York Minster hosts unique anti-terror exercise: Operation Obtundity
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York Minster hosts unique anti-terror exercise: Operation Obtundity

Starting at 6pm on Monday, January 22, a combination of emergency services and police forces tested their joint response to a series of simulated terrorist incidents.

North Yorkshire’s police, fire and rescue, and ambulance service joined counter terrorism police and York Minster police. The entire exercise was overseen by the national counter terrorism security office.

The operation came in response to the Manchester Arena enquiry, which concluded that venues such as York Minster should conduct reviews to understand the risk of terrorist attacks, and be able to take proportionate and reasonable measures against them.

Last night’s exercise had been planned months in advance, and was supported by City of York council and the city’s protect & prepare partnership group.

Streets around York Minster were fenced off (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Strategic exercise lead for North Yorkshire Police, Chief Inspector Mick Roffe said: “This was a great opportunity for the emergency services to take part in an exercise along with the Minster Police.

“The evening provided an opportunity to test our joint working in dealing with a no-notice violent attack.”

It took place on a Monday evening in January in hopes that it would reduce the impact on local businesses, residents and visitors in York.

Scenarios included in the attack were: hostile vehicle and acid attacks, as well as a siege within the Minster. Almost 300 volunteers took part, playing hostages and casualties.

Volunteers for the exercise came from Wakefield College, the ready for anything group, the York rescue boat, the University of York, North Yorkshire Police (including cadets), and the North Yorkshire volunteers.

Almost 300 volunteers were involved in the exercise (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

York Minster’s Chief Operating Officer, David Colthup said: “We take seriously our responsibility, and work very hard, to ensure that those who visit and worship at York Minster feel safe and will be safe.

“We are really grateful for the patience of all our neighbours – residents and businesses – for any disruption they may have experienced during the exercise. I hope they feel reassured that we are better prepared to deal with every eventuality.”

North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue lead on the exercise, Tony Peel said: “Being part of an exercise in such an iconic location within the city and county has been a great experience for all those involved. The support of City of York Council is appreciated.”

Owen Hayward, head of emergency preparedness, resilience and response (EPRR) and special operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “This exercise has provided a great opportunity for emergency service colleagues to come together, and we have taken away valuable learning that we can use to refine our processes and approaches to the many challenging scenarios we may be faced with.”