A TERRORIST attack on a major conference was tackled in a training exercise scenario by Dorset's emergency services.

The terrifying situation of attackers releasing harmful chemicals on a crowd was acted out on a large scale at County Hall in Dorchester yesterday.

Some 70 volunteers took part in the mass decontamination scenario by pretending to be casualties and helping firefighters, paramedics and police officers prepare for the worst.

It was also a chance for the public to see how Dorset's 999 services would respond to such a large-scale emergency.

The event was organised by Dorset Fire and Rescue Service and involved emergency services from across the South West.

Chief fire officer for Dorset, Darran Gunter said: "It's rather like a good insurance policy, we've got all kinds of new equipment for fire, the police and ambulance and obviously we want to make sure we are prepared to use it."

As part of the exercise volunteers were doused in chocolate spread as a mock chemical substance, before being dressed in protective clothing and escorted through inflatable tents for a process of cleansing.

It was designed to test new Government-funded equipment and procedures for decontaminating members of the public.

While terrorism was used for this scenario, the skills could also apply to a factory accident or a natural disaster.

The event lasted four hours and volunteers received a free lunch with the chance to express their views.

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service area manager Colin Chapman said: "It's been a major success, all the personnel worked very hard in difficult circumstances in what was to all purposes a real incident."

He added: "A special thank you to all our volunteer casualties."