Terrorist Response Can't Be Based On 7/7

One of the country’s most experienced counter terror officers has warned that the UK cannot afford to base its response to potential attacks in the future on what occurred in London on July 7.

[ClickPress, Fri Dec 15 2006] Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter of the British Transport Police said that while it had been a “chaotic and confusing” picture during the hours immediately after the bombings of the London Underground and the bus in Tavistock Square, the response from the emergency services and the public had been exceptional.

But he told delegates at the Infrastucture Security Conference in London that in other scenarios the response could be very different: “On July 7, the emergency services were already on a high state of alert because of the G8 conference. The attacks took place in the centre of London at 8.50am, everyone was ready and could react effectively.

“But what if those attacks had taken place one at a time, one a week, every week for four weeks, rather than all on the same day? What if, rather than a Thursday in July, the attacks had taken place at 7pm on the last Thursday before Christmas, when there would be a considerable amount of alcohol about as people celebrated their Christmas parties?"

“It just underlines the fact that different scenarios will offer different challenges, and we can’t root our response to modern terrorist attacks solely in what happened on 7/7.”
Mr Trotter said that despite the early confusion surround the July bombings, he had been clear “straight away” that it was a terrorist attack, and the emergency services generally had been able to “get a grip, and get a grip early”.

He also revealed that following the attacks, the police had come under some pressure to clear the bomb scene in Tavsitock Square as soon as possible. Because there were very few pictures form the Underground, the bombs on the tube didn’t offer the terrorists the same level of publicity. But Tavistock Square provided them with much greater publicity, as the images were shown around the world for several days.

“There was some pressure from government circles about how long we were going to keep the bus sitting there in Tavistock Square, and how long it would be before the London Undergound was back up and running.”

Mr Trotter said that comparisons were being made to Madrid, where the trains were running again after a couple of days, and Russia, where the metro system was back in action the same day, but issues such as forensics and “due process” varied greatly from country to country: “It takes as long as it takes; that was the message we were giving back to the Government,” he added.

He also outlined the issues that had been handled effectively – and those that represented major challenges – as a result of the London bombings. Mr Trotter told delegates that among the things that gone well were:

· the emergency services response
· the lessons learned from exercises
· the evacuation of the London Underground
· the recover of bodies and of forensics
· media management.

Andrew Greenfield
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