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Marshes stage chemical drill

PUBLISHED: 12:17 11 May 2007 | UPDATED: 08:53 21 July 2010

A MAJOR exercise simulating a chemical attack is to be carried out on Hackney Marshes next month. Hundreds of volunteers will take part, pretending to be contaminated with an unknown toxic substance...

A MAJOR exercise simulating a chemical attack is to be carried out on Hackney Marshes next month.

Hundreds of volunteers will take part, pretending to be contaminated with an unknown toxic substance.

The day-long event, dubbed Exercise Spring Clean, will revolve around a mock music festival, during which a toxic substance will be released to allow the fire brigade, police and ambulance service a chance to practise emergency procedure methods.

It is being organised jointly by the London Fire Brigade and Hackney Council's emergency planning office.

Hackney police, Homerton University Hospital, the London Ambulance Service, the Red Cross and the government decontamination service will also be involved.

Cllr Alan Laing, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said the exercise was important in order to test personnel, equipment, communications and protocols and procedures surrounding the decontamination process.

"As a local authority it's important that we conduct practice exercises to make sure we are prepared for any emergency response," he said.

"This is being carried out on the Marshes because of the space needed to park a large number of vehicles and to provide space for the numbers of people taking part.

"Obviously, we will try to keep disruption to a minimum, but we hope residents will appreciate the importance of this exercise."

Paul Hodge, a member of Hackney Marsh User Group, whose weekly tree nursery session will take place on Friday, June 8, the same day as the exercise, questioned whether the procedure was in preparation should any such an attack occur during the Olympic Games, considering Hackney Marshes is the nearest open space to the Olympic park.

"I presume this exercise is part of the strategy as to how London's emergency services will attempt to deal with a chemical weapons attack on the 2012 London Olympics," he said.

However, a council spokeswoman denied any such link.

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