How not to do it: Nuclear exercise in Dorset

According to a PA report, an unannounced nulcear exercise in Portland on 10 March 2010 was mistaken for the real thing.

PA say: “Elderly and vulnerable people bombarded emergency services with calls in Portland, Dorset, fearful of bombs being dropped after information booklets landed on their doorstep….The leaflets, part of the Nuclear Accident Emergency Plan exercise on Wednesday evening, advised residents what to do in the event of a radiation emergency in Portland Port…They were told to stay indoors and wait for the all clear, listen to local news stations, put out fires and boilers and take potassium iodate tablets only if they were issued with them…. the leaflets were dropped to 1,200 residents living within one mile of Portland Port as part of the exercise, led by Dorset County Council, the Royal Navy, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the borough council and other nuclear officials….It also coincided with Wessex Water officials making loud hailer announcements about water being turned off…. Resident Vivien Hawkins, 78, said: “There was this awful noise…”I opened the front door and there was a loud speaker. It was so loud you couldnt hear what he was saying…Just after that a leaflet came through the door telling you what to do – douse all fires, close all windows….I thought what are you supposed to do? Freeze?

The Dorset Echo of 6 March makes quite clear that the exercise was announced in advance, but the council website says nothing about it.

The BBC says: “Loud hailer announcements by a water company and a leaflet advising what to do during a radiation leak caused fears of a nuclear catastrophe in Dorset. Emergency services in Portland were inundated with calls when Wessex Water officials used a hailer to inform residents of a cut to services. ”

According to the Daily Mail, “Another witness, who did not wish to be named, said: All I heard was there may have been a radiation emergency on Portland Port. I had to give my wife a sleeping tablet to help with the shock. It is ridiculous that the organisers have caused so much trauma over a training exercise. People were so frightened.
It looked serious and it is no wonder people panicked. The organisers dealt with this in an utterly incompetent manner. Louise Armstrong, 45, said: It was very strange, there was no prior warning. It wouldve been nice to have a letter before these leaflets. The fake emergency, which was organised by Dorset County Council, the Royal Navy, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and other nuclear officials, has been defended as a necessity. Dorset council confirmed that no written warnings had been sent out before the exercise on Wednesday night. Donna George, the senior emergency management officer for the council said: I understand that the message went out in the local paper and local radio so they were aware of the particular exercise we were looking to undertake. ”

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