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15 August 2013, 10:33
Emergency services responded to a simulated terrorist attack in the city centre as part of a major European exercise.
A chemical was released inside Birmingham's International Convention Centre on Thursday the 15th of August where 150 volunteers were at the conference as part of a research project looking at public responses to extreme events.
The group had been told beforehand that they would be taking part in an emergency services exercise but not given exact details.
Around a third were told ahead of time what would happen and given roles to play - some as a terrorist, some exhibiting symptoms of nerve agent, for example.
Researchers from King's College London will look at and analyse the reaction of those inside the venue to help identify practices and procedures that can make emergency response more effective.
Co-ordinated by West Midlands Police in conjunction with CBRNE Ltd, the exercise is also an opportunity for blue-light services and the local authority to evaluate emergency procedures in the West Midlands.
The choice of scenario and location does not imply that such an event is either likely or imminent, but will allow those involved to gain valuable information on people's responses and requirements, which in turn will help develop emergency procedures.
It is the first of three exercises across Europe over the next two years as part of an EU-funded initiative to improve the preparedness and resilience of member states to a terrorist attack.
The other exercises will be in Sweden next year and Poland in 2015.
Chief Superintendent Chris McKeogh said: ''This exercise provides a great opportunity for all of those involved to look at procedures in place for an emergency such as this and put them into action.
''This way, we can evaluate more effectively where we need to further develop our plans and procedures.
'Today's exercise is a unique opportunity to play a key role in an international project alongside a large number of other local and international agencies and organisations.
''We are very advanced already in our ability to deal with major incidents and it's a testament to the expertise and professionalism of the emergency services in the West Midlands that Project PRACTICE and CBRNE Ltd chose Birmingham as the setting for such an important piece of work.''
As well as the initial response, the study of human behaviour and the triage of casualties, West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit put its own specialist investigative strategy to the test.
Procedures to efficiently identify casualties were also trialled to ensure families of those caught up in terrorist attacks can be informed and supported as efficiently as possible.
The force's Corporate Communications Department was also part of the exercise, testing its processes for releasing accurate and timely information of the terrorist attack.
Mr McKeogh said: ''The UK's counter terrorism agencies have successfully stopped many terrorist plots in recent years but there is no room for complacency.
''Today's exercise will no doubt contribute towards making not only we here in the Midlands, but the wider world, better prepared for a terrorism incident.''
Brooke Rogers, senior lecturer in risk and terror at King's College London, said it was vital to understand reactions during a terrorist attack.
''A detailed understanding of how members of the public and emergency responders behave and interact during a terrorist attack is a vital tool for governments and emergency services when developing effective disaster response plans,'' she said.
''We expect that today's exercise will provide valuable new insights into emergency response and challenge many of the traditional assumptions about how the public reacts during an emergency.''
Dominic Kelly, managing director of CBRNE Ltd and chairman for the exercise, said: ``We could not have chosen a more proactive and helpful group of regional emergency services to enact this very important exercise for the study of human behaviour in the challenging scenario selected for this exercise.
''I am certain that Europe will benefit widely from what we will learn - the West Midlands' emergency services have provided enthusiastic support to this European Framework Programme 7 research initiative.
''Even before the exercise began ideas and initiatives have crossed national boundaries consolidating the objective of the European Commission.''