For the second time, a Security Network Exercise took place from 11 – 13 November 2019 in Switzerland. In the first exercise, in 2014 the partners of Swiss Security Association (SVS) were confronted with a blackout scenario in combination with an influenza pandemic. It brought important insights into coping with a complex crisis. Subsequently recommendations for improvement and further development were formulated.
For this year’s exercise the Federal Council decided on scenarios linked to terrorist threats and long-lasting attacks. More specifically, it dealt with attacks against critical infrastructures such as tracks, railway stations as well as against nuclear power plants near railway lines, cyber-attacks, extortionate demands and impending attacks. The purpose was, inter alia, to examine how Switzerland can cope with a protracted terrorist threat and whether the stakeholders concerned are ready to resist the threat and answer rapidly and appropriately. Specific objectives were defined in four fields: civil protection, police, army and crisis communication. The aim here was to review and further develop structures, organisations and procedures. Daniel Schlup, Head of SBB Emergency and Crisis Management, invited Julika Ramlow from the UIC Security Department, together with colleagues from Network Rail, the Austrian Federal Railways and Deutsche Bahn, as observers.
The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) as the most important player in the field of railway traffic in Switzerland and operator of the rail network, which is considered to be critical infrastructure, was deeply involved. The Public Security and Transport Police units, which had organised their staff, faced fictitious attacks, for example explosions, CBRN attacks, and attacks by armed aggressors, which were spread all over the country. The stakeholders involved worked on mitigating the effects as effectively as possible with the aim of returning to operations and regular procedures quickly. The challenge here was to avoid destabilisation. The SBB employees from the areas of crisis management, operations, public safety and the transport police demonstrated their in-depth expertise, their operational readiness and their skills for clear and coordinated action in crisis situations.
Part of the SBB security structure is the company fire brigade which also took part in the exercise. This unit operates a total of 16 firefighting and rescue trains that are mainly stationed at the tunnel entrances and are available 24/7. About 80 to 120 people can be evacuated or rescued by sending such a train to an incident. For less serious incidents or to accompany the rescue train, cars and trucks are provided. The final exercise report for the whole of Switzerland, which may contain lessons learned, is expected for next year.