[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Is London ready for another 7/7?
By Emma Griffiths
BBC News, London

Firefighters at Aldgate
The emergency services are proud of their response to 7 July
When London was bombed on 7 July 2005, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds more, it was an attack for which emergency services had spent years planning.

A co-ordinating body, London Resilience, had been formed in the wake of the 11 September 2001.

Concrete blocks went up around Parliament, the "ring of steel" around the Square Mile - was widened, and hundreds of 999 services staff took part in a simulated chemical attack on the Tube at Bank.

By March 2004, then Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens was warning an attack on London was "inevitable".

The scale of planning before the attacks helped rescuers mount what the London Assembly described as an "outstanding response", hundreds of rescuers have been commended for their actions.

But the sheer scale of four attacks at different sites, three of which were simultaneous and underground, created confusion, stretched supplies, and put pressure on an outdated communications system.

One year on, all services are proud of their response on 7 July 2005. But most say lessons were learnt on 7 July and changes are being made to make them even better prepared.

LONDON ASSEMBLY

The London Assembly conducted its own inquiry into lessons to be learned from the emergency services response to the 7 July bombings, which published its report in June.

Richard Barnes, chairman of the review committee, told the BBC News website there had been "massive progress" since the attacks.

I don't look over my shoulder
Richard Barnes

The ambulance service had a new emergency control suite, the fire service now had satellite phones, mobile phone companies had learned to work better together and the 0870 casualty bureau number had now been changed to a freephone number.

Mr Barnes had concerns about the speed at which the underground communications system was being rolled out, but said all services involved were better prepared.

Asked if London was ready in the event of another attack, he said: "Absolutely, I travel on the Tube on a daily basis and I don't look over my shoulder."

METROPOLITAN POLICE

Since 7 July 2005, Scotland Yard believes it has foiled three, possibly four, attacks but cannot be certain of stopping them all.

The threat is still high and the force is said to be running "at or near capacity". The Metropolitan Police says it is being forced to act to thwart attacks much sooner than it ever would have done before.

One of the criticisms levelled at 999 services, including the Metropolitan Police, on 7 July was an over-reliance on mobile phones to communicate between sites and Gold commanders.

The Met still does not have an Airwave radio system - compatible with the Connect network being installed on London Underground - but is due to be installed by 2008.

Met Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown said he did not think communications hindered police response on the day and they managed to work around any problems.

While stressing the police and its partners were ready for an attack, he said steps had been taken to strengthen their response.

Until Airwave was in place, he said radio communications had been reviewed to ensure a more effective use of those radio devices that do work underground.

The casualty bureau - emergency phone operators - has been increased to cope with the high volume of calls. Mr Brown said operators handled 45,000 calls during the first hour of 7 July.

Help and assistance to survivors of an attack and friends and family of casualties in the aftermath of an attack would be improved.

CITY OF LONDON POLICE

Ch Supt Alex Robertson said the force was "no stranger" to terrorist attacks and had been well prepared for events - but there was "always an opportunity to learn from previous experience".

The force, criticised for shutting down the O2 network to the public around Aldgate Tube to relieve pressure of the system, said its own communications were now greatly improved.

It adopted the Airwave digital radio system on 6 June 2006.

BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE

The only force to have digital radios on 7 July 2005, has instead made other changes to improve its response.

It has taken on more staff and carried out ten times as many stop and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act in the last 12 months.

A handful of officers are now based with the anti-terrorist branch at New Scotland Yard to strengthen links, it has stepped up undercover work, equipped all its vehicles with trauma and first aid kits and is training staff to identify suspicious behaviour in crowds.

"Whilst there is no intelligence to suggest another attack at this time, the thousands of pairs of eyes and ears out there are a hugely valuable resource for us in safeguarding London," said BTP deputy chief constable Andy Trotter.

LONDON AMBULANCE SERVICE

Paramedics worked in difficult conditions to save as many people as they could on 7 July. The LAS treated and transported more than 400 patients from all the bomb sites within three hours.

Paramedics arrive at Edgware Road
London Ambulance Service treated hundreds of patients

But the service concedes it faced communication problems - particularly an over-reliance on mobile phones - which helped delay some ambulances and meant one hospital was overloaded with "walking wounded", while there were spaces at others.

There were also problems getting enough equipment and medical supplies to several sites.

Since 7 July, LAS managers have been given radio pagers and the "incident control room" has been reconfigured to allow for multiple, simultaneous attacks.

A new national digital radio system will be introduced in summer 2007 and fully operational by early 2008. In the meantime, from July operational managers are being given digital radio handsets.

The amount of equipment carried on emergency support vehicles has also been reviewed and more supplies are being carried on 25 training officer vehicles.

LONDON FIRE BRIGADE

The LFB's experiences during the 30-year IRA campaign, and preparations since 11 September 2001, meant its response to the London attacks was well rehearsed.

It was among services said to have suffered communication problems - the London Assembly report said fire fighters had to use people running up and down escalators to get information.

But Ken Knight, the commissioner for fire and emergency planning, has said in fact it was a single hand-held radio at King's Cross, not the entire system, which was faulty.

The LFB is due to get a Tetra-based digital radio system by March 2007 - but the commissioner has said that although a more modern radio would be beneficial, it would "not be immune from attack".

A spokesman said there would always be lessons to learn, but added: "We are confident though that the London Fire Brigade will continue to be ready and prepared to protect Londoners in the event of another major incident."

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON

Staff were praised for their actions on 7 July and many have since received awards for bravery. TfL has said it was proud of the speed and professionalism of its response.

Connect radio box
The Connect system is being installed throughout the Tube
But they had to work with an underground radio system so old, London Underground often has to source spare parts from museums and radio enthusiasts.

The emergency services could not patch in, and central control could send out only one message at a time throughout the network: "Code Amber: Pull into your nearest station".

LU is rolling out a new system for the Tube called Connect, linking trains, stations and depots - which would allow digital radios known as Tetras to be used underground by police and rescue services.

Connect is already installed on the East London Line, will be on three more lines by November 2006 and should be completed by August 2007.

The emergency services are expected to be able to "patch in" within 18 months. Hundreds of miles of cables have already been laid and staff are being trained but by the time it is fully operational it will be three and a half years late.

TfL said the new Connect system would also improve communications between people trapped on trains and rescuers but warned no system would be immune from the effect of an explosion.

NHS

NHS organisations in London were well prepared for an attack on the capital, freeing up more than 1,000 beds in the city to care for the injured.

Julie Dent
As with any large-scale emergency, there are lessons to be learned from our response on 7 July
Julie Dent
But there was some criticism that only hospitals with casualty departments were put on alert, while some nearby hospitals - such as Great Ormond Street, which is near Russell Square - were not.

Since 7 July, the NHS Emergency Planning Team has held a major exercise testing its response, once again, in the event of several big attacks on London.

It says the Great Ormond Street situation should not arise again, as now there are systems in place enabling all hospitals in London to be alerted to an emergency.

Julie Dent, who co-ordinated London's NHS response on 7 July, said NHS staff could be proud of their actions on 7 July.

She added: "However, as with any large-scale emergency, there are lessons to be learned from our response on 7 July. We are reviewing current policy and developing plans to improve communication systems across the London NHS".




RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific