Charities help after terror strike

Britain's big four emergency response charities have signed a concordat with local authorities and the police that binds them to closer co-operation in the event of another terrorist strike

The agreement was signed in Harrogate last Thursday by the Local Government Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the British Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the St John Ambulance and the WRVS.

This was the same day that hundreds of charity volunteers rushed to the crisis in London to help the injured and the dying.

The timing of the pact was coincidental, but the charities involved say the mayhem that unfolded on the day proved the value of closer co-operation.

"What happened in London showed why we need the concordat," said Jonathan Lomax, public affairs manager at the Salvation Army. "The voluntary sector needs to be involved in planning for emergencies."

Because London Resilience, the partnership that prepares the capital for major incidents and catastrophes, includes the voluntary sector, charities were able to respond swiftly. But other cities are not so well organised, and charities fear this could prevent them from playing a role in disaster response or lead to a situation in which they get in the way of emergency services.

"The voluntary sector's response to the attacks in London was invaluable," said Lomax. "Any lack of planning would have led to more chaos."

The 2004 Civil Contingencies Act imposes a duty on local authorities to consult the voluntary sector on emergency planning, but that is as far as it goes. The concordat signed in Harrogate ties signatories to deeper engagement.

The concordat was also signed by the Samaritans, Victim Support, Cruse Bereavement Care, the British Association for Immediate Care and the Chief Fire Officers Association.

BOMBINGS FACT FILE

- St John Ambulance was first on the scene alongside the London Ambulance Service after the bus explosion in Tavistock Square. It contributed more than 100 volunteers, 37 ambulances and 20 mobile treatment centres to the rescue operation

- The British Red Cross provided 10 ambulances with volunteer first-aiders at the four blast scenes. It stationed a further 15 across London to help people walking long distances to get home

- About 50 Salvation Army staff and volunteers helped out at all the locations. The organisation kept its Oxford Street centre open to help stranded commuters WRVS opened a rest centre in Enfield for children whose parents were stranded

- Victim Support and the Limbless Association have offered their services to those affected by the attacks.

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