Chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear health response

Our national response plan outlines how we will respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) incidents. Find out more about this framework and how we apply it in emergency situations.

About CBRN incidents

CBRN incidents are those where criminals or terrorists cause harm to people through the threatened, or deliberate, use of:

  • chemicals
  • biological agents
  • radiological agents
  • nuclear materials.

When a CBRN incident happens, whether deliberate or by accident, and it becomes a national emergency, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer activates the National Incident Centre. We publish health-related information about the emergency on our website to keep the public informed.

Planning for CBRN attacks

Affected states or territories are responsible for managing the impact of CBRN incidents. When a CBRN emergency needs to be managed on a national level, our plan outlines how we will coordinate our health response.

This type of attack would require a broad government response – we would only manage the health aspects of the incident. The plan:

  • describes which agency would lead the response
  • makes sure all agencies involved can communicate quickly and clearly
  • ensures consistent decision-making.

Several biological agents (bacteria, viruses and toxins) could potentially be used in a bioterrorist act, because they are easy to transmit or cause severe illness. These include:

  • anthrax
  • botulinum toxin
  • plague
  • smallpox
  • tularaemia
  • viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Lassa and Marburg viruses.

Find more information about these bioterrorism agents.

We have developed specific plans and clinical guidelines for responding to:

Regulating biological agents

To limit opportunities for bioterrorism, we administer a regulatory scheme for security-sensitive biological agents (SSBAs).

You can report any concerns about possible bioterrorism to the National Security Hotline.

National Security Hotline

Use this 24/7 hotline to report suspicious behaviour or activities that may pose a threat to Australia’s security, such as information about chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials. Tell the operator if you want to remain anonymous.
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