CHEPSTOW Leisure Centre was transformed into a disaster zone today as part of “Exercise Jurassic Spark”, Monmouthshire County Council’s crisis management training exercise.

Working with a theoretical scenario that a suspicious fire had engulfed a busy Chepstow Racecourse, around 100 volunteers took part in the exercise, role-playing as survivors who had been evacuated from the racecourse to the safety of the leisure centre.

While the serious casualties in this mock-up situation had already been taken to hospital, the people in the leisure centre still had a wide range of needs, and each person arrived with specific backstories written on their role cards.

Some were polite, helpful, and compliant with the emergency service workers they encountered, but other volunteers had been briefed to be as rude and awkward as possible.

The idea behind this was to make the exercise as authentic as possible for the police officers, ambulance workers, and other responders.

Ian Hardman, Monmouthshire’s emergency planning manager, was directing the exercise.

He described the different scenarios people would be role-playing.

“There’ll be frustrations, for people who don’t have the ability to leave,” he said.

“People may have lost their possessions or have medication they can’t get access to.

“It’s not a made-up scenario – it’s based on how people have reacted in reality.

“Without the realism, staff wouldn’t be under pressure.

“I hope we never have to set a [real] centre up, but you never know.”

Alan Burkitt, who works for the council, was playing the role of an “awkward individual” who refused to speak anything other than Welsh.

His role card said: “Ask why the signs aren’t bilingual. Be as demanding as you can.”

Out of character, Mr Burkitt said he was enjoying the exercise.

“I’ve done a few of these. It’s very good, very positive, and they’ve dealt with everything I’ve asked for,” he said.

He had been impressed by some of the acting on display, he said, giving particular praise to a woman who was pretending to be allergic to dogs.

There were several pets involved in the exercise, with RSCPA staff on hand to look after the animals of anyone who’d been taken to hospital.

Alisa Quartermaine and David Broadway were part of an 11-strong Gwent Police contingent at the exercise.

“We’re taking people’s information, collecting missing person information, collecting survivors’ details, and overseeing the centre,” Ms Quartermaine said.

“Everyone has done a fantastic job.”

Mr Broadway added: “It’s been a great learning exercise to see how everyone comes together.”

Wayne Stringfellow and his colleagues from St John Ambulance were busy administering first aid to people with minor injuries, as well as helping people who had lost their medication.

"It's very good for training purposes," he said. "You never know when something like this is going to happen."

Mr Hardman thanked all the volunteers who participated in the exercise.