In 2024, France will be in the spotlight for several major events.
What are we talking about?
These remarkable events will be accompanied by large popular assemblies, posing obvious security challenges. The size of some of these events will certainly be out of all proportion to those usually handled in Paris.
All the security and law enforcement agencies will be present. Nevertheless, there will be a shortage of personnel, who will be recruited through private companies.
What are the implications for CBRN safety?
June 6, 2024: D-Day
In 2014, President Hollande welcomed Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and Vladimir Putin to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. This year, President Joe Biden is expected to attend, along with King Charles III. In 2014, the Calvados department alone attracted a record 800,000 visitors between June 5 and 8. Ceremonies on the beaches drew between 4,000 and 8,000 people. As for the festivities, the blaze along the coast on the evening of June 5 drew almost 100,000 people. This year, 6 million tourists are expected to visit the site during the festivities.
May 8, 2024: the Olympic flame is coming
Lit in Olympia on April 16, the flame will arrive in Marseille aboard the Belem. For 2 and a half months, the flame will travel the length and breadth of France (including its overseas territories). Ten thousand people will carry it to the opening ceremony on July 26.
July 26: Opening ceremony of the Olympic Summer Games
Unprecedented in the history of the Games, the opening ceremony will not take place in a closed venue (a stadium) but in an open space, i.e. the banks of the Seine, in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators. Needless to say, the security challenge is immense.
August 28: Paralympic Games opening ceremony
The athletes will take over the Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde for the kick-off of the 17th Paralympic Games.
December 8: the cathedral is returned to the public
It was on April 15, 2019, that Paris Cathedral went up in flames! Five and a half years later, President Macron will celebrate the reopening of the building, certainly in the presence of Pope Francis, whom he has invited. A large crowd can be expected.
October 4 and 5: 19th Francophonie Summit
The summit will be held at the Cité Internationale de la langue Française in Villers-Cotterêts, Hauts de France. It will bring together all the heads of state of the Francophonie.
CBRNe stands for Nuclear, Radiological, Biological, and Chemical. The “e” expresses the fact that these threats can be implemented by explosions. These threats, which used to be considered state-sponsored (during wars, for example), have now shifted paradigm and are identified as terrorist threats.
The most significant example is the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway: on March 20, 1995, Aum terrorists released sarin gas on 3 subway lines converging on Kasumigaseki. The gas had been placed in lunch boxes, which supporters pierced with umbrellas just before leaving the trains. The CBRN attack left 11 people dead and 5,500 injured.
This type of attack, which is relatively complex to implement (obtaining the product, setting up the logistics for spraying it, protective equipment for the perpetrators, etc.), can give way to simpler actions using chlorine gas, for example.
To talk more specifically about France, we’ll note that an elaborate ricin attack was foiled in 2018, but attacks using acid bottles were carried out during the yellow vest protests.
Very close to us, in Lyon, at the end of December 2023, a young girl received 3rd degree burns to her buttocks when she sat on a bus seat soaked in a product, certainly acid.
The theft of protective suits from the Necker Hospital in 2015 also prompts us to reflect on the evil intentions of the perpetrators of this theft.
So the threat is very real, whether it’s sophisticated and large-scale, or simple and personal. In any case, it can be described as “plausible“.
The Paris Olympics: law enforcement on the ground
There will be 10,500 Olympic athletes and 4,350 Paralympic athletes taking part in 878 events in 54 sports. Seventy-two host communities, more than 40,000 volunteers mobilized, nearly 13 million tickets on sale. The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be a very large-scale sporting event.
The State has set up a dedicated governance structure for the Olympic Games in terms of security.
The Minister of the Interior, who is usually responsible for public order and security, is the decision-making authority for the security of the Olympic Games, under the authority of the Prime Minister.
The forces of law and order: 30,000 police and gendarmes and 15,000 military personnel (10,000 in Paris, 5,000 in the provinces) are already planned. Private security guards will reinforce the force.
In December 2023, there was still a shortfall of 20,000 private security guards.
As of January 17, 2024, Michel Cadot, the interministerial delegate for the Olympic Games, estimated an overall need for 18,000 agents on average per day, and 24,000 at peak times. Although 9,000 people have already been trained, they have not yet been assigned to the various companies in the sector. Most of the companies are very small, the profession is not attractive and the companies, working mainly in the events sector, have difficulty in projecting themselves. Perhaps we need to mobilize more military personnel.
The opening ceremony was initially planned for 100,000 paying spectators (on the lower quays), but this has already been reduced to 40,000 (500,000 free spectators are expected on the upper quays). 6 km along the Seine need to be secured. Nothing has been left to chance: even the booksellers’ boxes will be dismantled.
A further 3,000 jobs will be reserved for students.
It is regulated by the Conseil national des activités privées de sécurité (CNAPS), a public administrative body under the authority of the French Ministry of the Interior, responsible for implementing the regulations governing private security activities.
According to the order of May 16, 2023 on training for private security activities, private security guards must hold a diploma recognized by the CNAPS for the issue of a professional card.
In the case of the Olympic Games, private security guards will be positioned mainly at venue entrances for access control and ﬁltrage, while others will be positioned in the sports stadiums for visual control. As such, they will need to be highly skilled in observing and managing conflicts, and in mastering security procedures.
As well as greeting and directing customers, they must also be able to manage a fire or apply first-aid techniques.
Their training is both theoretical and practical.
About risk management, the practical part covers the management of risks in the field, including knowledge of major risks, knowledge of electrical risks, and an introduction to fire risks.
While professionals are well-equipped, private security personnel are completely lacking in CBRN-specific PPE.
If a CBRN event were to occur, whether a major one such as the release of a toxic gas, or a lesser one such as the splashing of a bottle of acid, the minimum equipment required to ensure their safety or that of their victims would at the very least be the wearing of respiratory protection equipment, to guard against the novice action of gases, and the use of immediate decontamination devices to slow the evolution of chemical burns. CBRN protective gloves would also be very useful, if only for undressing contaminated people. It should also be noted that such equipment would also reassure the agent wearing it.
Once the alarm has been sounded, the injured are taken care of by professionals such as firefighters, civil security specialists or the men of the Gendarmerie’s National CBRN cell, all equipped with specialized equipment and materials.
It would also be useful to expand their training (to speed up recruitment, the initial 175 hours of training have been cut to 106 hours), by simplifying the identification of harmful substances, why not with the help of basic toxidrome recognition, so that agents can quickly inform first-aiders of the nature of the toxic product: is it a vesicant (irritant) or neurotoxic product, for example? In this case, practical exercises are essential.
Security guards would then have a key role to play: observing and recording the CBRN event, first decontamination actions, initial identification of products, and communicating information to professional rescuers using a reasoned alert.
Among the remarkable events taking place in France this year, the security challenge is paramount. Among them, the Paris Olympic Games will mobilize a large part of the French police force. They will be supplemented by private security teams, who will be responsible for screening and securing the venues. As such, they are subject to the same risks as professionals, particularly in the event of a CBRN event.
That’s why it would seem necessary to equip them with a minimum of equipment to enable them to carry out their mission, such as respiratory protection masks, chemical-resistant gloves and immediate decontamination systems. As first responders, they will also need to warn the emergency services and authorities, giving as little information as possible about the products used, to ensure a more effective response. These simple but effective concepts can only be acquired through training that complements the initial CBRN training they received.
Bibliographical references are hyperlinked.