Operation Strong Tower

Councillors received the briefing below from our borough policing team about Operation Strong Tower, an exercise carried out by the Met as practise for a major incident. They have asked that we circulate it to reassure any residents who see or hear the exercise.

The 2nd day of a major exercise to test the emergency services and Government response to a terrorist attack will be held in Tower Hamlets today in the Canary Wharf Estate.

It started yesterday, Tuesday, 30 June, the exercise – named Operation Strong Tower – will test the response to terrorists armed with firearms.

This operation, which has been planned for over six months, is part of the Government’s regular National Counter Terrorism Programme of exercises and has been developed jointly by the Metropolitan Police Service and the Home Office. Over 14 different organisations and agencies are taking part.

During the first day of the exercise the tactical response on the ground was visible to media and passers-by outside the disused Aldwych underground station in Surrey Street, WC2. There was significant press coverage yesterday.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner, who is the Exercise Director, said: “Testing and exercising is a really important way to ensure that our plans to respond to a major incident or terrorist attack are as good as they can be. We put huge effort into our planning and want to test how we all work together. The exercise scenario will test our tactical response including working with our emergency services partners, containing the situation, evacuating the injured and managing a crime scene. We’ve carefully planned the live play elements of this exercise to make sure that any disruption to the public is kept to a minimum. As the exercises progresses it will test how senior decision makers manage the impact of the incident on responding agencies, an ongoing fast paced counter terrorism investigation and a range of issues that impact on life in the Capital. Sadly, London is no stranger to terrorism. Given the changing nature of the very real terrorism threat and events around the world we need to constantly adapt our plans and prepare for new or emerging threats. What is vitally important to all the agencies involved, who work together everyday, and to Londoners is that when the worst happens we are prepared to be the very best we can. We have sound plans and highly dedicated, brave staff that Londoners can be confident in.”

The exercise will finish this afternoon , 1 July. Officers have been briefing local communities and businesses on the exercise and what they may see and hear.

I would ask that you pass this information to your colleagues and our communities so that they do not think that this is an actual terrorist attack as it would be easy to mistake this due to the live fire and pyrotechnics used. Key messages are below.

If you have any questions then do not hesitate to contact me.

Mark

KEY MESSAGES

·         This exercise is not in response to any specific threat.

·         We carry out Exercises to test Contingency Plans and the co-ordination of the response to a Major Incident on a regular basis.

·         The Exercise has been in preparation since December 2014 and is one of a number of routine exercises within the National Counter-Terrorism Exercise Programme under CONTEST, organised to test the response of the Emergency Services and other partners.

·         There is a legal obligation under the Civil Contingencies Act to prepare and practice for a major incident.

·         This is a large-scale safety and security exercise involving a number of Government agencies, emergency services and others usually involved in responding to a major incident.

·         The exercise will not affect day-to-day policing and emergency service response, this will continue as normal.

·         The exercise is likely to create greater Emergency Service activity around the exercise areas during this period.

·         The Exercise will not involve any members of the general public and exercise areas will be cordoned off and tightly controlled to minimise disruption.

·         It is inevitable that some noise from firearms being used will travel beyond the confines of the exercise area and may be heard by the public.

·         The Exercise is jointly funded by the MPS and Home Office as part of the National Counter Terrorism Exercise Programme

·          NHS England and NHS frontline providers are taking part in the exercise in order to test their systems and processes, and the way they interact with other key agencies and government departments, and ensure that the NHS has the strongest possible incident response systems in place. This builds upon regular incident planning work within the NHS, led by NHS England, to develop and test the ability of the health service to respond to a wide range of potential incidents at a national, regional and local level.

·         The Department for Transport is responsible for managing the risk to transport networks as part of a wider government counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST. The Department for Transport works with industry and the police to ensure appropriate measures are in place proportionate to the threat to maintain the security of the travelling public.

Mark Long
Chief Inspector – Safer Neighbourhoods
Tower Hamlets Borough

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