Volume 2: Views and information from organisations




НазваниеVolume 2: Views and information from organisations
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Richard Barnes (Chair): By that time, BBC News 24, CNN and Sky were already on site, were they not?

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): I am not aware whether that was the case. I would not be surprised if they were, but I think it is important that we are accurate with what we are saying. They are very dynamic companies and they are very intrusive in terms of how they tend to report, and there is no doubt that they will speculate, whereas we have to be very clear that the information we give is accurate.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Thank you. Can I turn to the LAS? How was your involvement triggered?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): Our first vehicle arrived at Liverpool Street at 9.03am. It was very clear soon after that it was a major incident, and shortly afterwards it was declared a major incident. The media involvement for us really began very soon after 9.00am. We were receiving calls in our communications department asking exactly what was going on, and at that point we were generally giving a holding statement saying that we were responding to a number of incidents across the capital. The first formal statement we gave was at 10.30am and that was really to ask the public to use the LAS wisely.

Richard Barnes (Chair): That was only to use it where life was actually threatened?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service):

Yes, serious and life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Did that work?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): It did work and worked very well. We actually had a reduction of 30% of calls on an average day. We were very grateful for that because it helped us to manage the incident.

Richard Barnes (Chair): By 9.55am, you had four sites to attend with ambulances.

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service):

Initially, we had seven sites altogether. There were calls coming in that may or may not have been related. One of them certainly was to Praed Street, which ended up being the Edgware Road incident, but clearly for the person making the call the first street name they saw was Praed Street and not Edgware Road. Consequently, we had ambulances going to various places that ended up not being the main incident sites. Of course, as colleagues have said, in the early stages there is some confusion and there are some mixed messages. It takes a little while to filter it down to the actual four incidents, which ended up being three incidents in the first instance.

Richard Barnes (Chair): What pressure did that put on the service?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): Our service is a relatively small organisation and we have previously dealt with major incidents in London and generally coped with those very well. I think there is no doubt that this was a particularly testing day with four major incidents happening

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simultaneously in London. It put us under some strain and we were tested but not found wanting.

Richard Barnes (Chair): That is appreciated. Mr O’Toole mentioned communications to staff and the leaky feeder. How do you communicate with your ambulances on site?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): Our ambulances are all equipped with something called a Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), which connects them directly to our control suite. From the control room, they can send ‘999’ calls to the ambulances, and the crew can receive those on a digital screen. That is their primary way of receiving and passing information. There is a secondary system of radios in the ambulances using ‘very high frequency’ (VHF) radios, and those also worked well on the day.

Richard Barnes (Chair): There are also stories going around London about the use of mobile phones in ambulances.

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): I have seen those stories as well, and I am somewhat bemused by them. We do not routinely use mobile phones to pass ‘999’ calls to our ambulance crews, and we have better systems than that.

Richard Barnes (Chair): At the Guildhall debriefing, it was indicated that the LAS was thinking of issuing pagers to its drivers. If the communications system worked particularly well, why are you thinking of another back-up system?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): The pager system has actually been issued to managers. We issued pagers two days after the incident and indeed those pagers were used at the 21 July incident. That is not an issue with the ambulance crews being able to receive their ‘999’ calls. As I have said, they receive those calls through MDTs and radios in their vehicles. This was to give our managers extra resilience in managing each of the scenes so they do not have to depend on the mobile phone network, which clearly became overloaded on the day.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Therefore, the ambulances do not need the mobile phones, but the managers do.

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service):

Yes, mobile phones help them, but they are not critical because the managers also have VHF radios in all their cars. They can manage a scene via that network, but we also use mobile phones as a back-up to that system.

Richard Barnes (Chair): How do you tell your drivers where to take the injured and the patients?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): At the scene we have a number of what we call ‘Bronze’ officers who manage the incident, and they are led by one officer who directs the incident. The specific responsibility of one of those Bronze officers is to tell the ambulance crews who are leaving the scene which hospitals to take their patients to.

Richard Barnes (Chair): How is he told what to do?

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Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): He is normally fed information from that hospital. We send a receiving officer to the hospital who communicates with the hospital, gets their current status in term of their capacity for taking further patients, and he feeds that back to the manager at the scene. That is generally done by radio from the hospital to the scene.

Richard Barnes (Chair): It is by radio to the scene, not by mobile phone?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service):

Yes, and it can go through the control room, but it can go direct to the scene.

Peter Hulme Cross (AM): There are reports that a lot of the casualties went to St Mary’s, which was the closest hospital.

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): The closest to Edgware Road, yes.

Peter Hulme Cross (AM): Furthermore, other hospitals which were geared up to receive patients, did not get any casualties. St Mary’s was flat out and the other hospitals had spare capacity.

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service):

Yes, St Mary’s may have been flat out. In fact, that was not because of ambulance-borne patients; we only took 37 patients into St Mary’s Hospital. Of course, St Mary's was the nearest hospital to the Edgware Road incident, so I think that some people self-referred to that hospital. That said, quite a long time into the incident, St Mary’s was able to lend us a medical team to work at the scene and that medical team told us that they still had capacity at the hospital to take further patients. I am not sure where the messages have come from that they were swamped. That certainly was not the impression we had at the time.

Peter Hulme Cross (AM): Nevertheless, there is a system in place whereby if a particular hospital is flat out, the patients will be taken to other hospitals?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service):

Yes. We put all the hospitals in London on a standby arrangement. We have a standby system where we prepare them that something is going on and we may need their assistance. Then we have a declaration system where we tell them we will be bringing patients into them. We declared seven hospitals, but we put all the hospitals in London on standby in case we needed them. In the event, we try not to take patients further than we need to but obviously if those become overloaded we go slightly further afield.

Richard Barnes (Chair): To what extent were you working at capacity?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): I think that on a normal day we do not work far from capacity. We are probably at 70% or 80% capacity on a normal day, so as you can understand, we were stretched. Having said that, I think our paramedics and technicians behaved very professionally and got through a huge amount of work in a very short time. Patients were moved from the scene very quickly indeed. Our control staff took some harrowing calls, as you have heard this morning. They were working close to capacity but, fortunately, the public heeded our message about using the service wisely. They used NHS Direct, they went

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to see their doctors, they used pharmacies and also self-cared, and that released some capacity in our system to cope with this extraordinary demand.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Turning to the LFB, clearly you were called to a number of sites. As I understand it, there was no fire, as such, at any of the sites, so it was blast damage, etc, that you were dealing with. Can you talk us through your capacity?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

Our role on the day was rescue because there were no actual fires involved in the incident. It was rescue and providing a safe system of work at the scene in case there was an outbreak of fire, supporting the LAS in the removal of casualties to ambulances and triage so that they could be dealt with and taken from the scene, and also assisting the police in any role that they felt we could assist with. It was providing support for initially dealing with the incident, and also subsequently providing support for the investigation.

In terms of capacity, there are two different issues really. One is around what we call traditional fire appliances. 42 fire appliances were in attendance at the height of the incident. At any one time, when we had the highest demand on the LFB during the day, we had 98 appliances in reserve to be able to use, so we still responded to all calls we received around London on the day.

We did put in place some contingency plans which we normally do in these sorts of circumstances, because when the incidents occurred that morning nobody knew at that time whether this was going to be a sustained attack that might take place throughout the day or into following days. Therefore, given the circumstances that were prevailing, we always put into place things like the cancellation of other duties that fire appliances might be doing during the day. For instance, we would not let fire appliances go out onto their station ground to do fire prevention work etc on that day; we wanted them in the fire station so we knew where they were and could mobilise them immediately should we need them. That is a normal practice if we have incidents that are placing a large demand on us like this. We had 98 fire appliances in reserve at the height of the incidents on the day.

In terms of communications back from our appliances at the incidents, we have a similar system to the LAS in that we have ultra high frequency (UHF) radios on all our fire appliances, so we had no difficulty with information coming back from the scenes. In fact, sometimes we had too much information coming back from the scenes. Our protocol for officers on the scene is to pass information back to our mobilising control for them to sift that information and pass it on to Commanders who are trying to manage the LFB strategically throughout the incidents. We had no difficulty with information coming back from the scene via our radios; they worked all the time throughout the incident.

We also have a system on our Command Units called a Command Planning System (CPS), which is where we have a map detailing the incident that plots where the appliances are, what sorts of things we are doing, and how we sectorise the incident. That is monitored by a group of staff at Stratford in what we call our Resource Management Centre. That worked throughout the day as well and we had some very good information coming back from that. We were not in any way starved of information coming back from the scenes.

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Richard Barnes (Chair): One of the myths flying around London is that if there had been a chip-pan fire there was not a free vehicle to go and put it out. Can we nail that?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

That is absolutely untrue. Every incident that we were called to in London on 7 July received an attendance, and we had the capacity there to respond to any further incidents.

Richard Barnes (Chair): You have a number of different types of vehicles, one of which is the FRU. Can you tell us what they do and what their capacity is?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

At the moment, we have 10 FRUs strategically placed around London. Their role is to provide specialist assistance to firefighters on the scene, given the variety of different incidents we attend. They are very specialised in things like gas-tight protective suits to protect against chemical attack or chemical incidents, and they are very specialised in rescue cutting equipment. We have a line-rescue capability which is for rescuing people trapped maybe in high buildings, or even sub-surface incidents if we were to have a shaft or something to go down. At the moment, we are also in the process of introducing a water rescue facility on our FRUs as well, which means having a group of very, very specialist staff that have very specialised training in certain areas.

On 7 July, we committed all 10 FRUs to the four scenes, so there was a period of time, albeit relatively short, where we had no FRUs in reserve. Indeed, we staffed up a spare FRU at our training centre with operational firefighters, who were fire-rescue trained so that nobody was at any health and safety risk, and trainers to make sure that we had one in reserve. However, the resilience of our FRU fleet is certainly one of the learning points or issues that we are dealing with as a result of the debriefing process from 7 July.

Richard Barnes (Chair): You need more units and more trained staff, do you?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

Yes we do. We are making representations. Our Commissioner (Ken Knight) has a proposal going to the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) next week to increase our FRU fleet by another six units.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Will that imply another six crews? How many people need to be trained up to use it?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

That will be another 168 people in order to provide the proper crewing level in all of those units. Another 168 trained firefighters.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Six FRUs and 168 people. That is substantial growth.

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade): It is.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I think all of you have mentioned the use of the different communication equipment you have, and mention has been made of the Airwave system. How do you communicate between each other and what plans are there to improve that?

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