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When terror strikes in Brum

May 19 2006



An act of terrorism is something that most people try not to think about - but not West Midlands Police. Yesterday Neil Connor was on hand as officers showed how they would tackle such an atrocity.

A group of suicide bombers have detonated a series of bombs at a large concert hall staging a children's event in Birmingham city centre.

At least 50 people are dead and 200 are seriously injured.

There is carnage within the venue, and panic outside among the 50,000 or so revellers who were previously enjoying a night out.

Police officers have to act quickly. Public safety is the number one priority.

But moments later, before any plans can be put into action, a separate huge device has been detonated on the back of the lorry which is parked near the concert hall. A further 150 people have been killed and another 300 injured.

You have ten minutes to decide how to deal with this scenario. Ten minutes to make a decision that could either save the lives of hundreds of people, or put them in danger.

You are already faced with the devastation caused by at least four IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and a massive VBIED (Vehicle-Bourne Improvised Explosive Device). But timing is crucial. Why? To catch the terrorists? To remove the bodies? To gather evidence?

Not yet. The major task for police now is to protect the public from further carnage.

Terrorist attacks in Birmingham in 1974 and London last year are just two of the many examples of terrorists striking at more than one location to create maximum destruction and widespread confusion.

The city centre must be cordoned off. And the line should be far beyond the inner ring road. This is not just to save people from becoming victims from another bomb.

Emergency services need to get around the city centre, casualties brought out to hospitals and evidence gathered.

So it was with all this in mind that West Midlands Police yesterday invited local media, community organisations and other emergency services to try and understand the processes and difficulties facing the police when dealing with such an atrocity.

It was the first event of its kind ever held in the UK, and involved senior officers demonstrating to delegates how they attempt to minimise casualty lists and avoid terror attacks happening.

One of the main points emphasised was how things have changed in constabularies up and down the land since 9/11.

Specific police officers would previously investigate potential terror acts, but now the monitoring of suspected terrorist activity has become part and parcel of everyday police work. With experts predicting the current terrorist threat lasting for at least two generations, it is just too important and too large an issue to be left to the 'experts'.

"It is now fully integrated into everything we do. We cannot continue to let people do something just so we can catch them afterwards because it is too dangerous," a senior officer said yesterday.

Police also have specific departments and teams dealing with events during and after a major civil emergency.

A Casualty Bureau Investigation Unit would receive calls from distressed members of the public as it carries out the grim task of identifying victims.

A specific Bomb Scene Management Unit would work with the Counter Terrorist Support Unit to gather evidence and secure convictions of those responsible.

These are but a few of the dedicated professionals tasked with keeping us safe in our city.
 
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