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“On July 7, there were no communications in the London Underground. But O2 Airwave had just tested an emergency communications system and was able to deploy it to the Russell Square tube station. O2 Airwave now has three emergency response vehicles which it can deploy instantly tin the event of an incident on the London Underground.”
O2 Airwave is designed to link up the emergency services through its secure digital national network, but – though contracted - it is not yet fully deployed by all the major blue-light services.
The network aims to make communities safer by enabling emergency services to communicate freely and securely with each other - via voice and data and even from radio 'cold spots'.
Coping with the terrorist attacks in July 2005 tested years of preparation among London’s emergency services. Some of the first respondents to the explosions were officers of the British Transport Police, who are responsible for law enforcement on the underground and rail systems. The Airwave service communications system complemented the MetRadio system and, where the Airwave service was used, it performed well.
“I wanted to record my sincere gratitude for the valuable assistance that O2 Airwave provided in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings on July 7th. The provision of interim communications for the emergency services and London Underground personnel undoubtedly made a real contribution to the overall safety and efficiency of the work of the emergency services.”
Although there was no contract in place for the Airwave service in the London Underground, O2 Airwave was quick to respond and sent out specialist staff and equipment to Russell Square station. The Emergency Response vehicle which was deployed had been tested in previous months by engineers and was designed as an interim solution for communications underground. Once O2 Airwave gained access, it was possible to communicate from the damaged trains deep inside the underground tunnel, providing particular assistance in the days and weeks following 7 July. A few weeks after the incident the Police IT Organisation (PITO) contracted O2 Airwave for the provision of a major incident service for the London Underground.
“Airwave vehicles were sent out to Russell Square and Kings Cross, and they dropped so-called ‘leaky feeders’ down into the tunnel so that Airwave could be used underground.”
The London Assembly published a report of the 7 July Review Committee and recognised that the roll out of the Airwave service was considered to be an essential element of effective communications across the emergency services.