'Self preservation and denial' stopping terror victims from getting answers, disaster expert claims

  • Professor Lucy Easthope spoke to ITV Granada Reports presenter Lucy Meacock

Britain's leading disaster expert has said more needs to be done to keep public venues safe from terror and tragedy.

Professor Lucy Easthope, a global advisor in emergency planning and disaster recovery, told Granada Reports: "There are lessons out there that still need to be learned."

She added: "I always say there are two sounds in the immediate aftermath of tragedy the sirens and the shredders.

"It is very, very hard to come to terms with. To constantly see self-preservation, denial, othering of the victim, and just a massive effort - effort that could have been put in to preventing an incident - put into conspiring."

Prof Easthope spoke to Granada as Manchester marks seven years since a terrorist attack at the Arena following an Ariana Grande concert left 22 dead and hundreds injured.

Prof Easthope grew up in Liverpool and was inspired into a career in public safety following the events at Hillsborough in 1989.

She said: "I know that the families and those affected by all of these incidents, and I know that the public want me to say 'yes, enough is being done', but the answer is no, not nearly enough is being done," she told Lucy Meacock.

"Several of the major recommendations of the Arena Inquiry are still not not there yet."

The 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack. Credit: ITV News/Family handouts

Prof Easthope also called for more trust to be given to local communities who feel like injustice has been carried out.

She said: "The families and communities are often so intuitive. They often know exactly what originally went wrong, and sometimes they’re quite forgiving of that in the early stages.

"They understand these events are messy and complex, and particularly with terror… they’re up for honesty at that point.

"But what happens is, as the cover up continues over time, they lose any faith they had in the responders."

Prof Easthope is a Professor in Practice of Risk and Hazard at the University of Durham and Fellow in Mass Fatalities and Pandemics at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath.

While she has seen evidence which suggests state agencies do work together better in the aftermath of a terror incident, she has also seen incident commanders "struggling to believe they'll be in the hot seat" and in some cases "struggling with declaring a major incident".

"We went into the early 2000s with agencies particularly police and fire and ambulance not working terribly well together," she said.

"We've worked so hard to fix that. We have seen venue improvement. We have seen security improvement.

"Where we've stalled is around things like first aid and public awareness."

Making the public aware of what they can do in the aftermath of an incident; how they can assist the emergency services and even provide first aid are among the measures which could help Britain respond better, the professor said.

"So we aren't having true honest conversations about what it takes to lead in these sort of incidents, and what resources are needed to prepare us," she added.

"I think the public is screaming out for authenticity, for difficult honesty, for 'tell us the truth'.

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