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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Crisis website keeps city moving
By Emma Griffiths
BBC News website, London

London Prepared website
The site provides general advice, and live emergency information
As a report into lessons learned from the 7 July bombings is published, emergency planners have revamped the website aimed at keeping London moving in the event of another catastrophe.

The new-look website is a recognition by emergency planning body, London Resilience, of the internet's importance in providing information during a catastrophe.

In the scramble for information as events unfolded on 7 July 2005, there was a five-fold increase in visitors to the BBC News website.

Transport for London counted a six-fold increase to its website and there was a huge upsurge in visitors to the Metropolitan Police and London Ambulance sites.

Meanwhile other methods of communication proved more troublesome; the phone network was jammed with people trying to find out if their families were all right.

As much of central London shut to traffic, electronic motorway signs could only flash the brief warning "London closed" - as messages have to be kept short for safety reasons.

In this day and age, the internet is where people primarily get their information and it's important we keep in step with that demand
Lorraine Shepherd
London Resilience

The Home Office report into lessons learned on 7 July 2005 pointed to the importance of "providing timely information to the public" to reassure and help people caught up in events.

"In an emergency, the rapid distribution of clear, accurate and actionable information to the public is essential," it said.

"There was a clear need on 7 July for regular updates as the situation developed so that the public could decide how and when to go home."

Now London Resilience hopes people will turn to its revamped website for information in any emergency - ranging from a terrorist attack, drought, flood or flu pandemic.

Lessons learned

In less fraught times, it aims to keep individuals and businesses in London up-to-date with the latest work done by the team, and advise them on how best to be prepared.

Current advice available includes preparing businesses for a flu pandemic, saving water to prevent the "real threat" of drought, protecting computers against hackers and viruses and staying safe when out at night in London.

But it is during an emergency that those behind the website expect it to prove most popular.

Lorraine Shepherd, acting director of the London Resilience team, said improving public information was one of the lessons that had come out of the 7 July bombings.

They also needed to comply with a requirement within the Civil Contingency Act, which came into force last November, to provide "warning and information".

She told the BBC News website: "I think in this day and age, the internet is where people primarily get their information from and it's important we keep in step with that demand. "

"We hope that it will reassure Londoners that we are as prepared as we possibly can be in the face of a whole range of possible emergencies."

Communities Minister Phil Woolas added: "We want to encourage Londoners to make this website one of their favourites and to use it as a source of live information, both before and during an emergency."




SEE ALSO
Remembering the panic of 7 July
03 Nov 05 |  London
Record traffic to BBC News site
11 Jul 05 |  Technology

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