Mutual Aid in Crisis Response, An Interview with Kevin Cresswell and Gary Hess


Can you introduce yourself, your role and involvement in the field of CBRNe and Hazmat?

Gary: I have been representing manufacturers and distribution of CBRNe and Fire & Emergency Services (FES) equipment for approximately 30 years. When I began my career, HazMat was a sub to the Fire Service and over the years has grown into a specialized market for CBRNe. In addition, the role of the first responder has expanded including meeting expectations of their mission along with new challenges in the field. Manufacturers are constantly developing new products and technology to support the first responders in both markets. Understanding the challenges and requirements first responders face allows our team to provide solutions in providing the best product along with best supporting services ie. training, kitting, and product services.

Kevin: I have been on all three sides of the mutual aid triangle. As law enforcement, I have been involved in major incidents such as terrorist attacks, bombings, chemical major incidents, gas explosions radiation leaks and numerous suspicious bio threats, I have trained other police officers from all over the world to face the same threats. In the military I have been in mutual aid scenarios and cross border threats, I was part of the Iraqi Survey Group in Iraq and later with UK defense Intelligence I was the Naval Asymmetric threat lead included the threat to maritime from CBRN. In the private sector, since 2007, I have been involved in assisting US defense companies in sales of CBRN and Hazmat equipment including conducting business with ADS Inc. I assist business in hostile environments overseas and am a consultant with HazSim training simulator, Hazmat and Cbrne Nation and support Gary and the Defense Equipment Company, as a tech scout and in sales and marketing.

“Given the current economic and social climate, it is simply unrealistic to assume that a single community has all the resources required to cope with any and all emergencies it may face, particularly a major Hazmat or CBRNe incident.”

How would you define mutual aid and why is civil-military mutual aid crucial when responding to a CBRN crisis?

Kevin: Mutual aid in the emergency services is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries. This may occur due to a response that exceeds local resources, such as a Hazmat or CBRNe incident, natural disaster, a multiple-alarm fire or a state sponsored nerve agent attack. In the case of CBRNe ChemBio terrorism agents are a common choice for terrorists because they are easy and inexpensive to produce, easy to disseminate, and can cause widespread effects cheaply, for maximum media impact and mass panic. Mutual aid in such larger incidents, then naturally extends beyond a local response.

Gary: Mutual aid becomes more important and more complicated as the magnitude of emergency incidents increases, and the size of individual community budgets decreases. Given the current economic and social climate, it is simply unrealistic to assume that a single community has all the resources required to cope with any and all emergencies it may face, particularly a major Hazmat or CBRNe incident. The COVID-19 crisis has sharpened awareness of coordination and cooperation in crisis, the use of public -private partnerships and military support have been critical in the area of logistics in particular.

Kevin: Every country’s military, primarily organizes, trains, and equips forces to conduct combat operations. However, they also have the capability to rapidly respond to domestic emergencies and provide assistance to civil authorities to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage. Such assistance usually occurs after declaration of a major disaster or an emergency and supplements the efforts and resources of state and local governments, civil authorities and voluntary organizations. In the U.S. this is normally done in support of another federal agency.

How did you come up with the idea of organizing the NCT Virtual Civil-Military Response event that will focus on Mutual Aid in Crisis Response? What will be the main objective of this event?

Gary: The topic, “Mutual Aid in Crisis Response” originated by listening to the first responder community and current challenges they face. Our goal is to use our industry resources to offer solutions from past experience and from the manufacturers listening to our customer concerns to assist in developing future product solutions.

Kevin: In any CBRNe or hazmat incident, the range of risks is far too broad for case-by-case preparation to prevent every possible eventuality. We must manage a broad range of risks to prioritize high impact events that have the worst combination of vulnerability, likelihood, threats, and consequence. A primary tool that helps implement corrective measures to almost any kind of hazard is mutual assistance, where we share capability and resources. The objective of this event is not just to showcase the private sectors equipment inventory available, but to expand the network and expertise cross borders

Can you give an example of a successful civil-military mutual aid plan operation that was developed in response to a crisis?

Kevin: “Operation Temperer” is an established security plan by the U.K Government aimed at protecting civilians at times of high terror threat. As part of the operation, up to 3,800 military personnel can be deployed to UK streets to replace armed police at key sites, including railway stations and the Houses of Parliament. By taking over armed police duties in the streets, military forces help free up armed police who could then be used to fulfill other duties. “Operation Temperer” was first activated in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombings in May 2017, when military personnel were often seen working alongside the police. Following the Parsons Green bombing, later that year, the operation was enacted a second time.

The Novichok incident in Salisbury, England was another clear example of the requirement for military support to civil authorities. The initial local response was elevated under the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network and the Counter Terrorism Command based within the Metropolitan Police took over the investigation from Wiltshire Police. The investigation involved phase alone involved 250 specialist counter-terrorism officers and 180 military personnel, undertaking such tasks as who removing vehicles and objects that could have been contaminated, 12 Novichok affected sites in Salisbury and Amesbury required some level of specialist decontamination. From start to finish the cost of the response and clean up was expensive, the cost of policing response alone was $13 million.

What should be taken into account when establishing a plan for mutual aid in response to a crisis?

Kevin: Whether it is military support to the civil authorities and vice versa or civil to civil authorities, mutual aid and indeed private enterprise injection, there needs to be a mutual aid agreement between all parties at all levels. There are of course caveats necessary, the most important of which is to ensure furnishing such aid does not unreasonably deplete its own resources, facilities, and services.

Any agreement would normally stipulate four clear areas:

  • A developed and approved plan for effectively mobilizing resources and facilities, both public and private, to cope with any type of disaster or state of emergency.
  • Provision of mutual aid assistance through the system usually without reimbursement unless otherwise provided for (an example of this might be air).
  • The allocation of resources and facilities in an emergency situation; military, fire, police, medical and health, personnel, communications and transportation in accordance with adopted mutual aid plans.
  • All parties to conduct regular training and exercises in accordance with adopted mutual aid plans to ensure that each entity can provide effective assistance when called upon.

“The impact of the Covid-19 virus around the world has not been lost on the rogue actors, in light of this, we must have robust preparations in place, be vigilant and ensure our military, first responders and private enterprise are ready to respond.”

What is the biggest challenge first responders face during a crisis and can you give an example of such challenge?

Gary: First responders are looking for solutions that are uncomplicated, work quickly and efficiently and crisis communication systems need to be easy to deploy, and training uncomplicated.

Kevin: In my view, the biggest threat that first responders face during a crisis is the ability to access and use existing terrestrial communication systems. As we still see time and time again, large scale disasters have the ability to knock out communication infrastructures, leaving rescue teams scrambling to communicate in more extreme methods of connectivity. It was really the attacks of 9/11 which first illuminated the need for greater interoperability in communications among first responders. The Fire Department of New York, the New York Police Department and the Port Authority Police all used different radio systems with different capabilities on different frequencies. Unable to connect with each other, neither the agencies nor the rescuers themselves could efficiently coordinate to help victims.

Would you like to conclude with a few words?

Kevin: While it is clear a state sponsored or terrorist attack using chemical or biological agents still remains a low-probability, it is a high-consequence scenario. Such an attack could cause mass casualties, panic and significant economic losses. The impact of the Covid-19 virus around the world has not been lost on the rogue actors, in light of this, we must have robust preparations in place, be vigilant and ensure our military, first responders and private enterprise are ready to respond. Events such as this are critical in expanding understanding and creating and solidifying knowledge. Events such as this are an important forum for exchange of ideas and showcasing equipment.

Gary: To all planning to attend this event thank you in advance for your time and I hope you find this event beneficial in planning for your next mutual aid crisis. Please let us know how we can improve on this format and any future topics that you would like for us to address. Thank you to the NCT team for hosting the event and thank you to all of vendor partners for your support.

About the Interviewees

Kevin Cresswell has over 35 years of law enforcement, military, Intelligence operations, training and business development experience. He served as a UK law enforcement officer for 18 years, in numerous specialist roles and was part of the UK national counter terrorism training team. He was involved in operational crisis response for major Hazmat incidents, military aid to the civil authority and large scale terrorist incidents. Concurrent to this, he was a member of the military reserve and post 9-11 volunteered for full time military service. In 2003 he was deployed to Iraq in support of the Iraqi Survey Group. He then served with the UK Defense Intelligence Staff in support of the Royal Navy.

In 2007 he emigrated to the U.S and has been involved in defense and security sales, investigations and training to first responders and the military. He has a solid understanding of interagency defense and security roles, missions, jurisdictions, and authorities combined with a large global footprint of current contacts across many sectors of industry and government. He is currently a consultant to Defense Equipment Company and Sales Director for HazSim LLC. He represents Field Forensics Inc to ADS.

Gary Hess leads the Defense Equipment Company’s operation, with responsibility for business in the FES and CBRNe markets. He also manages vendor relationships and company expansion efforts into emerging markets. Gary has been serving the FES/CBRNe markets for the last 30+ years in various sales management roles to include Protect the Force, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Safety Equipment Company. Gary started his career with Safety Equipment Company prior to the company being acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific. He served as Fisher’s Vice President of Sales for First Responder markets for 7 years. Gary started up Protect the Force as a manufacturer rep company and expanded into tactical sales, tactical & FES service provider, and R&D product development. Gary has devoted his professional career supporting both the federal/military and state/local customers for FES,CBRNe, LE, and Tactical markets and inspired to finding solutions to the ever changing requirements of our military and first responders.

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