Brian Sims

Major Home Office exercise tests response to terrorist attacks

THE HOME Office recently organised a large-scale exercise across two days in order to test the response of the Emergency Services – and Government itself – to a major terrorist incident.

The Home Office planned and co-ordinated the national counter-terrorism exercise, working closely with partners including the British Transport Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, North Yorkshire Police, Counter-Terrorism Policing North East, the London Fire Brigade and also the London Ambulance Service.

The ‘Spring Resolve’ exercise aimed to test the collective Emergency Services response to a series of no-notice violent attacks across multiple regions and assess the effectiveness of multi-agency Command and Control arrangements designed to stop the attacks, save lives and undertake effective and timely consequence management and recovery.

The exercise formed part of the regular counter-terrorism testing and exercising programme which takes place across the UK on a regular basis. Agencies were all set clear exercise objectives that were to be tested. Many of those objectives, in fact, were linked to the recommendations made following the publication of the Volume 2 report produced by the Manchester Arena Inquiry.

Critical exercises

Security minister Tom Tugendhat explained: “The first duty of Government is to protect the British people. Exercises like ‘Spring Resolve’ are critical to ensure all agencies and departments are prepared for any type of attack.”

The exercise scenario involved a mixture of live and notional role play and included multiple attacks in rapid succession in London, specifically designed to test fast and effective multi-agency response, communication and co-ordination. Attack locations included the transport network and other publicly accessible locations.

The scenario incorporated a further no-notice attack at a publicly accessible location close to York city centre on the second day, again designed to test and exercise effective multi-agency response and recovery arrangements.

The exercise tested communication flows from attack scenes, through strategic Command Centres and directly into central Government, with COBR meetings being held on both days as Government ministers and senior officials were also playing their part in the exercise.

Preparation is vital

Deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor, Counter Terrorism Policing’s senior national co-ordinator for Protect and Prepare, explained: “We know how vital it is that everyone involved in the response to a terrorist attack is fully prepared such that, should the worst happen, together we are then able to provide the best possible response.”

Taylor added: “Ensuring that our plans are fit for purpose will ultimately help to save lives, while testing those plans on a regular basis is crucial in ensuring police officers and our partners right across the UK understand their roles.”

Superintendent Jason Dickson, strategic exercise lead for North Yorkshire Police, commented: “This was a welcome opportunity for the Emergency Services in North Yorkshire to take part in a national counter-terrorism exercise. The exercise afforded an opportunity for us to test our joint working in dealing with a no-notice violent attack. We tested the strategic prioritisation and decision-making for the safe and effective deployment of specialist and non-specialist resources to scenes and the early consideration of recovery measures.”

Planning period

This exercise was planned across the course of 12 months and more and took place just a few weeks after the conclusion of the Manchester Arena Inquiry. The Volume 2 report from the public inquiry recommends that emergency responders enhance their interoperability for better effectiveness. That aim was placed at the very heart of the ‘Spring Resolve’ exercise.

Ultimately, the exercise demonstrated how to bring together available information, reconcile potentially differing priorities and render joint decision-making processes effective.

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