Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Laughing Matter: Excercise Short Sermon 2013


We can all laugh about it now because the purpose of such drills is to identify and correct serious deficiencies.   Exercise Short Sermon is held every three years to prepare local officials for an accident at a Royal Navy dockyard.  A newly released report on the 2013 drill describes some amusing chaos worthy of The Three Stooges.

September 2013

How a Nuclear Disaster Drill to prepare for a catastrophic explosion aboard a Trafalgar Class nuclear submarine became a "successful" farce

... HM Naval Base Devonport, the home of the Royal Navy fleet


Selected Excerpts [color emphasis mine]
  • Officials gave the order to evacuate the wrong village, caught hospital staff off guard after a worker posing as an irradiated victim arrived at A&E, and struggled to understand which way the radioactive cloud was travelling
  • The response at Plymouth council became chaotic after the National Resilience Extranet, a highly secure government server used to respond to major emergencies, went off-line, forcing officials to communicate using their personal email addresses.
  • The local fire service complained of a “lamentable” lack of maps and charts, and said they were kept in the dark over the risk posed by the radioactive cloud, with the dispatching of fire engines “confused”. 
  • Staff from Devon County Council were left confused by not knowing "whether the wind was blowing from or to the direction named.” 
  •  Senior NHS officials, whose role on the day was “assess on how a nuclear emergency would impact on health services”, complained they were unable to fulfil this because “there were no plans to include casualties outside of the dockyard."

  • Overall, the Office for Nuclear Regulation deemed the exercise a success, it [the report] said.
 Submarines are always silent and strange.


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