The British government has announced that a set of emergency exercises has been planned to find out how prepared Britain is for a terrorist attack. The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said that the exercises will test how well agencies will deal with things like evacuation, decontamination and mass casualties. This report from Gary O'Donoghue.
The most high-profile exercise is planned for central London where a catastrophic incident will be simulated shortly. No specific details of the exercise have yet been given, but it could involve the aftermath of a chemical or biological attack. Other drills will cover disruption of the national gas supply and flood defences. Ministers have also been giving more detail about fourteen new civil contingency reaction forces that are being set up around the country. They'll comprise up to five hundred reservist members of the military. And local police chiefs will be able to call on military assistance if there's an incident in their area.
The government has already announced the establishment of twelve regional smallpox response groups but has faced criticism that it hasn't bought enough smallpox vaccine to inoculate the entire population, unlike the United States. This kind of planning presents the government with a significant problem; it's determined that no one can accuse it of failing to prepare for such eventualities, but it's also wary of instilling a sense of panic.