It’s not always easy to find a ray of sunshine in the dark clouds which follow from an attack like the bombing at the Women’s Hospital yesterday. Naturally we focus on the horror and the immediate concerns for the safety of all concerned. Then we look for the actions being taken to apprehend those who caused the problem.
But there is a huge ray of sunshine and that is in the way that our public sector services showed their professionalism yesterday in dealing with the complex and alarming situation as it unfolded.
Yesterday, I attended the Remembrance Service at the Anglican Cathedral. I was there with a wide range of people including our Mayor, Lord Mayor, Chief Executive, Chief Fire Officer and Chief Constable. There is speculation that this group might have been the bomber’s original target but that is just speculation, and we should all wait to hear what the police have to say.
After the service was over, we were to told to wait in our place at the front of the Cathedral so that the marchers could line up to file past us. This became a little delayed and we were told there was a medical incident. This was true but what we did not know was that there were also the actions taken place at the Women’s Hospital.
I used the time by talking to people about the city and what a great day it had been and looked around because I wanted to talk to the Chief Constable and the Chief Fire Officer. They weren’t there and I just assumed that they had other things to do. It later became apparent that they had been spirited out of the Cathedral by a side door and were already at the Women’s which is minutes away.
Within 10 minutes the whole of the parade had been rerouted and we watched them from the much more secure main entrance to the Cathedral instead of the much less secure side entrance. Apparently, this Plan B was already in existence just in case it was needed.
Just in case……That is something that councils and emergency services spend a lot of time preparing for but hope will never happen. They try and answer the ‘what if’ questions about natural or man-made disasters. It rarely goes according to either plan A or plan B but the incessant attention to detail and the training comes into its own as the actions unfold.
For the rest of the day the what ifs were answered and upgraded by the 3 blue lights emergency services and by the Council.
The Police and Fire Service both of whom were present within 4 minutes of the alarm being given were present all day starting the forensic examination after the Fire Service had made the area safe.
The Army’s ordnance division was summoned to assess the safety of the situation. What a job they have. Very literally putting themselves in places where there may well be dangerous devices.
The Police poured out onto the streets to give a very clear and welcomed reassuring presence.
Acting on information they went to parts of Kensington and Greenbank to search premises and make arrests. They released no information about their suspicions of what was the reason for the bomb and who it’s targets might have been. Nor should they. The Police must do things according to the book otherwise they might prejudice not only investigations but also prosecutions.
The Council staff worked throughout the evening in difficult conditions to help the residents affected by the Police actions. Shelters were open for those that needed them. Later the Council put people into hotels if they hadn’t made their own arrangements for the night with friends and family.
I was invited to a briefing at 4.30 from the Chief Fire Officer and the Chief Constable so that I could play my part in explaining what they were doing to the people who were emailing and messaging me.
I have been invited to another briefing later today from all the services which will NOT deal with the questions around who and why, but they will deal with the logistics that the Council, Police and Fire Service will put in place to take things further with the investigation and all the things that will flow from it.
I was proud to be part of the public sector yesterday. On a day that we were reminded that ordinary people can do by former Lance Corporal Craig Lundbergh who lost his sight serving his Country in Basra. Every day our Police and Fire Service men and women go out and do not know what dangers they will face or what atrocities they will see.
Normally it won’t be terrorism, but they might both be working together to resolve issues at the scene of fatal fires or car accidents. Any day the Police, who have become an easy target, put themselves in situations where they put the needs of the public before the needs of themselves. As Craig reminded us yesterday its not only them but their families who wait at home who might have to pay the sacrifice.
So today I hope that you will join with me in saying a very big thank you to the everyday heroism and dedication of those who work in difficult circumstances to keep the rest of safe and cared for.