Starting today, June 30, the exercise — named Operation Strong Tower — will test the response to terrorists armed with firearms. Some are associating the drill with the firearm attack in Tunisia days earlier which killed more than 20 British nationals, but Strong Tower has been planned for over six months. Developed jointly by the Metropolitan Police Service and the Home Office, over 14 different organizations and agencies are taking part.
During the first day of the exercise the tactical response on the ground will be visible to media and passers-by outside the disused Aldwych underground station in Surrey Street, West Central London. The street will be closed to traffic for the day.
"Testing and exercising is a really important way to ensure that our plans to respond to a major incident or terrorist attack are as good as they can be. We put huge effort into our planning and want to test how we all work together,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maxine de Brunner, who is the exercise director.
"The exercise scenario will test our tactical response including working with our emergency services partners, containing the situation, evacuating the injured and managing a crime scene,” de Brunner continued. "We’ve carefully planned the live play elements of this exercise to make sure that any disruption to the public is kept to a minimum."
As the exercises progresses it will test how senior decision makers manage the impact of the incident on responding agencies, an ongoing fast paced counter terrorism investigation and a range of issues that impact on life in the Capital.
de Brunner added: "Sadly, London is no stranger to terrorism. Given the changing nature of the very real terrorism threat and events around the world we need to constantly adapt our plans and prepare for new or emerging threats. What is vitally important to all the agencies involved, who work together every day, and to Londoners is that when the worst happens we are prepared to be the very best we can. We have sound plans and highly dedicated, brave staff that Londoners can be confident in."
The exercise will finish in the afternoon of July 1. Officers have been briefing local communities and businesses on the exercise and what they may see and hear.
A full debrief will be carried out after the exercise to make sure any lessons learned are properly captured.
Meanwhile, members of the British police, Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office are in Tunisia aiding the investigation into the shootings on June 26. The gunman was shot dead by local police but security sources suggest he had help in planning and possibly travelling to the attack, which he carried out alone using a Kalashnikov that he hid in a parasol and grenades. He entered the beach via the sea, either by jet ski or speedboat.