A training exercise to test the response of emergency services to a terrorist attack has been held in Newcastle.
The exercise was held at the Central Station Metro Station in the early hours of Wednesday (June 6) and led by Northumbria Police.
It was seven months in the planning and involved North East Ambulance Service, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue, Newcastle City Council, Nexus (operators of the Metro), British Transport Police, Public Health England, Network Rail, Virgin Trains, Counter Terrorism Policing North East, NHS England North Cumbria and North East and other partners.
The exercise concluded at about 4.30am, with no disruption to services.
The scenario saw the emergency services respond to an explosion on the Metro Station platform, with agencies tasked with locating suspects, protecting the public and rescuing casualties. The exercise continues in a table-top capacity into today and tomorrow, to fully test the ongoing recovery process which would be in place.
All those involved are keen to point out there was no particular significance behind the decision to hold the exercise in the area.
Assistant Chief Constable Helen McMillan, from Northumbria Police, observed the exercise.
She said: “It is important that the emergency services and other agencies train together in order to test our collective response to major incidents and offer reassurance to the communities we serve.
“I was pleased with the swift and professional actions of all partners, which shows everyone is committed to ensuring we are fully prepared should the worst happen in our area.
“I would like to stress that this was a pre-planned exercise and there is no particular significance behind the decision to hold it in our region, or indeed to use the Metro and Central Station above any other crowded place.
“The tragic events of recent times have shown us that attacks can occur at any time or place and without warning. Northumbria Police is committed to providing the best possible protection for its communities and these routine, pre-planned exercises are a vital part of reviewing our contingency plans.
“The UK threat level is Severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. In the current climate it is essential to take practical, precautionary measures wherever possible to enhance our security and the effectiveness of the emergency services in dealing with a range of incidents.”
Assistant Chief Constable McMillan added: “A great deal of planning and preparation went into this exercise and I would like to thank everyone who was involved. While the majority of the exercise was carried out away from public view, I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation and apologise to anyone who may have been inconvenienced by the activity.”
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Officer Alan Robson said: “Testing and challenging ourselves, our procedures and equipment are an essential part of our role.
“Participation in multi-agency exercises of this scale not only provide reassurance to our communities but deliver excellent learning opportunities for all emergency services involved.
“I’d like to thank all those who participated, particularly our colleagues in Northumbria Police, NEAS and partners from the Local Resilience Forum for the outstanding collaborative work culminating in the exercise today.”
Andy Sessford, from the Resilience Team at North East Ambulance Service, said: “Exercises like this provide a great opportunity to test how we would respond together with our partners.
“This one has provided a safe environment to allow us to gain valuable knowledge and understanding of multi-agency roles while dealing with a realistic, complex incident.
“It is also a fantastic opportunity to use our specialist skills training within the hazardous area response team.”
Chris Carson, Metro Services Director, said: “This exercise is an important test of our ability to react to an incident, no matter how serious.
“By working with other agencies we are able to test and strengthen the continual training we do with our staff around safety and security for the Metro system and our passengers.”
Councillor Nick Kemp, Cabinet member for the Environment at Newcastle City Council, said: “Being part of this type of exercise is vital to ensure our staff are fully prepared to the highest standard if any incident occurs, no matter how serious.
“This exercise has helped staff across Newcastle City Council develop a stronger understanding of our responsibilities and responses in such a situation.
“Our priority is to continue to develop skills, knowledge and experiences that will help keep our residents safe.”
Alison Slater, Chair of Northumbria Local Resilience Forum Strategic Board and Director of Commissioning for NHS England in North Cumbria and the North East, said: “The tragic events over the last year have been a testament to the commitment and professionalism of NHS staff and other emergency services, and of the extraordinary work they do during major incidents. It is at times like this that the importance of partnership working comes to the fore.
“Exercises like this are not only important to test emergency procedures within individual organisations, but also our ability to work effectively as part of a multi-agency response. I welcome opportunities like this to continually learn and enhance our joint working in order to protect and support our local communities.”