Andrewthumb'The inconvenient and uncomfortable truth about counter-terrorism preparedness' is an attention-grabbing headline to a revelatory report on what our contributor Geoffrey Williams sees as woeful inadequacies in aviation security (see pg 49 of FIRE). Further, the author bemoans the uncoordinated preparedness plans between blue light services and businesses, insisting they be joined at the hip to form a unilateral response.

Major terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and the July 7 London bombings have done little to stoke that much-needed unilateral reaction. The article outlines inadequate, piece-meal and disparate levels of aviation protection. Most damagingly, the author accuses airports of placing money-making schemes above security measures. Whilst there may be gaps in security, the greater fear lies in the proliferation of a silo mentality and a tick-box approach that some businesses appear to take towards protection and response activities.

What adds to this reporter's interest in the Community Resilience section of this issue, is the articles which follow this expose.  Firstly, there is Dr Dave Slogget's dissertation on the psychology of command and problems associated with commanding in a dynamically unfolding and chaotic situation following a terrorist attack (see pg 53 of FIRE). Rob Davies then investigates whether or not we truly learn from emergency management exercises. This is interesting as Exercise Watermark takes place in the second week of this month (see pg 9 of FIRE), and weighs against Geoff Williams' contention that the lessons have yet to be picked up on from the likes of 9/11.

The psychology of command is a fascinating exploration of leadership styles and the requirements for ever-increasing flexibility as terrorist attacks escalate. What is often forgotten is the complex plethora of leaders operating and inter-acting before, during and after every major incident.

An emergency service chief can be as sophisticated and brilliant in preparing and overseeing highly effective response from his or her service, yet be completely hand-tied by a bureaucratic minefield of decisions made by a leader years previously who had no notion of emergency planning whatsoever.

The emergency planning and response ripple effect is so complex and comprehensive that it goes way beyond the emergency response field, up into high government offices and out across national boundaries and continents.

So we take the Community Resilience section of this issue as we take every feature and focus: a pebble tossed into the pond to create a ripple; with a separate plea to rise high above and witness the effect on the whole environment.

Whether or not aviation security measures are up to scratch is but one question in a vast array that arise. Occasionally FIRE's correspondents may propose an answer. Mostly, we settle for raising the question and concentrate on endeavouring to ensure it is the right one.


Posted: 16.45pm, 24.02.11