Emergency Services respond to incident at Liverpool Women's Hospital

How does a council respond to a terrorist attack?

One year on from the terrorist incident outside of Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Liverpool City Council’s Joint Head of Safer and Stronger Communities, Jill Summers, reflects on the council’s response…

“At 11am on 14 November 2021, many of the city’s civic and faith leaders were at Liverpool Cathedral for a Remembrance Sunday service.

At the same time Emad el Swealmeen arrived in a taxi at the entrance of the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and set off an improvised explosive device, killing himself, and injuring the taxi driver, David Perry. The next day it was declared a terrorist incident, though the motivation remains unclear.

Many colleagues from across Liverpool City Council spent the following few weeks working on the response and recovery of this horrific attack.

The impact was significant, not just at the blast site itself, but also in two residential areas of the city connected to the terrorist, where properties were searched and residents displaced. One cordon remained in place for 11 days, causing considerable inconvenience for residents.

As a city, there are well practised, multi-agency emergency responses via the Merseyside Resilience Forum that spring into action, co-ordinated by the council’s Emergency and Environmental Resilience Unit (EERU).

Initially, following a late-night evacuation of Rutland Avenue, we provided temporary accommodation for some residents who were unable to stay with friends and family, providing for their immediate needs.

On the day after the event, we carried out a lot of community reassurance activities including visits to community centres, places of worship and schools. We communicated in many different ways through letter drops, walkabouts, WhatsApp groups, residents’ meetings, the council’s social media platforms and via local councillors; while colleagues in the Communications team dealt with an influx of enquiries from the local and national media. We circulated information to schools in the vicinity of the affected areas to give advice on how to talk to young people about this significant – and distressing – event.

As part of the recovery, Liverpool City Council also chaired the Community Impacts and Tensions sub-group and we mobilised officers across our service, many of whom had community and/or counter-terrorism related roles, to link in with their networks, to share updates and reassurance messages and to provide a link with communities as the recovery unfolded. We organised an informal session at the hospital for people to talk about what happened and be signposted to support at Victim Support and the Home Office Victims of Terrorism Unit.

In the aftermath of the attack, there was a rise in reported hate crime against Muslims; we worked with community partners to provide reassurance and we developed specific training for taxi drivers around community cohesion issues.

It was a real team effort, and one that I was very proud to be part of.

This anniversary comes shortly after the latest report into the response to the Manchester arena attack and provides a stark reminder that we must always be looking at the city and the council’s resilience, re-evaluating and testing our emergency plans and embedding lessons learned, so that if/when that call comes, we are ready to respond.”

Liverpool Waterfront