What went well – and what didn’t – has been set out in an independent report into the emergency response to the Manchester suicide bomb attack.
The Kerslake review was set up by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham after the May 22, 2017 attack, which left 22 dead, hundreds injured and thousands affected. The panel was tasked with identifying the major issues for learning. It was chaired by Lord Bob Kerslake, the former Head of the Civil Service; and panel members included Alan Goodwin, a former Derbyshire Deputy Chief Constable.
The report said that staff at the Arena ‘made a positive difference and that, without their contributions, the response would have been diminished. The Panel recognises that [venue management company] SMG, Showsec and EMT-UK personnel went above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance and that many of them attended to casualties in the foyer to the best of their abilities, putting aside concern for their own safety …’
Mark Harding, MD of event security and stewarding contractor Showsec , spoke at the Security TWENTY 18 event at Nottingham in February and is featured in the April 2018 print issue of Professional Security.
The report spoke of how ‘mmany unsung heroes played an important role in providing first aid, care and reassurance and in assisting with moving people from the foyer to the Casualty Clearing Station’. While some of the 14,000 people who were at the Arena on the night of the attack spoke of insufficient police beforehand, the report said that there was nothing revealed during the pre-concert risk assessment to indicate a heightened risk on the night. The Arena operating company, SMG, had participated in multi-agency counter-terrorism exercises, and the panel concluded that assisted SMG’s response on the night. The panel heard from many that the support provided at the Etihad worked well and the report said this was ‘largely a result of clear empowered leadership at the venue and the existence of a rehearsed plan’. The report praised JESIP, the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme.
Lord Kerslake said: “The Manchester Arena attack was devastating for many thousands of people. We must think first and always of the families of those who have been bereaved, those injured, and all those affected by this act of terror. We have ensured that their views have been front and centre throughout this process. There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack, both for the city region of Greater Manchester, and for the emergency services. The benefits of collaborative working and planning for emergencies were demonstrated to the full. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual acts of bravery and selflessness.
“But it’s also vital to learn the lessons around things that did not go so well. It matters not just for the people of Greater Manchester and beyond who were caught up in the terrible events of that night, but also for places that might be caught up in such an attack in the future. I would like to thank all of those who contributed to this report. There was honesty, there was soul-searching, and there was a determination that their insight would benefit others in the future.”
Areas that went well included:
– Investment in emergency planning meant people were generally able to act with a high degree of confidence.
– Actions by individuals and organisations on the night demonstrated enormous bravery and compassion.
– Good judgement was exercised by was exercised key emergency personnel at critical points during the evening.
– civic response was exceptional.
– Vital support and comfort was provided by family liaison officers and bereavement nurses.
– removal of the deceased from the Arena was treated with care and sensitivity.
As for ‘lessons to learn’ the review points to the ‘complete failure’ of a National Mutual Aid Telephony system provided by Vodafone. This caused much distress on the night to families frantically seeking to find out more about their loved ones. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service ( GMFRS) did not arrive at the scene for nearly two hours, due to poor comms and poor procedures. The panel heard that almost every organisation found that improvements needed to be made in ability to communicate within the organisation and externally. Comments about the police ‘helpline’ (the Greater Manchester Police Casualty Bureau) were ‘universally negative with many respondents telling of their frustration at repeatedly ringing the line and being asked for the same information every time’.
The panel was shocked and dismayed by the accounts of the families of their experiences with some of the media. They spoke of being ‘hounded’ and of a ‘lack of respect’; such as ‘sneaky’ attempts to take photos when families were receiving bad news. For families to have experienced such intrusive and overbearing behaviour at a time of such vulnerability was unacceptable, the panel said. The review said that the impact of social media was considerable, accelerating the pace at which information on individual families became more widely available.
Among recommendations, the report suggests ‘major transport hubs and public venues should possess and provide immediate access to basic frameless canvas stretchers to enable rapid movement and evacuation of casualties’.
The full, 226-page report is at https://www.kerslakearenareview.co.uk/ .
GMP Chief Constable Ian Hopkins described the May 22 attack as a huge challenge ‘and when faced with an unprecedented situation everyone in GMP did their best to help all those affected’. He said: “This was a complex situation that required a huge response from GMP with the support of officers from across the UK and significant numbers of officers from the national counter terrorism policing network. The investigation is still underway and is working through more than 12,000 exhibits and has taken to date 2,000 statements.
Dawn Docx, Interim Chief Fire Officer, GMFRS, described May 22 2017 as Greater Manchester’s darkest hour ‘and it is clear that our response fell far short of that which the people of Greater Manchester have a right to expect. I apologise unreservedly for that’. For her response in full visit the GMFRS website.