Manchester Arena Inquiry – Volume 2 Report on the Emergency Response to the Attack. Chief Fire Officer’s Statement:

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Firstly on behalf of Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS), I would like to express our sincere sympathies to all those affected by the tragic attack at the Manchester Arena on the 22 May 2017.

Clearly the Manchester Arena Inquiry – Volume 2 report (published 3 November 2022), raises some serious concerns about the response in 2017 by the emergency Services in Manchester (2017) to this incident. I would like to assure the communities of Herefordshire and Worcestershire that following the outcomes of the first Manchester Arena inquiry report in 2017 HWFRS undertook an in-depth review of our operating protocols to ensure that the issues raised regarding the Fire and Rescue Service response to any such incident within our borders would not be repeated here. This internal review of HWFRS also ran alongside a wider review within the West Mercia Local Resilience Forum, that includes all those responding agencies who may be involved in these types of incidents.

A key issue highlighted in 2017 was the acute lack of communication between the Police and Fire Service in the mobilising centres and at senior officer level, something which I believe could not happen within Herefordshire and Worcestershire. HWFRS’s mobilising centre has been co-located in the West Mercia Police Headquarters mobilising centre at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire for several years, therefore ensuring that any major incident would be promptly and effectively communicated between the two emergency Services, who are located in the same room and routinely work closely together. Additionally all of the senior officers, including myself, are also co-located at Hindlip Hall in the same building as Senior Police colleagues, including the Chief Constable, and as a result have close working relationships and have a common understanding of each other’s capabilities.

The HWFRS review following the first report on the Manchester Arena inquiry in 2017 also prompted us to increase the number of specialist Fire Service Counter Terrorism trained officers to ensure we can provide their specialist support promptly, and at more than one location. We work closely with colleagues in Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service in this regard, to ensure alignment and effective response within the West Mercia Police area.

HWFRS has also improved its training for all its operational staff and implemented new protocols that aims to ensure an effective attendance to any such major incident by the Fire and Rescue Service as quickly as possible. HWFRS is also continuing this work and has plans to refresh this training to all staff in 2023. We will of course be reviewing all our protocols following the publication of the Manchester Arena Volume 2 report on 3 November 2022.

Whilst I would be the first to concede that any major incident, especially one due to a terrorist incident, will be extremely challenging and will always test all emergency Services capabilities to the fullest extent, I believe that our communities should be assured that we have listened carefully to the outcomes of the inquiry into Manchester Arena, and many other major incidents, and will always build this learning into our preparations and planning to ensure we can continue to provide the best possible service to our communities.

Jon Pryce, Chief Fire Officer