The legal responsibilities for NEOC activities in the event of chemical accidents are very different from those which regulate its radioactivity-related tasks, since the latter are within federal responsibility. In the case of chemical protection, municipal and cantonal deployment forces, such as the police, fire service, chemical protection unit, medical services and disaster protection bodies have extensive powers, responsibilities and resources. It is however in their legal duty to notify the federal authorities in the event of incidents that have serious repercussions on the population and the environment.
Consequently, the NEOC is only involved in large-scale, cross-regional incidents and in the co-ordination of NBC protection. In the event of a terrorist attack with chemical weapons, the NEOC provides the local deployment forces with back up in the shape of the DDPS deployment team (EEVBS). This comprises experts from the Spiez Laboratory and the army’s centre of expertise for national NBC Protection, whose members are specially trained to deal with such incidents.
In early 2000, Switzerland ratified the UN/ECE convention on transborder industrial accidents (Helsinki Convention). By doing so, it is obliged to report serious cross-border industrial accidents. The NEOC was appointed as the “National Contact Point”.
Part of NEOC day-to-day activities in the area of chemical protection is the maintenance of the information system for dangerous substances (IGS).