Response to the thread of a car bomb in Brussels
Yesterday, the capital of my country (Belgium) was shaken by the thread of terrorist activity near the buildings of the European commision in Brussels. I just visited this area a day before on business.
After the initial announcements in the press that something was happening, some government departments responded with fake explanations of what was happening, I can only imagine that they did this to avoid panic.
The Belgian authorities where warned by the Spanish Intelligence service that there was a thread of a car bomb near the European Commision yesterday.
The initial announcements by the press stated that the area arround the Shumanplein in Brussels was being sealed of by police officers, the reason for this was not known.
A bit later, official statements, most of which were false, came in to reassure the public.
However noble the intention, it did not take a genious to figure out the lie. Different parts of the government where using different lies ranging from it being a drill or permanently changed security to a vague terror threat. Yet the press reported that the commision buidlings were being blocked by placing containters in front of them, which can hardly be called part of a drill (it looks like a reaction to a very specific threat).
Luckily, nothing happened. But we should learn from this that our government is just not prepared to deal with a situation like this. There are too many departments involved and communication between them is very thin. There is no single unit that deals with external communication (the press and the general public), from here it seems like there is no clear chain of command leading the response.
Nothing happened this time, but we need to be ready for anything that happens to us tommorow, be it a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. In such an event, actions need to be coordinated and decisions taken based on correct and up-to-date information.
There need to be very clear communication channels (with backups) in such an event to interconnect the involved emergency services, but also to talk to the public. I cannot judge the wisdom of lying about what was happening as I do not have all the facts or can oversee the implications, but if you need to lie, everyone has to tell the same lie.
Written by Guy Van Sanden
Licensed under a creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.