“Critical” – An explanation to my 11 year old

This morning, I had the unenviable task of explaining the current security situation to my 11 year old daughter. In doing so, I have one advantage – my job. 

I work in the world of firearms command. I have been familiar with Operation Temperer for a long time. I understand what the deployment of armed officers means and how they are used. 

Some of the reporting, particularly from Sky News, has been hysterical. By which I don’t mean “funny” – I mean panic inducing. If you took everything you’ve seen on TV as fact then you’d never leave the house again and I don’t want my children to live like that. 

So here – without hysteria – is roughly how I explained the situation to my daughter. It may help those of you struggling and with less knowledge than those of us who work in this world.

“What happened in Manchester is very hard to predict and very hard to prevent. This man has targeted a place where there were lots of people who would not have been expecting it. There would have been no warning and no way of knowing this was going to happen. 

We have been at a high level of security for a long time but part of this is having a plan to go even higher if we did become aware of a threat or after an incident. 

This plan involves using the army and has been ready for a long time but never used. Because of what has happened – the time has come to use that plan for a while.

The only way to effectively deal with a potential suicide bomber is with guns. The action taken by the police or army has to be instant and it has to work. 

The police are also busy trying to find out whether anyone else is planning anything and also to arrest anyone who might have been involved in the Manchester attack.

Lots of places need to be protected at the moment and that includes places where there are lots of people. Tourist sites, shopping centres and so on. 

The police and army do different jobs. The police are responsible for investigating the crime, responding to incidents and catching the bad guys but they can’t do that if they have to protect places as well. There aren’t enough of them. So the plan has always been to use soldiers to protect places if we ever needed to. This means that the police officers can carry on with their job and the places and people can be protected too.

The main reason the Prime Minister has chosen to do it at this time is to protect people. The police don’t yet know if they have caught everyone and until they are more sure – we need to be careful. There is a lot of work to do so the army have been called to help the police. 

If you see them – go and say hello. They are there to help us and look after us. 

I don’t think they will be around forever. I don’t know how long but until the police have finished their work. But when they do – things should return to normal.

As for you? I don’t want you to be afraid. If anything happens I want you to run away from it. 

But the police and army are now working very hard to keep us safe. I am looking out for you as well.”

There were questions – of course there were questions – but she has come home from school with a smile on her face so I am hoping – for now – I have said enough.

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