expected to be operational throughout this year, with the aim to train new instructors.

In addition, specialization and external training is pursued via courses outside the service or by establishing collaboration agreements with universities and laboratories to train personnel in sampling methods and provide scientific support when necessary.

On the other hand, contacts are established with other national specialists, as well as teams from other countries that allow for the exchange of information.


The MFD understands that participation in R+D+I projects is a priority line in the modernization of the service. For this reason, lines of cooperation are established in projects linked to the CBRN field, together with other national and international entities.

In addition, the CBRN unit, together with the MFD’s International Relations Group, is working to certify a CBRN detection and sampling team within the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism.


CBRNe risks are a real threat and are increasingly present in our society. Public administrations and emergency services must be committed to the implementation and evolution of response teams to be prepared to face the unknown. This work to anticipate and adapt to ever-changing threats must be guided by professionals in the CBRNe field, whilst keeping in mind that the response to emergencies must be aimed not only at reducing the impact of the emergency, but also at minimizing the environmental impact of our actions.

The Madrid City Fire Department is actively working on updating operating procedures and improving equipment to provide a better service to citizens.

Author: Bio

Dr. David Ruiz de León is a Corporal in the Madrid City Fire Department. He combines his work in emergencies with that of a CBRN instructor in the Fire Department and the National School of Civil Protection.

Before joining the Madrid Fire Department, Dr. Ruiz de León worked as a firefighter in the Provincial Toledo Fire Department and a helitransported brigade in wildfires in the fire department of the Community of Madrid.

He collaborated with the NGO BUSF as WASH responsible, being deployed to Haiti in 2016 after Hurricane Mathew.

Dr. Ruiz de León is a chemist from the Autonomous University of Madrid and earned his Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the same university

Related articles

Recent articles