Report into Arena attack response criticises fire service, praises support staff
Tuesday 27th March 2018 @ 12:00 by Tom Greggan

A review into the response to the Manchester Arena attack and the nine days that followed it has been published.

The Kerslake Report received over 200 contributions from bereaved families and friends, the injured, their family and friends, and concert goers who were at the Arena on the night. It sets out what went well but also highlights some major lessons to be learnt.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, who didn’t arrive at the scene of the bomb for nearly two hours, have drawn criticism, as have Vodafone and some sections of the media. It’s also reported that the strength of the response for support and care for the families directly affected was not always carried through beyond the early aftermath of the attack.

However, praise was given to the investment in multi-agency planning and exercising as part of the Greater Manchester Resilience Forum, meaning partner agencies acted with a high level of confidence. Arena staff, British Transport Police, and members of the public who stayed to help were commended for their “enormous bravery and compassion.” The report pointed to the sound judgement made by emergency personnel in “an extremely stressful, chaotic and dangerous environment.”

Key points:

  • First responders were at the scene of the explosion within minutes but access to first aid equipment at the Arena was slow and restricted,
  • The fire service did not arrive at the scene and played ‘no meaningful role’ in the response until almost two hours after the attack,
  • The GMP Casualty Bureau ‘helpline’ for families and friends searching for loved ones was criticised. The helpline was hampered by a“complete failure” of the National Mutual Aid Telephony system, provided by Vodafone, which caused significant stress and upset on the night to families involved,
  • Family Liaison Officers and Bereavement Nurses have been described as ‘heroes’ and ‘angel’s for their care and compassion towards families,
  • Some families spent too long at the Friends and Family Reception Centre awaiting news. One person waited 15 hours to find out their loved one had died,
  • Some respondents felt families from Manchester received more help and support. People from other parts of the country felt they were often overlooked, forgotten or ignored,
  • Manchester was praised for it’s civic response and families thanked the people of Manchester for their support in the days and weeks after the attack,
  • Many of those affected have criticised the media, saying they felt ‘hounded’, ‘bombarded’ and put under pressure to appear on TV,
  • Response to the ‘We Love Manchester’ fund has been mixed, with some people who were severely affected yet to receive money,
  • Many of those affected said they did not know where they could turn to for support following the attack.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue services were held back from the Arena for two hours

Through eye-witness accounts, the report describes in some details the immediate aftermath of the attack. The bomb, which contained nearly 2,000 nuts, was detonated just after 10.30pm, as a 14,000-strong crowd made up mainly of young girls, began to leave the Arena after the Ariana Grande concert that night. You can read the full report at

Responding to the report, Stalybridge & Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds said: “When the Manchester Arena bomb went off, our whole city region was shaken. That night, frontline emergency staff showed tremendous bravery, as did many members of the public, which is highlighted in Lord Kerslake’s vigorous report.

Jonathan Reynolds MP

“However, as the son of a firefighter, I truly empathise with the utter frustration of the firefighters who were desperate to help immediately and were held back. This was our hour of need, and they were prohibited from reaching the scene due to miscommunication and misunderstanding. It is right the Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service leadership have unreservedly apologised for this failure, and it is right that Andy Burnham has commissioned a review into the service. I know that everyone involved will want to make sure that this never happens again and that our firefighters are always allowed to get on with their jobs, as they are keen and trained to do, especially in the greatest times of need.

“My thoughts today however are predominantly with everyone in and near the Arena that evening, and especially with those who lost loved ones or were injured. I know that this report will make traumatic reading for some people, and I my heart goes out to you. This terrible event has made our communities stronger and we all stand with you today.”