A MOCK evacuation took place in Cheltenham last week which gave local people the chance to practice how they would respond in an emergency.

The rest centre exercise, which took place at All Saints Academy on Wednesday, August 27, was organised by Gloucestershire County Council. Staff from Cheltenham Borough Council, the Salvation Army, the Royal Voluntary Service, St John's Ambulance, British Red Cross and local faith communities all joined together in response.

Those involved were given a fictitious scenario that a suspect package had been seen in a car parked at the Gallagher retail park and that it was necessary to evacuate the area for a lengthy period of time whilst the area was made safe.

Volunteers from the county council’s Accredited Volunteer Scheme worked to set up a rest centre which provided shelter, tea and refreshments while the scene was made safe and until the public could return to their shops and vehicles.

More than 60 people took part in the exercise which reflected on the events from 2012 when a large number of houses were evacuated in Buttermere Close following the discovery of suspicious items in a garage block.

These exercises are important because they give council staff and accredited volunteers the chance to work together and become familiar with the roles they may have been asked to do when responding to a real emergency.

It is also useful because it tests the plans, so that any necessary improvements can be made before the arrangements may have to be put in place for real.

Cllr Will Windsor-Clive, Cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure said, “This is the first time that All Saints Academy has been used as an emergency rest centre and it’s proved to be a valuable asset which could be used if such an incident occurred in real life.

“This exercise shows the advance planning which is done by the county council’s Civil Protection Team in partnership with Cheltenham Borough Council and many other agencies, all working together for the safety and well being of residents and visitors.”