The lessons of the Black Friday terror scare
As I have written about previously and is evident from the headlines of late, terrorism has taken on new dimensions: attacks of opportunity, limited planning and simplicity rather than sophisticated and calculated endeavours.
Last Friday, Black Friday, panic overcame the thriving Oxford Circus tube station and the busy neighbouring shops. People were texting the British Transport Police, dialling 999, and taking to social media to report and share stories of gunfire.
As confirmed a mere 90-minutes later, these tales were false and the panic was sparked by a minor disturbance on a tube station platform. Essentially, this ‘Chinese Whisper’ of gunfire subsequently caused sixteen people to suffer injuries (fortunately minor) as they fled the scene.
In the following days, a number of public figures have come under fire for their contribution to the spread of fear, notably Olly Murs who has since had a rather blunt series of social media exchanges with Piers Morgan.
Looking back on this incident we can see the true power of modern connectivity: particularly social media and how it broadcasts live the fear instilled by the threat of terror on our streets. Perhaps this is something we should reflect upon as the police furnish us with ways to protect ourselves?
What we can be sure about, however, and take great solace from, is the professional, expedient and comprehensive response from the police. The Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police both communicated effectively, offering clear instructions to stakeholders (such as the neighbouring businesses and their security personnel) to allow them to take control swiftly and definitively. Clear guidance was also offered using social media and the push news feeds available through smartphones and new technology. In my opinion, this made a huge difference to how smoothly this event was managed.
We have proven that we have a well-rehearsed, coordinated and joined up response to the threat facing us each day. Our emergency services can seamlessly work together, pool strategic resources and deliver resilient solutions to keep us all safe.
That said, let us not forget the positive role that the neighbouring shops and businesses played, including that of their security personnel and management. They too, played a substantive role in maintaining public order and control whilst the situation was managed.
Great credit can also be taken from our nation’s resolve, especially when normality can be resumed less than two hours after great fear and panic has interrupted the autonomy of our lives. This proves that terrorism cannot destroy, dictate or control us - despite the clear existence of the underlying tensions.