Ready to act if dis­as­ter strikes Kent

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - OFF THE RECORD -

RAIL crashes, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, ma­jor out­breaks of dis­ease and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters – all night­mare pos­si­bil­i­ties most of us would rather not think about.

And un­til re­cently, few would have con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of an earth­quake hit­ting Kent.

But for Deputy Chief Con­sta­ble Al­lyn Thomas, ex­pect­ing the un­ex­pected is part of the job.

As the of­fi­cer with re­spon­si­bil­ity for emer­gency plan­ning, it is up to him to make sure the county can cope when faced with dis­as­ter.

He is part of the Kent Re­silience Fo­rum (KRF), set up af­ter Septem­ber 11 to make sure all the blue light ser­vices and other agen­cies, such as the Health Pro­tec­tion Agency, En­vi­ron­ment Agency and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties would be ready to deal with a ma­jor in­ci­dent, in­clud­ing any­thing from bad weather to a ter­ror­ist bomb.

“It’s about plan­ning for a whole range of things,” said Mr Thomas.

“Op­er­a­tion Stack, bird flu, storms – any­thing that could se­ri­ously im­pact on the nor­mal op­er­a­tion of the county and the coun­try.”

Avian flu was a worry over the win­ter. There are fears that the virus could change into one which could be passed be­tween hu­mans rather than birds.

Out­break

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, such a pan­demic could af­fect up to 30 per cent of staff in es­sen­tial ser­vices, se­verely af­fect busi­nesses, hit power, trans­porta­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and caused mil­lions of deaths world­wide.

Mem­bers of the KRF are work­ing on the as­sump­tion that such an out­break is in­evitable.

“The guid­ance from the Depart- ment of Health in­di­cates it’s more a ques­tion of when than if,” said Mr Thomas.

The KRF reg­u­larly prac­tises for ma­jor in­ci­dents, of­ten based on real-life in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing the July 7 bomb­ings.

The plan­ners think about when to close schools and en­ter­tain­ment venues, how to cope with large num­bers of wounded or dead, mass im­mu­ni­sa­tion, as­sess­ing eco­nomic dam­age of an in­ci­dent, and the need to in­ves­ti­gate the af­ter­math of a ter­ror­ist at­tack as a crime.

The KRF also plans for en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­ci­dents – a tanker run­ning aground on the Kent coast, a fire on the scale of Bunce­field, an ac­ci­dent in the Chan­nel Tun­nel… the list goes on.

“What would we do if there was a flood?” said Mr Thomas. “Or if there was dam­age to the road in­fra­struc­ture?

Dis­rup­tion

“Sup­pose there was a rail crash and it af­fects the rail net­work? How would we man­age the ef­fects on the su­per­mar­ket net­work? Those are all the kind of events we plan for.”

It’s not all about dis­as­ter – the KRF is also in­volved in mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for this sum­mer’s Tour de France, be­cause of the dis­rup­tion caused by shut­ting down ma­jor routes and the in­flux of peo­ple ex­pected.

Peo­ple can help by be­ing pre­pared. Mr Thomas said: “It makes sense for the res­i­dents of the county to pre­pare them­selves, whether it be for a storm, Stack or other dis­as­ter.

“It’s about stock­pil­ing a small amount of things – can­dles, torches, bat­ter­ies, dried foods, wa­ter.

“Whether it be a pos­si­ble flu epi­demic, ad­verse weather, floods, freezes, storms, prob­lems on the mo­tor­way – all of those can dis­rupt the or­di­nary run­ning of the county.

“No one can do it on their own; no one agency is big enough to deal with th­ese is­sues

“The KRF is here, plan­ning so we can keep peo­ple safe if any­thing hap­pens.

“But we are keen for the pub­lic to do some plan­ning. They can help pro­tect them­selves.”

Deputy Chief Con­sta­ble Al­lyn Thomas

Pic­ture: Gary Browne

Emer­gency plan­ners must be pre­pared for any­thing - in­clud­ing an earth­quake

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