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London bombings in 2005

Shortly before 9am on 7 July 2005, we received calls to various locations in central London where there were reports of explosions on the Underground.

Bombs had exploded on three Underground trains at King’s Cross, Aldgate East and Edgware Road. These were followed by another bomb on a bus at Tavistock Square.

What we did on the day

During the next few hours, we worked with other blue-light services to rescue and treat casualties, and take them to various London hospitals. We were supported by St John Ambulance, the Red Cross, and surrounding ambulance services.

More than 250 members of our staff were involved in our emergency response. They treated more than 400 patients, some of whom had sustained horrific injuries. They gave them emergency care and support, and took them all to hospital within three and a half hours of the bombings taking place.

For a short period of time, while we were under immense pressure, we responded to life-threatening calls only.

Debriefs were held on the day and all staff who attended the scenes, or were involved in managing the incident, were offered counselling and welfare support.

What we learned

We learned a great deal from the tragic events of 7 July and have made a number of significant developments and improvements so that we are better prepared if anything similar happens again. These include:

  • introducing the Airwave digital radio system, which includes coverage on the Underground.
  • sending a pre-determined response to a major incident, including 20 ambulances, 10 officers and all available emergency support vehicles carrying extra equipment.
  • replacing our previous incident control room with a new purpose-built one, able to help manage multiple simultaneous major incidents.
  • improving major incident training for staff
  • introducing new medical equipment for the treatment of seriously injured patients.

Some of these changes were already in progress when, in June 2006, the London Assembly’s 7 July Review Committee published the findings of its review of the response to the bombings. It praised the courage and determination of emergency service staff on the day, but said that some of the processes used by the organisations involved needed to be addressed.

The coroner’s inquests and next steps

In October 2010, the coroner’s inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims of the bombings were resumed at the Royal Courts of Justice.

The hearings lasted for more than six months and in early May the coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, concluded that “on the balance of probabilities”, none of the victims could have been saved whatever time the emergency services had arrived.

However, the inquests heard in detail about the difficulties we experienced with communications, and the impact these had on the speed at which we were able to send crews to some of the scenes.

The coroner made nine recommendations intended to prevent deaths in the future, a number of which are relevant to us.  All the recommendations were set out in a formal document known as a Rule 43 report.

We gave our initial response to Lady Justice Hallett’s findings on the day that she delivered her verdicts.

In July 2011, our formal response to her Rule 43 report was also published.