Yesterday's civil defence exercise Operation Horizon was supposed to simulate a poison gas attack on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) near Birmingham airport.
This venue was kept "secret" from the public, apart from the teams of selected news media "including the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera".
The most frightening aspects of the exercise were the long delays before the first of the mock victims got any treatment at all and the sight of "angry and confused" mock victims (dressed in Guantanamo Orange plastic capes) struggling to break through the cordon sanitaire enforcerd by security guards who were completely unidentifiable in their miltary issue NBC suits and gasmasks.
The fact that these people were not issued with any easily visible official ID badges or numbers, mean that any real incident could lead to looting and robbery by false "emergency workers", who could arbitarily extend the evacuation zone, with impunity. Criminals may even be tempted to create hoax CNBC incidents and "evacuations" in order to rob high value premises.
If the incident were for real and was deemed to be Biological or even Radiological in nature rather than Chemical, would these security guards have been authorised to shoot the victims to prevent them from leaving the danger zone and spreading the contamination ?
How would the proposed Civil Contingecies Bill come into play, if at all ? Surely even this exercise and the on at Bank Tube station are just too small scale to justify Emergency Powers under the Civil Contingencies Bill ?
Neither of the exercises approached the scale of those in the USA e.g. the Topoff2 exercise.
Both of these pre-scripted exercises which did not involve real evacuations of the real general public, are of only limited cosmetic value in reassuring the public that the authorities are either equipped or trained or funded to cope with real Chemical, Biological, Nuclear or Radiological attacks.
If the Government was serious about Civil Defence, there should be one of these excercises, but involving the real general public, at least once every month instead of once a year, and ideally there should be multiple drills simultaneously in several locations since the coordination and communications systems have not been tested properly at all.