THE grieving father of tube bomb victim Carrie Louise Taylor has called for the introduction of a London-wide mobile phone-based terror alert scheme.
John Taylor’s call comes after it emerged last night that just such a scheme created with Government funding more than four years ago has yet to be taken up by a single council in the terror-hit capital.
The CATS system, which was devised in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, allows emergency planners to blanket send SMS text alerts to subscribers’ mobiles within a specific geographical area affected by critical situations ranging from severe weather to all-out terrorist alerts.
The alerts tell subscribers to evacuate the area, avoid particular locations and give directions to hospitals or aid stations.
The system, which costs subscribers just £1.50p-a-year, has already been taken up by Berkshire, Brighton & Hove and Wolverhampton councils.
Mr Taylor, whose 24-year-old daughter died in the Circle Line bomb near Liverpool Street on July 7, 2005, said: “It’s interesting that the technology is there to be used for ordinary people’s benefit and yet is not up and running already.
“If my daughter had been made aware of a threat to public transport, she would have thought twice about taking the tube and would undoubtedly be alive today.
“Carrie carried her mobile phone everywhere with her and would have benefited from this service. A mobile phone alert scheme should definitely be introduced, especially in the wake of everything that has happened.
“If anything, it would just give people a chance to make their own minds up about how to deal with a specific threat.”
Days before July 7′s bombings, the state of alert in London had been down-graded from “severe general” to “substantial” – the fourth of seven threat levels agreed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.
JTAC, which is based at MI5′s London HQ, had made the decision because it had uncovered no evidence in the preceeding weeks of an al-Qaeda-style plot to attack London.
Mr Taylor added: “Even if a warning was issued through a mobile alerts system after an incident has already happened, I am convinced it could still help.
“The emergency authorities may be worried about people panicking.
“But at the end of the day, surely people should have the right to chose how to react to a threat by having access to a well-administered alerts system.”
If a post code supplied by a subscriber is affected by a specific threat or event, then they receive an alert.
The CATS system needs to be administered by individual borough emergency planning authorities and can be set up in just a few hours.
A similar scheme was used by the Environment Agency to successfully warn thousands of people of a rapid rise in water levels in advance of floods in Cumbria which led to three deaths earlier this year.
One of the most advanced systems of its kind in the world, C.A.T.S – which is effectively a 21st century air raid siren – was launched in the capital two years ago by Steven Norris.
But baffled bosses at the British security firm behind the scheme say they can’t understand why it has not been taken up in London, which has bourn the brunt of terror attacks that claimed 56 lives in blasts on three tube trains and one bus last July 7.
Although a number of limited mobile alert systems are available – such as those run by The Ministry of Defence and the City-based Vocal Priority Alert Service, these are aimed specifically at the business community, MPs, civil servants and among emergency service workers.
Despite the technology being available through schemes like CATS, one – which the City of London’s Ass Com Mike Bowron admits “could save lives” – has yet to be set up for members of the general public.
Nick Seller, at Easytext – the firm behind CATS – said: “We are amazed that not one London council has taken this scheme up.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to us because it’s remarkably easy to use, very cheap and it would take us just hours to set up a service in each London borough, whose emergency planners would be responsible to sending out alerts.
“They all know about it because we’ve given countless demonstrations about how the alert system works.”
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which looks after civil contingencies, said the introduction of a wider mobile alerts scheme was “a Home Office issue”. In turn, a Home Office spokesman said: “It’s a matter for the Cabinet Office.”
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