It has been suggested that the emergency services (some of them) showed a little too much caution on 7/7; some, apparently, were slow to take ‘calculated risks’ in order to save lives.
I personally do not believe that any of us on that day stopped to think too long about whether our involvement was too risky and that the lives of others were not of paramount importance during the terrorist attacks but I would like to tender this reasonable presumption on behalf of those who are being seen as ‘slow to respond’ – maybe there were too many unknowns. We don’t get bombed every day (thankfully), so we don’t have the experience necessary to activate a train of thought that superintends our sense of caution for our own sakes. We are, however, reluctant to rush in without thinking because that too will cost lives.
Believe me, this is not an excuse for alleged delayed response but, from a human point of view and knowing how it all unfolded for real, I can see why people may think that too much caution was exercised. I’m sure that in the first few days of the Blitz, emergency services and ordinary folk were unexercised and slower about their decisions to commit themselves to immediate danger – I’m confident, without knowing for sure of course, that they began to get braver and more involved with the thick of it as they grew accustomed to the effects and aftermath of the German Luftwaffe actions. They’d be taking risks based on their experience and knowledge, gained over the period in which they managed to survive previous risk-taking activities, which would have been slower and more cautious. It would have been a learning process borne out of self-preservation.
Would we be criticising the response to 7/7 if it was carried out without caution and many emergency services personnel died as a result? How many of the brave Fire fighters in New York would have been ordered to stay in the Towers if their bosses (and the public) had known of their imminent collapse? I’ve actually received an email from someone stating that ‘paramedics should expect to risk death for their patients’.
I remember carrying out a mock exercise at university, the year before I graduated and qualified, where we were to respond to an explosion (a bomb) at an underground station – one of those that had, in fact, been targeted in 2005. I recall how unlikely it seemed that it would ever happen in reality but it did, only a year later. Everything in that mock exercise had to be planned precisely so that errors would not be made, or at least they could be reduced in number. Such calculating takes time.
If terrorists strike again and they put into place secondary devices and other traps, would we be foolish to exercise caution? Or would it be okay to lose ten or twenty members of the emergency services instead of the risk that we’d lose two or three victims who had to endure until they arrived? It’s a horrible balance to achieve but it is a regrettable function of mass casualty emergency medicine; saving the greatest number possible, without needlessly risking the lives of others.
I hope I made sense there.
I don’t tend to focus too much on what we did or did not do on that day because, although there needs to be a thorough inquiry for the sake of the victims’ families and I do appreciate that, I tend to look at the bigger picture. As long as we tolerate self-segregation by those who come to our shores, have families, create generations of new ‘Brits’ but, throughout the entire process, refuse to integrate and whilst loathing our systems and beliefs, teach their children the same poisonous stuff, we will be at risk from attack from within. We will see more photographs of smug, smiling men who believe they will get to heaven by murdering others on the say-so of their religion (a religion they tarnish by doing so) - men who hold small children and who will ultimately leave them with the shame of what they have done.
The 7/7 inquiry is important. I would want to know how and why my loved one died on that day, of course I would. Everything needs to be analysed because it’s how a civilised society behaves after disaster but let’s not overlook the fact that none of it would have happened if the young men being bred to do it were not here in the first place; if our civilised way of life did not extend to allowing them to attend hate classes and berate our soldiers on the streets as they bring home their dead.
The Inquiry has to hear the views of everyone with a voice and I guess the caution perceived on the day is a matter that has to be addressed. However, at the risk of sounding unreasonable, is the primary thinking here that emergency services personnel are, by merit of uniform, salary or rank, expected to take risks without thinking?
If I get to a call and there is a problem – there is smoke billowing from the entrance of a tube station – I will have a look and see how far I can get. If I see flames and know that entering further will get me burned and possible killed, I will back off and re-think my strategy; I’ll wait for the Fire Service to arrive. Members of the public will then recount my actions and say that I acted too cautiously or that I refused to act at all when people were dying below ground, although none of them would have ventured inside either – the one wearing the uniform is the expendable one.
I will gladly risk whatever I can to save someone else – we all would - but I challenge you to find many who would thoughtlessly give up their own lives, their families and loved ones, for a stranger.