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Lessons learned from counter-terror exercise

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Lessons have been learned and actions already taken following a major cross-border counter-terror training exercise last year.

Exercise Border Reiver, which was more than a year in the planning, took place last October across central and eastern Scotland and the Northumbria Police force area. The ‘live-play scenario’ started with a simulated vehicle attack at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters at Gogarburn, near Edinburgh.

No official report has yet been published by the Home Office, but an update was given to councillors on Northumberland’s county emergency committee last week, based on internal feedback and the local debrief by Northumbria Police.

Ian Clough, the county’s civil contingencies manager, told the meeting that the Major Incident Activation Protocol ‘did not work well on the first morning with messages not being picked up in the way they should’.

This has now been reviewed and republished, while improvements have also been identified for the likes of the so-called Strategic and Tactical Coordination Groups as well as the incident support room at Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters at West Hartford.

Liaising with the media when so many different agencies are involved also needs to be reviewed; the exercise involved Police Scotland, Northumbria Police, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Ambulance Service, North East Ambulance Service, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services, Transport Scotland, NHS Scotland, NHS England, the Ministry of Defence, and City of Edinburgh, Angus and Northumberland County Councils.

Mr Clough said that there are also areas that were not fully explored during the operation – recovery and restoration after the incident, a county-council lead role; the role of the coroner; and the role of town and parish councils.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley said that there was talk about running exercises 24/7 rather than just during the day, but this ‘becomes very difficult logistically and very, very expensive’.

Councillors also heard that all of the county council’s emergency plans have been reviewed and republished. This work is done on a regular basis, but a whole-scale review of civil contingencies arrangements was carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in London.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service