Brian Sims

Emergency Services in London test response to major terror attack

EMERGENCY SERVICES including the Metropolitan Police Service and statutory partners have carried out a major live-play exercise to test the joint response to a major terrorist incident in the capital.

The multi-agency exercise – dubbed ‘Exercise Crystal Peak’ – took place over two days and involved more than 200 individuals including emergency responders from blue light services, specialist counter-terrorism officers and partners from the London Resilience Forum as well as numerous volunteers playing the role of casualties.

The exercise was not carried out in response to any specific threat or intelligence, but formed part of the regular counter-terrorism testing and exercising programme. The exercise scenario itself involved an improvised explosive device detonating and injuring large numbers of people as they attended a fictional music concert at a stadium venue.

Commander Ade Adelekan from the Metropolitan Police Service said: “While the exercise was not designed with any specific threat in mind, sadly, previous attacks such as those we’ve seen in Manchester and Paris show that this kind of scenario at a busy entertainment venue is a real possibility.”

Adelekan went on to state: “Exercises like this one test how our blue light services respond to this type of incident, ensure the plans we have in place are fit for purpose and identify where we might improve. They also afford our officers and staff invaluable experience to respond in a live-play scenario under pressure with real sights and sounds such that they’re then in the best position to respond effectively should the worst ever happen for real.”

Disused terminal building

The exercise scenario began on Saturday 26 November and took place at a disused terminal building located at Heathrow Airport. The scenario itself was not related to the aviation setting, but the venue had been used for previous counter-terrorism exercises and using it for this particular exercise allowed the Emergency Services the space and control to respond in as realistic a way as possible without causing disruption to the public.

Among the specialist police units taking part in the exercise were armed officers, explosives ‘EOD’ officers, dogs and forensic teams. Officers from the British Transport Police and the City of London Police also participated. They were joined by responders from the London Ambulance Service and the London Fire Brigade, who supported the search, rescue, casualty management and recovery responses at the scene.

Day Two of the exercise ran on Wednesday 30 November and focused on the strategic co-ordination between the various agencies involved as the scenario moved from the immediate response phase to the longer-term recovery phase.

Over the course of the exercise, a number of different functions were tested, including Command and Control, intelligence, firearms response, communications and disaster victim identification.

This was the first major live-play exercise carried out by the Metropolitan Police Service since Lord Harris published his second report looking at London’s preparedness to respond to a terrorist attack. That document identified the fact that significant progress had been made since the initial report was produced back in 2016, with further recommendations identified, and which are now subject to consideration and implementation.

Fully prepared

Commander Adelekan continued: “The overall terrorism threat level in the UK remains at ‘Substantial’. We know that we cannot afford to let up in our efforts to prevent or thwart terrorist attacks. Equally, we must be fully prepared to respond should an episode occur. I’m extremely grateful for the support Heathrow Airport has given us by once again allowing the use of their building.”

In conclusion, Adelekan observed: “This work is vitally important for all of us, including members of the public. Indeed, the public has a really important role to play by remaining vigilant. Anyone who sees or hears anything that doesn’t feel right must report it. That information could end up saving lives.”

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