Test­ing times as town pre­pares for dis­as­ter

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OPINION - by Kirsty Parkin

Plans for a fullscale test of how Ash­ford would re­act to emer­gen­cies

PREPA­RA­TIONS are be­ing made to pro­tect the bor­ough should dis­as­ter strike.

Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil car­ried out a no-no­tice test last Satur­day to see how quick the coun­cil could re­spond to an emer­gency such as such as a ter­ror­ist at­tack, nat­u­ral dis­as­ter or in­dus­trial ac­ci­dent.

Ex­er­cise Os­car tested the ef­fi­ciency of the coun­cil’s call cascade sys­tem to see how soon an emer­gency cen­tre could be set up and staffed at the Civic Cen­tre, in Tan­nery Lane.

The ex­er­cise showed it would take just over an hour to set up the cen­tre from which of­fi­cers would com­mu­ni­cate with the emer- gency ser­vices and me­dia.

At a meet­ing of the over­view and scru­tiny com­mit­tee last Tues­day, mem­bers also dis­cussed the coun­cil’s role in pro­vid­ing emer­gency rest cen­tres.

This means it would find tem­po­rary shel­ter, in vil­lage halls, leisure cen­tres or schools, for peo­ple who had, for ex­am­ple, been evac­u­ated from their homes due to a gas leak.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive David Hill said that while ma­jor in­ci­dents would need to be pre- pared for, the coun­cil must cover all cases.

“A lot of the emer­gen­cies which have hap­pened in the past have de­vel­oped rel­a­tively slowly, like foot and mouth and have not been crashes and catas­tro­phes,” he said.

“We have to be pre­pared to re­spond to th­ese things in terms of keep­ing nor­mal life go­ing.”

There are plans for a re­al­life ex­er­cise in Ash­ford later this year, in­volv­ing the Pri­mary Care Trust and po­lice com­mu­nity of­fi­cers.

An an­nual full-scale countywide ex­er­cise will be car­ried out next year by Kent Re­silience Fo­rum. Speak­ing at the meet­ing, Kent County Coun­cil emer­gency plan­ning of­fi­cer, Bar­bara Ma­son, said: “There will prob­a­bly not be one of th­ese this year as it takes a lot of work to get or­gan­ised and it is very ex­pen­sive.

“There will be ca­su­al­ties in the field and we are ask­ing po­lice, fire and am­bu­lance to join us.”

We have to be pre­pared to re­spond to th­ese things in terms of keep­ing nor­mal life go­ing

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