Tags: Britain | Warned | Biochem | Attack | Risk

Britain is Warned of Biochem Attack Risk

Sunday, 23 September 2001 12:00 AM

The Independent added, however, that Britain was rated by security experts to be "one of the best prepared and most experienced countries in dealing with 'conventional' terrorist attacks after 30 years of IRA (activities) and other crimes."

"There is a constant threat assessment and review, and conditions are being reviewed all the time," a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair's government told United Press International.

He said the government was prepared to take any further measures that could be helpful, but pointed out that it would be unwise to reveal the level of Britain's preparedness.

He said a special agency was already in place to deal with national emergencies and had been deployed earlier to deal with the foot-and-mouth outbreak on British farms and with floods in various parts of the country earlier this year.

Government officials and emergency services' chiefs met on Friday to consider terror risks facing Britain and to lay the groundwork for preparedness on a national level.

The Independent said there had been a run on survival equipment such as gas masks and water-purification tablets. One army surplus shop in southeast London sold 10 times as many gas masks than normal. The Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States have heightened fear in many countries of such attacks.

The Independent said emergency planning officers based at local authorities around Britain "complained that central government has been denying them any specialist information on how to make contingency plans for chemical or biological attacks."

It added, "Their protests raise doubts about whether Britain could cope with a mass attack on the population by terrorists."

An Emergency Planning Society, which represents more than 80 percent of professionals in the field, revealed that Britain's civil defense budget had collapsed by 44 percent to $21 million in 2000-2001 from $37 million in 1991-1992 after the Gulf War.

"We don't recognize that criticism," a Cabinet spokesman told UPI. "There are contingencies of all sorts being considered at the highest levels. While we don't discuss procedural matters, we are confident that every conceivable contingency has been considered and dealt with."

The number of emergency planning officers has fallen by more than 50 percent in some cities and counties. Legislation to cope with national disasters and emergencies was last revised in 1948.

At Friday's meeting to consider Britain's response to chemical and biological weapons and the country's resilience to mass terrorism, officials drew up a list of services and supplies without which normal British life could not function.

Those attending the meeting included officials from London Underground, the city's subway; police and fire chiefs; emergency planners; Ministry of Defense staff; Food Standards Agency officials; and security experts from key industries.

Hospitals were put on alert after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington and told to upgrade their existing major incident contingency plans. The government has set up a contingency planning unit to prepare for mass casualties in a possible terror attack.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The Independent added, however, that Britain was rated by security experts to be one of the best prepared and most experienced countries in dealing with 'conventional' terrorist attacks after 30 years of IRA (activities) and other crimes. There is a constant threat...
Sunday, 23 September 2001 12:00 AM
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