In 2016, tragedy struck during the festive period when a dozen people were killed and almost 60 injured when Islamic extremist Anis Amri drove into one of Berlin’s Christmas markets, just outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
And no doubt, now that all the UK’s Christmas markets have just opened their chalet doors, you’ll also all have noticed that there are more stringent security measures in place than will have been seen 12 months ago. In Manchester, for example, the markets located in Albert Square outside the Town Hall are blocked off by concrete barriers. And in Edinburgh, bag searches and security checks are being carried out at entrances to the markets on George Street.
According to the Daily Mail, armed police from West Midlands Police Force have just carried out a training exercise as part of emergency response planning procedures in the event of a terror attack on a Christmas market on British soil. A live drill was carried out at the Bullring arcade in Birmingham and Grand Central train station, with paramedics and firefighters also on the scene.
Concrete barriers have also been installed around the Frankfurt Christmas Market in the city this year, with police carrying out stop and searches on vehicles.
Gareth Cann, Assistant Chief Constable, was quoted by the news source as saying: “This is the latest in a series of exercises that we have carried out to test our ability to deal with large scale incidents. Recent national and international events highlight the importance of public organisations testing their emergency response procedures to reassure the safety of the communities we serve.
“The UK threat level remains at severe which means that an attack is highly likely, although there is no specific threat to our region it is imperative that we are ready to deal with such an attack if required. I would like to thank everyone who took part in the exercise, particularly the Bullring and Grand Central.”
If you visit the markets, no matter where you are in the UK, you’d be wise to expect to see armed police carrying out patrols as well. It seems that this will be a key feature of the festive period where the markets are concerned this year.
Greater Manchester Police’s Superintendent Chris Hill noted that a natural response to heightened security can be fear or concern, because it seems as though the threat level may be greater, but he was keen to reassure everyone that these extra measures are precautionary to help keep everyone as safe as possible – and it should make them feel more comfortable about attending events such as the markets at this time of year.
It also pays to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police, whether that’s in person at the markets themselves or by using the confidential anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.