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Reporting Back: Arena Bombing and the Fire Service

by burylibdems on 24 April, 2018

Last week was the regular monthly meeting of the Greater Manchester Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny Committee. This report is from the Liberal Democrat representative on the Committee,  Prestwich councillor Tim Pickstone.

Last week’s meeting mainly focussed on the very significant issues raised in the Kerslake Report into the 2017 Arena bombing terrorist incident and the response of the Fire Service. Amongst other things this Scrutiny Committee is responsible looking into the work of our local fire service.

A non- statutory independent review of the events and aftermath of the Manchester Arena Terrorist Attack were commissioned, chaired by cross-bench Peer Lord Kerslake. This Review has focused on Greater Manchesters’ preparedness for and response to the attack and the nine days that followed it.

The review has identified what a range of responding agencies did well on the night and during the following week that helped people as well as what could have been done better.

The Scrutiny Committee specifically focussed on the work of the fire service, with both the Elected Mayor (who is responsible for fire services) and the Acting Fire Commander there to answer questions from councillors.

As people will have read in the media, the significant issue was the time between Greater Manchester Fire being alerted of an incident, and attending the scene at Manchester Victoria, which was almost two hours.

A full report and timeline is here.

Some of the issues raised by councillors included:

  • Issues of seemingly poor communications between the Fire Service and other emergency services, and more can be done to ensure that this works better in the future.
  • Issues around morale in the fire service, and whether working practices can be updated.
  • Lessons learnt from the fire service in updating its own procedures in dealing with bombs.
  • How the lessons learnt in Greater Manchester were already being taken to make change in procedures nationally.

I asked specifically about the issue of the procedure of the Fire Service (and this is Government guidance not a Greater Manchester procedure) that in the event of a shooting terrorist attack to withdraw to a ‘safe distance’ of 0.5km. I asked how Fire Service was developing its thinking on the balance between the need to protect fire fighters, with the need to protect the public. This is not a simple issue but I feel that we need to think about how the public would be protected in a major incident in the future, where 0.5km would cover a large part of our city centre.

 

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