The recent militant attack at the DusitD2 hotel complex in Kenya is a stark reminder about the terrorist firearms threat at crowded places.
21 people died and 28 were injured in the Nairobi attack and the death toll could have been higher had it not been for the intervention by some UK & US special forces who were providing training and consultancy nearby. The Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for this MTFA – Marauding Terrorist Firearms Assault – and it underlines the importance of training firearms officers to deal with this type of incident.
The day after the attack, The EPS South West Branch, held a study day at the Avon & Somerset Police Black Rock Firearms Training Centre which highlighted the extreme bravery of firearms officers who might be called upon to confront attackers carrying out an MTFA and also the really high skill level of these officers.
After a presentation from a Counter Terrorism Officer outlining the latest Terrorism Threats facing the UK, There was a special presentation with slides and video looking at the lessons learned from Exercise Synergy which took place inside a shopping gallery and the recent exercise Stella which took place on an industrial estate.
As well as firearms officers testing tactics for dealing with internal and external incidents, a key objective of both exercises was to examine interoperability between the Police and the specialist fire and rescue teams as well as the HART ambulance crews – the Hazardous Area Response teams – who are all trained to deal with ballistic events.
The EPS delegates saw the special house at the training centre which has movable doors, windows and walls so that rooms and methods of entry can be altered for a variety of different exercise scenarios, while a series of overhead gantries provides a framework for high level rope work.
In the Armoury, Firearms Trainer Si showed delegates the vast array of Glocks, Sigs and Heckler & Koch weapons which the Police can call upon as well as different types of ammunition required for different operational needs – for instant, a cartridge containing compressed steel powder is used in a shotgun to blow the hinges on a door during a forced entry, rather than using a bullet which could ricochet and cause serious injury to an officer.
Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing the various training areas including two the size of aircraft hangars which can provide the experience of firing from and into moving vehicles as well as CGI graphics to simulate different scenarios and conventional firing range options.
The handgun training area demonstrated the benefit of electronic simulation for weapons training and the extent of training required by officers to develop muscle memory in their arms to improve weapon handling and accuracy.
Like most public services, the Police are being asked to do more and more with fewer resources, so we were extremely grateful to Avon and Somerset Police for hosting this event.
For those who attended this event, it was a superb experience and very beneficial to the EPS members who might be involved in part of the response or recovery for an MTFA.