Manchester terrorist attack report finds confusion kept firefighters away

Police responded within minutes but fire crews were kept away

But a senior fire officer stuck to the rule - which called for emergency responders to stay 500 meters away from a potential armed terrorist - even when "Operation Plato" was placed on standby, the report said.

An independent review, chaired by former Head of the Civil Service Lord Kerslake, illustrated how poor communications between the emergency agencies gave the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) conflicting information.

A fire chief has made a public apology for firefighters being delayed two hours before joining in the response to the Manchester Arena terrorist attack. The report's explanation for the lapse was a combination of "poor procedures" and communication failures.

To add to the confusion, there was a "complete failure" of the National Mutual Aid Telephony System, a mobile phone network provided by Vodafone, which should have acted as a back up network but instead collapsed. "The discipline of the fire service meant that they could not self-deploy".

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's interim chief fire officer Dawn Docx apologised "unreservedly" for her service's failures. Some said photographers took "sneaky" pictures through a window when they were being told their loved ones had died.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham also praised the emergency services but said the fire service "fell well short" of the standards it sets for itself.

Lord Kerslake said: "A number were reduced to a frantic search around the hospitals of Greater Manchester to find out more".

'As a result firefighers themselves, desperate on the night to attend the incident, were let down by some of their senior colleagues'.

"We are not seeking to go down the disciplining route".

Four British Transport Police officers who had been on duty at Victoria station - which is connected to the arena - arrived at the scene within 30 seconds of the blast.

"We were concerned to identify what might be done to prevent this happening again in any future terrorist event".

Police and ambulance personnel were on the scene "very rapidly" and emergency personnel exercised "sound judgement in an extremely stressful, chaotic and risky environment", the report added.

The child of one family was given condolences on the doorstep by a journalist before official notification of the death of her mother and, in another incident, a note was put in a biscuit tin and sent into a hospital ward offering £2,000 for information, the report states.

The report said although families referred to reporters saying they were from individual news organisations, it is not possible to say for certain who individuals were working for - so the report does not identify individual newspapers or broadcasters.

It says work undertaken by the Home Office Victims of Terrorism Unit to support families of victims should draw on the experiences of Manchester and the Home Secretary Amber Rudd should consider what support could be made available nationally for the families.

The fire service was heavily reliant on the police and ambulance services for information and an inter-agency officer to coordinate the different services.

Kerslake said it was vital to learn lessons from what did not go so well.

"The wider issue, of course, is that government requires only small teams of firefighters to be trained and equipped for such incidents".

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