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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 17:24 GMT
North West: Emergency planning
Steve Rawling
Politics Show North West

The bombed number 30 bus
Is the North West prepared for an attack like this one?

How prepared is the North West for dealing with Politics Show? As local authorities get ready to publish their new emergency plans, Politics Show asks how would we cope with the disruption caused by severe weather or terrorist attack.

Next week, all the local authorities in the Northwest have to publish their Community Risk Registers.

These will detail the kinds of emergencies we ought to be preparing for, and what our responses should be.

This could mean anything from bird flu to terrorist attack or extreme weather.

This year the Met Office has taken the unusual step of issuing a Winter warning.

Their experts say there is a significant risk of a colder than average winter this year.

The gritters will be out on the main roads and motorways as soon as snow is forecast.

But certain types of weather front can cause temperatures to drop very quickly, turning rain to sleet and snow.

The roads snarl up, leaving hundreds of motorists trapped in their cars, and thousands of others looking for somewhere to stay.

And if the weather stays below zero for several days, the health impact can be even greater.

"Cold weather puts a lot of strain put on the body," says Met Office expert Danny Johns.

"The heart has to pump harder as the cold actually makes the blood thicker.

"What that means is that three days after the start of a cold snap we see an increase in the number of people suffering from heart disease coming into accident and emergency departments.

"Five days later we see an increase in stroke incidents.

"A week in, things like respiratory disease starts to come to the fore.

"Obviously it is the vulnerable who are most at risk - the elderly and those living alone."

The Northwest has experienced terrorist attacks from the IRA - in Warrington and Manchester in the 1990s.

But the threat of a repeat of the 7th July attacks is now uppermost in the minds of those responsible for emergency planning.

"There have been exercises testing responses to small scale 7/7 style incidents but as yet no where in the UK has a '9/11 plus' sized incident," says terrorism expert Tim Ripley from Lancaster University.

"But there is no regional level co-ordination agency to control a major incident that spreads across country boundaries.

"In 2001 the government set up special army units in each region to provide military support after terrorist incidents but most of these troops in north west are Territorial Army soldiers whose units have since then either been disbanded or posted to Iraq."

The Conservatives have called for the creation of a Homeland Security Minister to co-ordinate responses to major incidents.

Meanwhile Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale is worried that plans to create a regional emergency control room in Warrington will hamper Cumbria's ability to respond to disasters.

Stuart Flinders puts those points to Labour Minister Phil Woolas, who is responsible for Civil Resilience.

Politics Show

And as the region marks Remembrance Sunday, we look at how political shockwaves can still echo down the ages from the Great War.

Join Gill Dummigan and Stuart Flinders on Politics Show on Sunday 20 November 2005 at Noon on BBC One.

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