THERE was a contamination incident simulation at Swindon College last week.
Emergency service personnel including three fire crews got together to tackle an imagined incident in which something horrible found its way to the outside world.
Very impressive it all was, too, with everybody doing what they should in the right order and in good time. It’s reassuring to know there are brave people ready to run toward situations which would have most of us running like Hell in the opposite direction – or possibly running in circles, babbling incoherently while our heads melted.
The accuracy of the simulation as far as emergency crews went couldn’t be faulted, but I reckon future exercises should take the simulation a bit deeper.
We’d need people with a bit of acting skill, so maybe we could bring in some of those excellent public-spirited volunteers who pretend to be casualties in disaster simulations. I’ve met a few of them, and it’s amazing how authentic they can look with a dash of stage blood and the odd string of sausages protruding from a shirt front.
They wouldn't use props this time, though.
Depending on the contamination scenario, we’d need some of the volunteers to brief the emergency services beforehand with complete lies about safety procedures.
“Yes,” they’d say, “our decrepit power station/toxic waste dump/foot-and-mouth-ridden-pig-incineration facility is perfectly safe.
“You firefighters, paramedics and police officers may have heard some stories involving spent nuclear fuel rods being used to stabilise wonky table legs in the staff canteen. Those stories are simply not true, and neither are the ones about the anthrax spores being spilled on the floor after Dave from HR took the wrong sandwich box from the fridge.
“There’s nothing to worry about here and there never will be.”
Other volunteers might take the role of elected representatives: “Suggestions of danger are nothing but media scaremongering against the excellent firm of Glowing Radioactive Slime Disposal plc.
“May I also take this opportunity to voice my anger at the disgraceful intrusion into the private life of my family. Our extensive shareholdings in Glowing Radioactive Slime Disposal plc are not relevant.
"Nor is my directorship of the firm or my nomination of the managing director for a peerage."
On the day of the simulated contamination incident, those same volunteers would deliver simulated public announcements.
“Return to your homes,” they might say. “Nothing bad has happened, there is nothing to worry about. Yes, your children have turned the colour of Smurfs but that is an unfortunate coincidence linked to harmless algae in bath water.”
After the emergency services had done their excellent work, it would be the turn of volunteers pretending to be senior officials to insist that lessons would be learned and there was no need for a public inquiry.