Please find the outcome of the EFRIM meeting. Due to the sensitivity of the subject, we opted to write generic minutes.
The recent EFRIM meeting at the Fire Service College (FSC) highlighted the need to develop closer working relationships across Europe in the field of Counter Terrorism (CT); the threat from terrorist activity is assessed to be enduring but remaining sporadic with attacks possible in any country, at any time and against our most vulnerable targets. So far in 2017 there have been 26 major incidents in 10 different countries involving Marauding Terrorism and IEDs with over 100 european citizens killed and a further 900+ injured. This situation is unlikely to change in the immediate or medium-term future.
This creates a situation that makes development of effective capability difficult due to the geographical spread of attacks and the ability for all services across the region to share vital knowledge and experience gained from specific operations. Many European political leaders have stated that terrorism is now a feature of modern society and we need to learn how to live with it. It was therefore concluded that the pace of emergency services capability development has to be in line with the evolution and frequency of terrorism if there is to be any improvement of emergency service response and an assurance to the public that more lives can be saved.
Presentations were delivered from a wide variety of emergency services and respective nations, this included:
Policing CT issues – France, Spain and UK;
Fire & Rescue CT issues – Netherlands;
Medical CT issues – Belgium;
Crowd behaviour during terrorist attacks research – Ireland;
Multi-agency interoperability CT training – UK.
The above presentations highlighted that there are many national single-service CT programs being developed across Europe which share many common features but which often lack the benefit of another nation’s operational experiences. European emergency services still tend to train in isolation to each other, especially between specialist CT units and their partner agencies. This practice is often acceptable for most conventional incidents where time and conditions permit the use of standard operating procedures but terrorist attacks demand an immediate and well-co-ordinated multi-agency response to an unknown hazard and non-permissive situation.
The key elements discussed and agreed upon by those attending during EFRIM 6 were:
- Need for improved situational awareness on CT issues;
- Need for CT specialist teams or personnel within all emergency services; and
- Need to develop more resilient communities.
It was also identified that CT information or capability is often deemed to be specialist in nature, often classified as a national secret and is not shared well across Europe or even with the remainder of a nation’s emergency services community. CT capability is ultimately focussed on saving lives and therefore it has to be more holistic in its approach; there is a role for the military to support the emergency services, there is also a role for the private sector to support the emergency services and also to include our communities within the scope of CT capacity.
The critical elements identified for effective multi-agency CT operations are available as open-source information, as simple concepts that are easy to adapt or as cheap “on the shelf” equipment that is generally not well known outside of a given nation or service.
Deliverables are proposed to be as follows:
- Academic research into subjects identified by EFRIM;
- Conduct of R&D on new technology; and,
- Provision of practical workshops to develop critical skills or share best practices/research.
EFRIM is still developing its reputation and influence within the European emergency services sector, CT provides an opportunity for it to provide an effective solution to a common problem which will have an immediate impact on the ability to save lives. CT capability has to be for the inclusion of all services not just the critical specialists who have to confront the terrorists directly.
A minimum of one agency is required to provide a coordinating role for EFRIM members and its partners to create a Special Interest Group (SIG) that can deliver the above proposal. FSC is willing to be the first coordinator for a CT SIG should this be acceptable to the EFRIM community.
Peter Oakley and Hans Versnel