Marking the 25th anniversary of the London Nail Bombings

When the attacks took place, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Davidson was a trainee firefighter stationed at Knightsbridge. Not long after starting his shift, his Watch were mobilised to an explosion at Old Compton Street in Soho. The explosion targeted members of London’s LGBTQ+ community. Four people (including an unborn baby) were sadly killed and 79 people were injured in the blast.

Recalling the night, he said, "When we arrived, the Admiral Duncan Pub had no façade - it was just an open hole and there were people in the street requiring medical attention. Time went really quickly for me. I had the experience of working alone for quite a long period of time and then I was assisting a doctor. We had set up a triage centre on Dean Street. It was very compartmented. I just went from one job to the next and tried to keep moving forwards. I felt a real strength in the Watch. When we came back for our second night shift the following day, we were able to talk about what had happened, and it was really supportive. It was a cathartic experience to reflect on things, particularly as a trainee. Although all incidents we attend will not have the same impact on London or make national news, it's really important to understand that any incident we attend where we engage with the public, we are there to make their worst day that little bit better. By being there, helping, reassuring, and doing the best that we can to make their pain a little less, it has a really positive effect on people and I think we can take that across the whole Brigade. It goes to show the strength of London – that hatred, trying to split up communities between race and religion over the previous two weeks and sexuality in the third week – it actually had the opposite effect - it brought London together. London Fire Brigade as well as all of our partners worked to resolve the incident and try and assist Londoners the best we could on the day. I think it shows you that when you try to split communities up, everyone works together and tries to get to a positive outcome.”

Today, all firefighters are trained in Immediate Emergency Care (IEC), which is specifically tailored to firefighting and medically equips and enables firefighters to deal with the range of incidents they attend as emergency responders. But in 1997, firefighters first aid knowledge was limited.

Mark added, “In 1997 when I joined, we had a very basic first aid course which involved learning CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and how to bandage wounds. The equipment we had back then compared to what we have today was limited. We had a very small first aid box, so we were trying to deal with quite traumatic injuries with the most basic and rudimentary first aid knowledge."

Firefighters today are equipped with a wider range of equipment to help support casualties who are bleeding. Firefighters now carry blast and olaes dressings, tourniquets and haemostatic gauze, which can control blood loss and prevent infection. They can also use a chest seal to control air flow to the lungs. Bleed kits are now also available at some stations. The kits are publicly accessible with a code from London Ambulance Service, allowing bystanders to help someone who is bleeding. All fire engines and appliances are equipped with defibrillators, which can provide an electric shock to re-establish an effective heartbeat. Some stations also have defibrillators available for public use.

Additionally, crews are trained to carry out ‘ten second triage’, which is a new national initiative and a key recommendation of the Manchester Arena Inquiry. It has been rolled out across the emergency services as a medical sorting and treating process that allows firefighters and other responders to do more in the early stages of a mass casualty incident.

London Fire Brigade works in close partnership with London Ambulance Service and Metropolitan Police Service. Regular joint exercises and partnership conferences, as well as improved communication and practices at incidents, ensure that London’s emergency services are equipped and ready to respond to any incident. Whilst London Fire Brigade has always engaged with communities across London, in recent years the introduction of a dedicated community engagement team has helped to amplify the voices of under-represented communities.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Davidson said, “We remember those who died or were injured in the London Nail Bombings. We also thank those who bravely responded to the incidents. With those targeted, all being minority groups within London, this anniversary is a moment to acknowledge London’s rich diversity".

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