WIDESPREAD panic is expected to be avoided during the next nuclear emergency safety exercise on Portland tomorrow.

Last month islanders feared they were under a nuclear attack when loud hailers were used by organisers of a Nuclear Accident Emergency Exercise and by Wessex Water workers at the same time.

Residents feared bombs were going to drop as confusion took hold of parts of Fortuneswell.

The Ministry of Defence will lead the latest emergency exercise tomorrow, hoping to avoid a repeat of that evening in March as they test emergency planning procedures.

The exercise is being held to be prepared for what is being called the ‘unlikely event’ of an incident involving a visiting nuclear powered submarine at Portland Port.

Safety chiefs warn the exercise will be confined to the port and will take place between 8.30am and 4pm – although loud hailers will be used.

National regulations require local authorities to test emergency plans every three years.

Dorset County Council’s emergency planning officer Simon Parker has moved to help prepare residents.

He said: “Residents should feel reassured that we regularly carry out these exercises to cover a variety of potential incidents.

“As part of the planning preparations for this exercise flyers will have been put up in shops and businesses around the port.

“We wish to warn members of the public not to be alarmed by increased activity at the port.

“Disruption will be minimal although a loud hailer will be used in the immediate area.”

Vivien Hawkins, of Artist Row, was one of the residents frightened by the exercise on March 10.

She said: “It’s nice to let people know this time. We had no warning whatsoever last time.

“I suppose it must be necessary to do otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.”

Winfred Groves, of Fortuneswell, described the last exercise as ‘disgusting’ and ‘scary’.

She said: “I think more people will know this time but I would’ve thought the only time we’d need to know is when there are nuclear subs in the port.

“What caused the confusion last time was that Wessex Water were doing repairs down the road after dark and there were loud hailers used telling people they were turning the water off.

“It all clashed, that was the trouble.”

Dorset County Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council will work with health, fire and police services during the exercise.

And the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Royal Navy will all be testing their procedures.

The emergency plan and the information booklet are available in local libraries and at dorsetforyou.com/PlanandBooklet