Avoid London area closed, turn on radio

On the 7th July 2005 four bombs were exploded in London. The repercussions are felt to this day with survivors still requiring medical treatment for their injuries and families, from all over the world, grieving their losses. All forms of communication were tested to the limit on that day, in some areas there was chaos.

Mobile phones, for a radius of one mile around the London Hospital were blocked to the general public, and, more seriously, to the ambulance service as well. The City Police Commander needed to have free communication with his officers! The mobile phone services were stretched to breaking point with millions of calls being made from all over the world.

The web sites of the London Fire Service, the Metropolitan Police Service, London Ambulance Service and Transport for London almost crashed as millions of hits were executed as people tried to get information as to what was happening.

The Highways Agency illuminated road signs on the M6 in Cumbria and the M3, and no doubt elsewhere in the country stating “Avoid London area closed, turn on radio”.

At 10.30 The Commissioner of the Metropolis at a live press conference instructed Londoners to “Go In; Stay in; Tune In”. At 14:00 primary schools sent their pupils home to empty houses, the parents having obeyed the Commissioner. At 17:30 the Commissioners instructions were still running on Sky and the BBC, no-one had countermanded them.

The NHS alerted all of its District General Hospitals in London to expect casualties but it didn’t alert Great Ormond Street Hospital the nearest hospital to Russell Square. The London Hospital made it clear that it was overwhelmed with casualities but still they came, by the bus load.

During a catastrophic event, communications are vital. The very life blood that ensures emergency services or response teams can react quickly and effectively, and the wider public can be kept informed and told what to do to stay safe.

The public will be kept informed via mass media, the TV, the radio and now the internet. Response teams need much more targeted and specific communications. It must also go to the right people, at the right time, in the most appropriate format: text message, phone call, push notification or email. And the message must be acknowledged to confirm that the message/instruction has been received.

Small emergencies can sink a small company. Large ones can close down cities! Is your company prepared? Would you be able to communicate with all your different stakeholders, employees, customers, suppliers, insurers, if the power went down or the mobile phone network was blocked?

It is worth finding out before you have to!!

Richard Barnes

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