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Kerslake report: SMG, Showsec praised for “above and beyond” Manchester response

Arena staff, stewards and first-aiders "put aside concern for their own safety in order to try to save others", finds the inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing

By Jon Chapple on 27 Mar 2018

Floral tributes to the victims of the attack in St Ann's Square in Manchester city centre, Kerslake review

Floral tributes to the victims of the attack in St Ann's Square, Manchester city centre

image © Tomasz 'Odder' Kozlowski

Manchester Arena operator SMG Europe and security provider Showsec went “above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance” to victims of the terror attack of 22 May 2017, according to an independent inquiry into the response to the bombing, the findings of which were released today.

The Kerslake review – established by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and chaired by former Civil Service head Bob Kerslake, Baron Kerslake – found significant failings on the part of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), whose firefighters, it says, did not arrive at the scene until two hours after the bombing.

The report also highlights communication issues between police and other agencies – a consequence of the former’s multiple “wide-ranging and testing” duties on the night – and the “complete failure” of an emergency telephony system provided by Vodafone, which caused “considerable distress on the night to families who were frantically seeking to find out more information about what had happened to their loved ones”.

Despite these failures, emergency services, arena bosses, staff, first-aiders and the wider local community were commended for their response to the attack by Salman Ramadan Abedi, a suicide bomber who detonated an improvised device outside the 21,000-cap. venue’s foyer after a show by Ariana Grande, killing 22.

Investment in emergency planning meant staff “were generally able to act with a high degree of confidence”, concluded the Kerslake-chaired panel, while “good judgement was exercised by was exercised key emergency personnel at critical points during the evening”.

“The stewards had formed a human wall to stop people going towards the smoke, which was extremely brave”

“Based on everything seen and heard, the panel believes that staff at the arena made a positive difference and that, without their contributions, the response would have been diminished,” concludes the report. “The panel recognises that SMG, Showsec and EMT-UK [first-aid] personnel went above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance, and that many of them attended to casualties in the foyer to the best of their abilities, putting aside concern for their own safety in order to try to save others.”

The report also includes several witness testimonies, many of whom praise Showsec’s stewards’ actions in the aftermath of the attack.

“When I was in the main arena, the stewards had formed a human wall to stop people going towards the smoke, which I believe was extremely brave,” said one, with another attendee adding that stewards “were fantastic and were trying to calm everyone down.”

“I felt the evacuation was done as calmly as possible considering,” said another.

Despite this, many of those who attended the show said they believed there was insufficient security at the arena, with bag searches particularly identified as being “inconsistent”. ““The security could have been better and there should have been more searches,” said one concertgoer.

However, Lord Kerslake’s panel countered criticisms of a perceived lack of security, pointing out that “the bomber had not attempted to gain entry to the actual venue, but had remained in the foyer, which was outside of the security zone”.

“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack”

“The Manchester Arena attack was devastating for many thousands of people. We must think first and always of the families of those who have been bereaved, those injured and all those affected by this act of terror,” says Lord Kerslake, commenting on the publication of the report. “We have ensured that their views have been front and centre throughout this process.

“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack, both for the city region of Greater Manchester and for the emergency services. The benefits of collaborative working and planning for emergencies were demonstrated to the full. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual acts of bravery and selflessness.

“But it’s also vital to learn the lessons around things that did not go so well. It matters not just for the people of Greater Manchester and beyond who were caught up in the terrible events of that night, but also for places that might be caught up in such an attack in the future.

“I would like to thank all of those who contributed to this report. There was honesty, there was soul-searching, and there was a determination that their insight would benefit others in the future.”

Manchester Arena reopened on 11 September with the We Are Manchester benefit concert, headlined by Noel Gallagher.


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