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Manchester terrorism training exercise 'quite a disaster'

The head of the inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack has suggested that a counter terrorism training drill, carried out a year before the bombing, was ‘quite a disaster’.

Giving evidence to the public inquiry, Michael Lawlor, the station manager for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said that the 2016 Exercise Winchester Accord ‘did not run smoothly from the perspective of GMFRS and North West Ambulance Service’.

He suggested that the mock terrorist attack highlighted major communication issues between emergency services, which ‘did not run smoothly’ in the drill.

Lawlor said that both GMFRS and NWAS were expecting a call from the Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) force duty officer or a tactical firearms commander to attend a pre-agreed forward control point and have an ‘over the bonnet’ conversation about the risks involved in sending resources into the various zones. Instead, the tactical firearms commander had to be directed to make contact with other agencies by the police exercise co-ordinator.

According to Lawlor, it resulted in a delay of an hour and a half in fire and ambulance deploying into the Trafford Centre.

Alongside a colleague, Lawlor, a senior national interagency liaison officer who was based at GMP headquarters, decided multi-agency briefing awareness sessions were needed so ‘all emergency responders are on the same page’. Sessions took place in January and February 2017.

The inquiry continues.

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