Attack on London: Crisis plans hold firm in scrum for information on bombings

PR teams for the public services were tested to their limit in the wake of last Thursday's London bomb blasts as they tried to make sense of the unfolding tragedy and keep the media updated.

Transport for London press officers went to Liverpool Street and Kings Cross stations to keep media out of the way of emergency services, while the rest of the team dispersed information via emails, handled interview requests and helped arrange the midday press conference with police on Thursday.

TfL deputy head of news Stephen Webb said: 'The golden rule is never to put anything out unless you are absolutely sure. The difference on the first day was that this was an unprecedented event. It took us until after lunch to realise it was four bombs, not seven.'

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said 25 ambulance operations managers received media training last year, to give them more confidence in dealing with the media at incident scenes. This was in addition to ten media-trained paramedics operating across the city. But last Thursday, only six staff were on hand at its headquarters' press office and the service drafted in three performance statistics staff to help. 'Each staff member has a role defined in the crisis operations manual,' said the LAS spokesman.

'One would communicate minute by minute to the team. Another would collate information and write press statements. Someone would go to assist on scene. But in this situation there were four incidents and we couldn't spare all those people. Considering everything, it went well. It's about sticking to protocol, not being phased, and thinking on your feet.'

Westminster Council head of comms Alex Aiken organised a meeting of police and the Bangladeshi community in the Edgware Road area to pledge mutual support on Friday afternoon. 'This was a reaction to circumstances and critical because of the nastiness of what happened,' he said.

But the overall comms effort followed carefully rehearsed plans from the London Resilience Forum, which is jointly chaired by minister for civil resilience Phil Woolas and the Mayor, Ken Livingstone. It includes representatives from the emergency services, businesses and local authorities.

The Government brought in a dozen volunteer press officers from departmental offices to work in the Cabinet Office news co-ordination centre, handling media enquiries and setting up ministerial briefings.

Leader, p17.

And Scotland Yard and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister established the central media briefing facility at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster at midday on Thursday - the venue for all media briefings after the bombings.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in