Police Scotland launch major incident support unit

Police Scotland has launched the UK's first-ever dedicated unit for dealing with major incidents such as terror attacks.

Police officers taking part in a counter-terrorism exercise responding to a scenario simulating a vehicle attack held in the grounds of the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters at Gogarburn in Edinburgh.

The Major Incident Support Co-ordination Unit, which brings together disaster victim identification and a “casualty bureau”, is based on lessons learned following last year’s attacks in Manchester and London.

The national force said the unit would provide a “single point of contact” for police officers and the other emergency services.

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Detective Chief Superintendent Clark Cuzen, who heads up the new unit, said: “This unit will play an integral part in major incidents and has been put in place to provide a better service for police officers, police staff and the public.

“After feedback from last year’s terror attacks, we devised a central department that would provide a single point of contact for police officers and partners.”

He added: “Previously there could be difficulties communicating with each other, co-ordinating resources and a lack of understanding of each individual discipline.”

The unit will be responsible for disaster victim identification (DVI), the process of recovering and identifying bodies and human remains in incidents where there are multiple deaths.

It will also be responsible for administering Holmes, an electronic police database used for major criminal investigations.

And the new unit will include a casualty bureau, which is usually used in incidents where there are large numbers of fatalities / casualties, but can also be activated in incidents such as severe flooding where there are large numbers of survivors or evacuees.

DCS Cuzen added: “This unit means there’s a more joined up approach and information can be shared quicker amongst emergency services and to the public.

“We are the first police force in the UK to introduce this unit and I believe this is a positive step towards providing an improved response to any major incident.”

The new unit will be based at the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh, North Lanarkshire.

A total of 22 people were killed in last year’s bomb attack at Manchester Arena, while a further 13 died in attacks at Westminster and at London Bridge.

The official inquiry into the Manchester attack found a series of failures in the emergency response, including firefighters being sent away from the scene.

Survivors complained of having to carry each other out of the arena on makeshift stretchers.

Last year police and other emergency services held a major counter-terrorism exercise in Edinburgh involving the simulation of a vehicle attack within the grounds of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s headquarters.