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Civil Emergencies

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what research he has commissioned into the preparedness of (a) the emergency services, (b) the NHS, (c) central government and (d) local authorities in the event of a civil emergency. [109588]

I have been asked to reply.Levels of preparedness in the event of a civil emergency are primarily determined through testing and exercising. Government Departments, the emergency services and local authorities have all exercised their contingency plans for many years. Earlier this year a cross-governmental working party was established to provide a formal mechanism for reviewing Departmental exercise plans covering a comprehensive range of domestic challenges and counter terrorist areas of activity. The aim of this group is to create a prioritised programme of exercises that will reflect and test effectively the range of lead Government Department responsibilities and the involvement of the devolved administrations, regional and local authorities and interdependent communities of interest. Local authorities are encouraged to prepare flexible plans for responding to a wide variety of peacetime hazards, and these plans are also regularly tested, reviewed and updated as circumstances change.Exercises at local, regional and national levels involve a wide range of participants including the emergency services, and local authorities and the NHS. Such exercises are used to monitor current levels of preparedness, to identify best practice and to identify areas for further improvement.