What happens and when

The response to a terrorist incident in the UK relies on a coordinated approach between those responding at a local level, including emergency services and local authorities, and the central government departments with a key role to play.

The approach

  • once it has been agreed that the Chief Constable needs support from the government, the Home Office notifies all key departments and agencies
  • the Home Office would liaise with Cabinet Office and a decision would be taken as to whether to activate central government’s crisis management facilities –  the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR). The Cabinet Office has responsibility for maintaining the alerting mechanism for the UK central government response
  • the Strategy Group in COBR would be chaired by either the Prime Minister or Home Secretary (if the group sits at ministerial level), or by a senior Home Office official (if the group sits at official level)
  • the exact make up of the Strategy Group in COBR will depend on the type of incident. The committee will draw on the resources of other government departments, including the security and intelligence agencies, the police and other relevant organisations
  • in order to establish an effective link between the national and local response, a government liaison team (GLT) can be immediately established as a single point of contact. This team will include relevant representatives from government departments the government liaison team is headed by a government liaison officer (a Home Office official) and will support the police Gold commander on a 24/7 basis for as long as required. The liaison officer will report back to central government to ensure that all decisions made at both the local and national level are based on accurate and up-to-date information, and take into account both operational and political implications
  • the Home Office always leads the government response immediately following a terrorist attack. However, depending on the nature of the attack, lead responsibility may be transferred to another department during the response phase. For example, if there has been lasting damage to transport infrastructure, it may be appropriate to transfer lead responsibility to the Department for Transport

We keep our plans under constant review and we are always looking at how to improve the government response.

Contingency planning guidance

The national counter-terrorism contingency planning guidance is a Home Office-owned, FOI-exempt, confidential document used by the government and police in response to terrorist incidents.

The guidance is currently divided into five parts and a series of appendices.
The guidance was last fully updated in December 2011, when all the parts and appendices were revised. The parts and appendices can be updated individually as circumstances require. Of the five parts:

  • part 1 has 3 sections
  • part 2 has 12 sections
  • part 3 has 5 sections
  • part 4 has 3 sections
  • part 5 has 1 sections

The guidance contains 50 appendices.

The guidance has been distributed to the relevant police and other personnel across the country. Authorised officers can request the most up-to-date sections of the guidance by contacting: CTcontingency.planningguidance@homeoffice.x.gsi.gov.uk.

You will need to provide your name; organisation and department; business address; identification number on the hardcopy of the guidance (located on the spine); and the updated part or section number you require.

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