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My challenge to emergency planners in the wake of Manchester

My challenge to emergency planners in the wake of Manchester

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I want to preface this short post with two caveats

  1. I think the responders in Manchester have done, and continue to do, an incredible job. Not just the emergency services, not just the NHS staff, but everyone who has helped in any way. It’s a clear demonstration of the many supporting the few.
  2. My sincere condolences are with all the families of those killed, and with anyone affected by Monday’s events. I encourage you to dig deep and donate to the appeal fund to help support them through the difficult months and years ahead.

I didn’t know any of the victims or casualties from Monday’s attack, but I did follow one on Twitter. He brought his infectious sense of humour to my news feed. His name was Martyn Hett.

Martyn was 29. Facebook was launched when he was 16, Twitter when he was 18. He, and millions of others (myself included) have grown up not just with ‘IRL’ friends, but a whole network of online friends and acquaintances. Communities for whom sharing the same geography isn’t a factor.

I’ve seen outpourings of grief online from people that never knew Martyn. I’ve also seen those people supporting each other, showing compassion and kindness. The ripples of the incident go far beyond the physical communities within which he moved.

With more of us being connected through social media (or other platforms the internet has to offer), I think this needs to be a factor in how we design emergency response.

The world, our cities, and the people within them are constantly changing. It’s difficult (perhaps impossible) for large organisations to react quickly to every single one of those changes.

My hope is that emergency planners, especially those digital natives who have grown up online like Martyn, continue to challenge current processes, ensure arrangements reflect changes in society and above all, don’t forget that you’re doing this for anyone who is affected by an incident, no matter where they happen to be.


Responding to Terrorism

Responding to Terrorism

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Earlier this week I posted a blog about Jacobean ‘terrorism’ (to coincide with the 408th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot). This was one of the issues that I mentioned today during my lecture on Responding to Terrorism delivered to students from the Department of War Studies at Kings College London.

I’ve provided my slides below, and ask you to forgive the formatting errors which have occurred in uploading to SlideShare! I’ve sat through lectures where the presenter reads text from a slide…that is not my style. However, without the description to accompany the slides some of the points may not make complete sense. In hindsight, I should have recorded my presentation…I’ll try and arrange that the next time I present on something.

Anyway, enough from me, take a look at the slides and let me know what you think.

If you want to know more on my thoughts on responding to terrorism, or would like to invite me to present, please get in touch!

You’ll also notice in the slides that I relate back to a number of historical London disasters – remember you can find out more about them on one of my Disaster Tours!

Gunpowder Plot: something more than terror?

Gunpowder Plot: something more than terror?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Britain has a long history of religious conflict, mostly forgotten by largely secular modern society. However, every year on the 5 November one such event is commemorated across the country.

Later this week I’m lecturing at Kings College London on a module entitled Responding to Terrorism. In preparation, I’ve been looking at how on the surface the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 reads like modern-day terrorism and how Russell Brand might have something to learn from history.


First, let’s look at the Gunpowder Plot: a fringe group of religiously motivated fanatics planning to detonate explosives in an underground area beneath a well-known location in an attempt to change the government to one favouring their religion. It certainly brandishes all the hallmarks of terrorist incidents that we’re familiar with in 2013.

Even today, over 400 years after the plot was foiled, the Houses of Parliament in London are surrounded by metal and concrete barriers; it remains a target for terrorism.

However, going one step further than the ‘modern’ terrorist, the 13 conspirators (I’ll take off my broad-brimmed hat and cloak if anyone can name, without Googling, more than one of them?!) had developed a plan which went considerably further than striking ‘terror’ into the hearts and minds of the public.

Following their planned explosion designed to kill the King and the Government, they next planned to kidnap the daughter of the King, Princess Elizabeth, and create a Catholic government around the puppet crown. It is worth recognising that the plan was more sophisticated than just destroy the current system and see what happens. Interestingly, this latter approach seems to be the style of ‘revolution’ that comedian Russell Brand has recently called for. Additionally, it is interesting to see that protest groups are now using the imagery and metaphor associated with the Fifth of November to stage their own protests about perceived injustice.

The semantics of whether or not the 1605 plot was ‘terrorism’ isn’t really the issue for my lecture. What I’m interested in is how have responses changed. Our understanding of modern terrorism shapes our opinions of past events. But at the same time, are there things that we can learn from history to deal with modern risks?

Not wanting to give away my secrets before Thursday, check back later in the week for my thoughts!

Oh, and I should also mention that it’s not just because of the foiled plot that the Houses of Parliament feature on my Disaster Tour!


Image Credit: Anon Online/Twitter