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Posted by: CFO Steve McGuirk


"The tragedy unfolding in Cumbria has shocked us all - but has been poignant for me on a series of levels.  I was in Royal Berkshire, living just a few miles from Hungerford when Michael Ryan embarked on his killing spree in the 1980s (interestingly the first "public agency" on the scene was the fire service - thankfully the officer in charge had previously been in the Military, recognised the weapons involved and was able to take some swift and decisive action that undoubtedly saved lives). 

I experienced first hand how that tragedy devastated a small community and how for months even years after so many people - who had lost loved ones - were still grappling with why it happened? 

Yesterday, as I heard about the tragedy unfolding my mind went straight back to Hungerford and my anxiety grew as I realised that it was Whitehaven - where my future "son in law" works.  Thankfully, he was able to text to let everyone know he was safe but there were many families who didn't receive these reassuring texts or messages and will now be struggling to come to terms with what has happened. 

I know Whitehaven quite well - as a child I holidayed in that part of Cumbria - and so I know how difficult it will be for that community to come to terms with the events that are still unfolding as people remain critical and badly injured in hospital.  All we can do now is hope for and wish the people concerned a speedy recovery and express our sympathies to the families of those people who lost their lives yesterday. 

A final reflection though for those of us responsible for planning for the "unpredictable" and grappling with how to "risk assess" the possibilities and likelihood of "bad things" happening -  if we had asked twenty years ago what were the "realistic chances" of a gunman  -  seemingly a typical, everyday type of person -  going on a rampage in a quiet town or village we would probably have said it was a very remote possibility  - "almost impossible"  -  yet in that time we have had Hungerford, Dunblane and now Whitehaven. 

I guess it illustrates that for all the science and models we can apply to planning for emergencies and unpredictable events - in the end it's all based on an assessment of "what has happened before" - and really we only know what we know at a given point in time. 

On the surface this really does look like something nobody could have foreseen or really done anything to avoid? But let's see what unfolds over the next few days as the authorities start to piece together what happened  - I'm not sure we'll ever be able to understand why?


Last update: 13/06/2011 09:13:29
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