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7 July London Bombings Review
We spoke earlier this week regarding the review carried out by the 7 July Review Committee at the London Assembly
I understand that the Committee initially restricted its work to the actual communications issues surrounding the events on 7 July, but subsequently examined related matters linked to the support that was made available to those affected. I understand that the Authority has a copy of the review of the British Red Cross response to the London bombings, carried out by an external consultant, Melanie Henwood.
The Melanie Henwood report sets out clearly what we did on the day and subsequently. However, I thought it would be helpful if I highlighted some of the communications difficulties we faced in the aftermath; these problems impacted adversely on awareness of the support that was available to those directly affected by the bombings. I will also summarise what we are currently doing to provide improved support services in the event of a similar incident occurring the future – whether in London or elsewhere in the UK.
To put our response into context, the aim of the British Red Cross is to help people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global network of volunteer based organisations that respond to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.
As you may know, the British Red Cross has an officially recognised role as an auxiliary to the UK public authorities in the humanitarian field. Consequently, we worked with the emergency services, local authorities and several different government departments to provide help to those affected by the 7 July London bombings.
The Red Cross was involved from the outset in helping set up, then manage, the Family Assistance Centre on behalf of Westminster City Council, and at the same time coordinated the voluntary sector provision at the Centre. Our communications team supported Westminster City Council, who led communications activities about the Centre.
A key associated feature of the support arrangements for those affected by the bombings was the provision of a telephone support line (or ‘helpline’) which was established at the Red Cross UK Office here in the City of London within a couple of days, following discussions with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The purpose of the telephone support line was to provide information about the Family Assistance Centre (later known as the ‘Assistance Centre’), and to give practical and emotional support via a telephone line to anyone who needed it. Whilst we had the technical capability to open sooner, we delayed opening the support line until day six, to coincide with the opening of the Assistance Centre at the Royal Horticultural Halls and, more importantly, to ensure that calls destined for the police casualty bureau were not made to the support line. This strategy was agreed with the Metropolitan Police Service at one of the ‘Gold’ strategic co-ordinating meetings I attended at New Scotland Yard.
On the day the Assistance Centre and support line opened, we took measures to communicate the existence of the Centre and the line via the national broadcast and print media. These measures included lobbying newsrooms and journalists, issuing press notices and contacting the Government News Network. Although initially there was widespread media coverage of the availability of the support services we had established, thereafter coverage was considerably less. We therefore took the decision to place advertisements in all the national and key regional newspapers on a number of occasions, many of which were paid for by the Red Cross. I subsequently raised this issue a meeting of the London Media Emergency Forum.
One practical action to address the need to communicate the availability of support services effectively that the Committee may wish to consider is how local authorities and the Red Cross can work better with commercial directors and advertising leads at broadcast and print media houses. That way, in times of major emergency, it may be possible for advertising space or on air promotion, to be donated at no cost. This is important because we recognise that where the media is denied access to a support service (for quite legitimate reasons), sustaining editorial coverage is extremely difficult.
We have built on our experience of providing a telephone support line for those affected by the July 7 bombings, and previous lines set up for HM Government in response to the 9/11 terror attacks in the USA, and the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, and are making significant progress. We are developing a number of other locations across the UK where a support line facility can be provided on Red Cross premises and staffed by appropriately train staff and volunteers (from the Red Cross and other relevant voluntary groups – such as the Samaritans and the Salvation Army). We also in the process of installing communications facilities so that these centres can be linked up in a major emergency so that additional call-handlers will be quickly available. At the same time we are engaging with the police service and PITO (Police Information Technology Organisation) to explore how such a telephone support line can be quickly linked with a police casualty bureau operation. Our objective is to be able to provide a support line service as quickly as the police casualty bureau is up and running.
I believe we are making real progress towards providing an essential support service to those who may sadly be affected by a major emergency. Support needs to be available quickly and it is our intention to be able to meet this urgent need in a timely manner.
With best wishes
Tony Thompson Head of UK Emergency Response & Resilience
Statement by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The London Chamber of Commerce believes the chronic lack of preparedness on the part of small firms is the greatest avoidable threat in the capital today. Firms should be aware that contingency plans to combat a terrorist attack can be identical to those required to withstand natural disasters such as a flood or operational failures such as power outages.
All companies need to prepare a recovery plan to cover disasters such as IT and utility failures, terrorist attacks, fraud, sabotage, theft, extreme flooding and fire. From our surveys of London businesses, we have found that 84 per cent of firms think another terror attack is inevitable, yet only just over half have a contingency plan in place. Similarly, LCCI research has shown that more than a fifth of firms do not have sufficient working capital in place to enable them to survive an outbreak of avian flu lasting 12 weeks – the typical length of time which a pandemic lasts.
One of the major difficulties is that SMEs do not have the time, resources or expertise in-house to be able to set up contingency measures. The LCCI has gone some way to address this problem. In September 2005, we produced a Director’s briefing on crisis management and business continuity planning and we have also hosted a half day seminar on ‘Contingency Planning for Natural, Criminal and Terrorist Disasters’ which was hosted by General Sir Michael Rose. Our guidance on these matters comes from consultation with the LCCI's ‘Defence and Security’ and ‘Crime and Business Risk’ committees, many of whose membership have considerable professional experience of counter terrorism and advising businesses on contingency planning.
We have also called for the creation of a ‘buddy’ system where SMEs can minimise the potential cost of contingency planning. SMEs could approach large organisations based nearby to help them to remain operational in the aftermath of a serious disruption to business.
Letter from Jonathan Richards, Editorial Director, Chrysalis News – LBC News 1152/LBC 97.3/Heart 106.2 – 7 March 2006
The Chrysalis newsroom based in W10 produces news for Heart 106.2, LBC News 1152 and LBC 97.3. These three radio stations have a combined audience of around 2.6 million listeners in London.
On July 7 one of the major challenges facing us as we tried to relay information about the terrorist attacks was communication with our reporters. It was vital logistically to get important personal security messages to them, and ensure they were kept up to date with official information regarding the safety of the public. The near collapse of the mobile network made communication with our radio car and reporters on foot very difficult.
I know that the July 7 review committee is looking to learn from the experiences of those directly involved on the day. I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee recently. I would like to ask that full consideration is given for the need for key media to be given ACCOLC access in times of crisis such as July 7. None of us know the possible consequences of a future attack, ACCOLC access would provide an important communication safety net for a newsroom which has a pivotal role to play in communicating life and death messages to the public. In a national or regional crisis where power supply is disrupted it will be radio which the public will rely on. Given that the Government and Police ask the public to ‘stay in and tune in’ at times of crisis, this advice would seem to be undermined if radio stations cannot communicate with their own reporters.
I hope my comments can be included as part of your final report.
Jonathan Richards Editorial Director Chrysalis News – LBC News 1152/LBC 97.3/Heart 106.2
Email message from Ben Taylor, Daily Mail
From the media's point of view, there was some frustration in the facilities provided at the QE centre. While they were initially impressive - telephones and coffee were supplied
- they were often withdrawn at odd moments without any notice. QE staff were often unaware of our requirements or unhelpful. Phones would mysteriously stop working and equipment, including reporters' lap tops, were collected and taken away for 'security reasons' even though they had already been scanned etc. After several days, they were withdrawn altogether which was probably fair enough because the initial flurry of activity had slowed.
It seems to me you either have a facility there or you don't. If you do, it has to be run
like a proper press room - ie with easy access and good phone links with straightforward
If you don't have a facility then we'll go elsewhere.
But there's no point in saying there is a facility and then not running it properly.
One suggestion was that the press room at Scotland Yard could have been opened up
to reporters. But I suspect that this would be vetoed on the ground of 'security' and the
fact that we would need to be supervised.
All the best,
Абдурахманов М. И., Баришполец В. А., Манилов В. Л., Пирумов В. С. Геополитика и национальная безопасность. Словарь основных терминов...
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