Consular crisis response

Less than one third (30%) of envoys knows how the Diplomatic Protection Group responds to a consular emergency in the capital, a recent DPG survey has revealed.

Supt Adam Loxley used an address at the Consular Corps meeting last month to update consuls on Project Hermes, the joint FCO-DPG system to transmit information to missions should a mass casualty event such as a terrorist attack be repeated in London.

Sketching the background to the project, Supt Loxley admitted that in immediate aftermath of the 7/7 terrorist attacks the DPG’s communication of casualty information of foreign nationals “had not been handled well.”

Project Hermes was devised to rectify this, he said. The system integrates the most up-to-date information from the Met Police and government and transmits it to a single point of contact at each diplomatic mission via an SMS message or the FCO secure website

Resilient communications technology, paid for by the FCO, has been tested for situations where the phone lines go down. As specific casualty information becomes available, a Family Liaison Officer is appointed to liaise with the particular embassy.

The system only covers the London metropolitan area and consuls have to deal with regional police authorities should a mass casualty event occur outside the capital. However, contact details of the relevant authority would be transmitted to missions via Hermes.

Supt Loxley advised consuls to devise a system of gathering information about potential casualties from relatives that could then be matched with information gathered by the Casualty Bureau.

He concluded by saying Project Hermes was based on “trust and communication” and urged all consuls to confirm their single point of contact with the DPG as soon as possible.

Supt Adam Loxley of the DPG with Consular Corps President Anas Khales