The second part of our recording at a somewhat desolate and windswept central location in England, speaking to former National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) National Lead for Civil Contingencies ACC Owen Weatherill and his former colleague Ch Supt Hannah Wheeler.
They tell us about their part in the UK policing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the learning that experience provides for future similar events. Owen also held the roles of Strategic Lead for the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) and National Mobilisation Coordinator (NMC) – and, in that capacity, also tells us a little about the UK’s preparedness to assist overseas at times of policing need.
Ch Supt Wheeler takes us inside the hanger where Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is now stored, and was also stored and distributed during the course of the pandemic.
“We chose this location because it’s close, geographically, to all the main arterial routes. And it’s near an airport if we needed to get quick access to PPE being flown in”.
“We quickly realised we would need an Amazon style hub to process the volume…We were processing more than a million items of PPE through here – and that’s just with five officers – unloading, packing, repacking, checking”.
“Gloves, masks, a couple of different types of mask… tyvec suits, overshoes, hand sanitiser”
Former ACC Weatherall also provides us with some insight on the materials stored to facilitate assistance in the case of hurricanes overseas.
“We are constantly flexing to meet the needs of policing… including the needs of the Overseas Territories, predominantly the Caribbean…”
“There’s an annual hurricane season in the Caribbean, how bad those hurricanes are varies from year to year. As we saw five years ago, there was a need to send UK officers over to help, to get two or three of the islands back on their feet”.
“What we’ve got here is the ability to equip, at speed, an initial tranche of 60 officers, to get them on a plane with everything they need to survive, on their own – food, rations, equipment, tents – everything they need to be self-sufficient for a month”.
The video provides some emotional moments – for viewer, interviewer and interviewees – in recollecting the challenges that needed to be addressed.
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