A multi-agency exercise took place at York Minster last night (Monday 22 January 2024) to test the joint response of the emergency services to a series of terrorist incidents.
Starting at 6pm on Monday evening, the emergency services (North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, Yorkshire Ambulance Service), along with Counter Terrorism Police and York Minster Police, responded to series of scenarios to practice their joint response to hostile attacks in and around York Minster. The National Counter Terrorism Security Office was involved in overseeing the exercise.
The exercise formed part of the regular counter-terrorism testing and exercising programme which takes place across the UK. It aimed to test the collective emergency services response to a series of no-notice violent attacks at the iconic location of York Minster, to stop the attacks and save lives.
Following on from the Manchester Arena enquiry there is now an expectation that venues, such as York Minster, should conduct reviews to understand the risks of terrorist attacks and be able to take proportionate and reasonable measures to mitigate against them. Last night’s exercise was many months in the planning and was supported by City of York Council and the city’s Protect & Prepare Partnership Group.
The exercise, which involved a number of road closures around the Minster, was planned for a Monday evening in January to reduce the impact on neighbouring businesses, residents and visitors to York.
The exercise scenario involved an acid attack, hostile vehicle and knife attack, and a siege within the Minster. Almost 300 volunteers took part in the exercise, some simulating casualties from the attacks and some playing the part of hostages within the Minster. The volunteers came from: Wakefield College, the Ready for Anything group, the York Recue Boat, the University of York, North Yorkshire Police (including cadets), and the North Yorkshire Volunteers.
Exercise Obtundity follows on from a similar multi-agency exercise at York Racecourse in March 2023. This further demonstrates the close working of the emergency services and wider partnership of the City of York’s Protect & Prepare Group.
Strategic exercise lead for North Yorkshire Police, Chief Inspector Mick Roffe said:
“This was a great opportunity for the emergency services to take part in an exercise along with the Minster Police. We are grateful for the support of City of York Council and all the partners in the city’s Protect & Prepare Group. The evening provided an opportunity to test our joint working in dealing with a no-notice violent attack.
“We greatly appreciate the management of York Minster accommodating this exercise. It is not often that we have the opportunity to practice our joint response in such an iconic location. “
David Colthup, Chief Operating Officer, York Minster said:
“We take seriously our responsibility, and work very hard, to ensure that those who visit and worship at York Minster feel safe and will be safe. The same applies to all our staff and our many volunteers. It has been fantastic to have had the support of our emergency services partners to test our joint response to a variety of hostile attacks.
“Our own Minster Police colleagues have worked very closely with all the emergency services to help plan and support this exercise and we will be reviewing how it has all gone to ensure that any improvements to our processes are put in place.
“We are really grateful for the patience of all our neighbours – residents and businesses – for any disruption they may have experienced during the exercise. I hope they feel reassured that we are better prepared to deal with every eventuality.”
North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue lead on the exercise, Tony Peel, York & Selby Group Manager, said:
“It is really important to have the opportunity to work with other emergency service partners to ensure that in the event of a no-notice hostile attack that we are all ready to play our role and work seamlessly with each other to keep the public safe and preserve life.
“Being part of an exercise in such an iconic location within the city and county has been a great experience for all those involved. The support of City of York Council is appreciated.”
Owen Hayward, Head of Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) and Special Operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said:
“Multi-agency live training exercises provide a safe environment for everyone to practise their skills and simulate partnership working at a major incident. This exercise has provided a great opportunity for emergency service colleagues to come together, and we have taken away valuable learning that we can use to refine our processes and approaches to the many challenging scenarios we may be faced with.”