Could terror attack training in Blackpool help authorities learn from Manchester Arena failings?

  • Video report by Will Tullis

Authorities are hoping a terror attack training exercise held in Blackpool will help them learn from failings at the Manchester Arena attack.

Emergency services closed down the promenade on Thursday to allow police, fire and ambulance to prepare a joint response to a serious incident.

More than 300 volunteers - playing the roles of civilians caught up in a terror incident - were also involved, with some wearing bandages and being carried on stretchers in and around Blackpool Tower.

Guns were carried and blank rounds fired as a specialist firearms team simulated the worst case scenario - a terror in a crowded public place.

The training was meant to take place in 2019 but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities stressed it was not in response to the latest Manchester Arena Inquiry findings, which found severe failings with Greater Manchester emergency services and their response on the night of the attack.

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson of Lancashire Constabulary told ITV News that authorities nationwide would learn from those failings.

"The chair of the public inquiry has made a number of criticisms and observations about the response of the emergency services", he said.

"Nationally, policing are coordinating the response to that with focus and at speed with chief officers in every force in the country working determinedly to put in place and get the learning from that to improve how emergency services respond to major incidents in future."

Assistant Chief Constable Peter Lawson told ITV News authorities nationwide would learn from emergency services failings at the Manchester Arena attack

Greater Manchester services weren't involved in Thursday's exercise, which was lead by Lancashire's Local Resilience Forum.

They held a similar joint terror response training exercise in 2016 - a year before the Manchester Arena attack - which was called a "disaster" by the Manchester Arena Inquiry chair, Sir John Saunders after Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service turned up 90 minutes late to the simulation.

Michael Lawlor, a liaison officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), said after this exercise that police had focused on "neutralising the situation", rather than on what fire and ambulance services needed to do.

During the arena attack a year later, firefighters similarly did not arrive on scene until two hours after the bombing.

Some Blackpool residents were encouraged by the exercise, including Lewis who said: "I think it's a really good thing to do.

"[It's good that] the locals get to see it and that there's a presence...[and] that they're training for it ready for it to come if it ever happens, which, touch wood, I hope not."

Lewis from Blackpool told ITV News that seeing this kind of training made him feel safer

For many families who have lost loved ones to terror, exercises like this one will feel too little too late, but hopefully, this kind of training will help prevent more tragedy in future.

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