COUNTER-terrorism teams in London today are taking part in a major training exercise, involving around 1,000 police officers. The two-day event, code-named Strong Tower, has been six months in the planning and is thus not a reaction to last week’s horrific events in Tunisia.
The Metropolitan Police stressed that it was part of their long-term preparation strategy. The type of incident that the teams will be asked to respond to, apparently only known in advance by a few top officers involved in the planning, has reportedly been influenced by the attack on the Paris Charlie Hebdo magazine office and the Sydney café siege.
Taking part will be a new squad of 130 counter-terrorism armed police officers, who, according to The Guardian, have been trained alongside army special forces.
Londoners won’t be able to see the exercise carried out, the scripted simulation taking place behind cordons in different parts of the city, but the police have said that people may hear noise and see streets closed off. They’ll be keeping the public up to date via Twitter with the hashtag #999exercise.
Exercise director, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner, said the aim was to bring police and other responding agencies together to test the limits of their planning for such situations. She said:
“This exercise will be an ongoing, fast-paced terrorist situation and we will explore how we as London’s agencies respond.
“The exercise is at the extreme end of what might happen. We’re doing this so that if the very worst happens we are prepared to do our very best.
“We have not put together an exercise of this magnitude before – officers will not have come across anything like this before.
“It is about making sure we have the capability and skills for anything that terrorists could throw at us.”