London Fire Brigade

Capital boosts anti-terror capability

07 June 2010

A new rapid response vehicle – capable of tackling terror attacks and other major emergencies - hits London’s streets this week, reinforcing the capital’s position as one of the best protected cities in the world.

The new vehicle will be on-call in strategic locations 24-hours a day, ready to respond to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) incidents.

It contains an array of testing equipment ranging from devices similar to those used to detect chemical vapours in German U-boats during the Second World War, to brand new state of the art kit designed for 21st century threats.

The highly trained crew specialise in detecting and identifying any unknown and potentially dangerous substances including solids, liquids, gels, pastes, gasses, vapours and radioactive material.

Unlike London’s two existing rapid response teams which are part of a national fleet of 18 that can be called to anywhere in the UK, the new vehicle is funded entirely by London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority in order to meet specific demand in the capital.

“This is about providing vital extra emergency cover for a complex major city,” said London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. “Now, if London is hosting a major event that needs additional protection, we can provide that protection without taking resources away from other areas of the city.”

“The world has changed and we must anticipate all types of emergency, including terrorism. Having these specialist capabilities is about allowing Londoners to get on with their lives, knowing that behind the scenes there is no complacency and we are prepared.”

London’s rapid response CBRN capability:
• Three rapid response vehicles. The new London Fire Brigade appliance will allow two vehicles to be continuously ‘on the run’ and available, whilst the third can be used to provide cover to specific events or for training, without impacting on cover for the rest of the city.
• Vehicles are crewed by up to four trained CBRN specialists
• Vans contain protective equipment like gas tight suits and breathing apparatus, alongside touch screen computers and a suite of equipment used to detect and identify unknown substances.

Aside from a potential role in a terror attack, London’s rapid response teams also attend any incident involving unknown, potentially dangerous substances. The Brigade deals with around 5000 hazardous materials (hazmat) emergencies each year, with rapid response teams deployed to around 900 of these.

Notes for editors:
The Brigade has come along way since the first motorised fire engine was introduced around 100 years ago. Fire engines are the familiar face of the fire Brigade, but behind the scenes a number of specialist vehicles and crews are ready to tackle a wide range of incidents:
• CBRN rapid response teams detect and identify unknown substances
• Urban Search and Rescue teams use heavy lifting/cutting equipment alongside fibre optic cameras and listening devices to tackle incidents like building collapses
• Specialist teams can assemble shower structures in order to decontaminate hundreds of casualties exposed to a dangerous substance
• The Brigade’s fire rescue unit fleet can carry out line (rope) rescues and water rescue using inflatable boats.
• High volume pumps, capable of pumping thousands of litres of water, deal with major flooding incidents.