Manchester’s Fire Service says that it let people down on the night of the Manchester Arena attack, saying that it was “out of the loop” and revealing that it took more than two hours to respond to the attack.
The behaviour of the media towards the families of some of the victims have also been criticised in an independent report by Lord Bob Kerslake as well.
The review was established by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham after suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated an explosive Manchester Arena in May last year, 22 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured.
The report says that the fire service were sent to a rendezvous point three miles away amid fears that there was a marauding terror attack and they would not be safe.
Greater Manchester fire and rescue service (GMFRS) and the north-west fire control both accept they “let down the people of Greater Manchester and other visitors to the city that night”,
Actions of the Arena staff and members of the public were praised in the report along with key emergency personnel including the police and the ambulance service.
Good judgement was exercised by key emergency personnel at critical points during the evening says the report while the civic response was praised as outstanding by Lord Kerslake, praising the strength of the civic leadership having a profound influence in the days following the attack.
The report also praises the vital support and comfort was provided by family liaison officers and bereavement nurses. and the removal of the deceased from the arena was treated with care and sensitivity.
The story of the response is overwhelming responsive said Lord Kerslake, but he recognises that the media will focus on the things that went wrong.
The Fire Service, he said, had little idea of what was going on in the hours after the attack, a combination of poor communications and proceedures.
Vodophone is also criticised in the report, its operation of the National Mutual Aid Telephony system operated byexperienced a “catastrophic failure”, This caused significant stress and upset on the night to the families involved, who were “reduced to a frantic search around the hospitals of Greater Manchester to find out more”.
The report believes that Vodophone should apologise directly to the families.
The panel were shocked by hearing of some of the experience of the families from the media.” The behaviour of some of the press fell well below that of the editors code” said Lord Kerslake.
Families spoke of being ‘hounded’ and of a ‘lack of respect’. The panel believes that for families to have experienced such intrusive and overbearing behaviour at a time of such vulnerability was completely and utterly unacceptable.
Lord Kerslake said: “The Manchester Arena attack was devastating for many thousands of people. We must think first and always of the families of those who have been bereaved, those injured, and all those affected by this act of terror. We have ensured that their views have been front and centre throughout this process.
“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack, both for the city region of Greater Manchester, and for the emergency services. The benefits of collaborative working and planning for emergencies were demonstrated to the full. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual acts of bravery and selflessness.
“But it’s also vital to learn the lessons around things that did not go so well. It matters not just for the people of Greater Manchester and beyond who were caught up in the terrible events of that night, but also for places that might be caught up in such an attack in the future. “I would like to thank all of those who contributed to this report. There was honesty, there was soul-searching, and there was a determination that their insight would benefit others in the future.”
My thoughts today are with the families of the 22 people who lost their lives and all those who have been physically and psychologically affected. The families suffered a terrible loss but have shown great courage and with the first anniversary just eight weeks away this will be a difficult time for them.
From the moment we received the first call on 22 May 2017 about that barbaric act our actions have always been focused on supporting them. In those first few minutes the priority was to save lives while being aware there may be a further attack.
It was an immense and unprecedented situation that faced us and I am proud of the way the officers and staff of GMP responded that night and in the days, weeks and months that have followed. In the face of danger they ran into the Arena as others were running away, they experienced things that no-one should have to experience.
The public recognised what we achieved in responding to the attack and ensuring all the other later events could go ahead and we are eternally grateful for their support.
Lord Kerslake and the review team had a difficult job to do in reviewing the response in those first few days. There was so much we did in responding including dealing with the threat, managing the situation, supporting those affected and that includes many concerned people in our communities, armed patrols on the streets of Manchester, identifying those who had lost their lives and supporting their families and I could go on. Capturing the scale of the largest event GMP has ever had to deal with and the worst terror attack since the London bombings of 2005 was an almost impossible task.
This was a complex situation that required a huge response from GMP with the support of officers from across the UK and significant numbers of officers from the national counter terrorism policing network. The investigation is still underway and is working through more than 12,000 exhibits and has taken to date 2,000 statements.
We have detailed plans in place to respond to major incidents and terror attacks. These provide a framework to support decision making in the response to an incident but at the end of the day we have to deal with the situation that faces us. On 22 May 2017 we had a terror attack, many casualties and the possibilities of further attacks. Officers who were in control used their professional knowledge and experience to make sure we did the right thing in those challenging circumstances.
Learning from such exceptional events is so important. This is why we have extensively reviewed and assessed the responses so that learning can be included in future plans. These plans will assist not just GMP but the whole police service. There were a number of matters that were raised and some improvements have already been made. The Kerslake Report will now form part of that learning.
On 22 May 2017 we faced a huge challenge and when faced with an unprecedented situation everyone in GMP did their best to help all those affected.