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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Paul Britton

Stories about lions, cats and mice used to teach children terrorism concepts, Manchester Arena bombing inquiry told

Stories involving lions, cats and mice are being used to introduce children aged as young as five to concepts around terrorism, the public inquiry into the Manchester Arena concert bombing was told.

A book called 'Mog is Coming' has been devised by an award-winning charity telling the story of a cat on the loose in a school of mice.

Another story used as an educational aid involves a circus lion entering a school.

They were designed 'to communicate important issues around run, hide, tell' national counter-terrorism messaging, the inquiry heard.

Brigadier Timothy Hodgetts, chair of trustees at the charity Citizen AID, gave evidence to the inquiry on Monday and said there wasn't yet enough people who would know how to treat a serious 'blast or ballistic' injury after a terror attack.

The Arena attack claimed 22 lives (Manchester Evening News)

The charity has a 'focused mission' to prepare individuals, communities and organisations to help themselves and each other in the event of a 'deliberate' attack.

It offers first aid training and an array of other life-saving advice, techniques and equipment - with a downloadable app as a guide.

The charity was highlighted and praised by TV's Phillip Schofield on ITV's This Morning after the Arena attack on May 22, 2017.

Brigadier Hodgetts, a consultant in emergency medicine who is head of the Army's medical services and the honorary surgeon to the Queen, told how he developed a plan on how to deal with mass casualties in the event of a major incident after an IRA hospital bombing in the early 1990s.

In 2015, he said his team could see 'terrorism marching across Europe' and they believed a terror attack in the UK was inevitable.

Brigadier Hodgetts gave evidence on Monday (Arena Inquiry)

But he said nothing was in place to help members of the public caught up in an incident, in terms of first aid and what to do in the event of an attack.

The charity aims to teach the public how to help save lives in the moments before emergency services arrive.

The app gives guidance on a range of incidents - including 'explosion' and 'active shooter'.

Brigadier Hodgetts said: "A member of the public can only do their best. The app is there to try and get the best out of that individual."

He said schools, colleges and universities were 'very important audiences'.

"We owe it to them to be prepared - so that they can be prepared not scared," he added, urging people to download the free app and lesson plans.

A tribute left in Manchester after the attack (MEN Media)

He said the material had been developed for primary schools that 'convey the message of run, hide, tell and, when it's safe to do so, treat'. All the stories were designed in an 'abstract' manner so as not to scare.

For key stage one children, aged between five and seven, 'Mog is Coming' tells the story of a cat on the loose in a school of mice.

For older primary school children, aged between seven and 11, the inquiry was told a series of story cards and a book called 'Lion on the Loose' focus on a circus lion entering a school 'in order to communicate these important issues'.

A trial of the material around the time of the Arena attack held in Birmingham involved 500 teachers and gained 'universally positive support', the inquiry was told.

Brigadier Hodgetts said: "First aid is now on the syllabus for schools.

"There absolutely is the opportunity now which wasn't there before."

The inquiry heard there was now an 'opportunity to generate a generation' with first aid skills around major injuries and casualties.

Brigadier Hodgetts told of a shift in 'national consciousness' over the use of defibrillators.

He said: "Now, if somebody collapses in the street or a supermarket with a heart attack, there will be enough people around who know how to do basic life support and know where the defibrillator is and are comfortable in using that in order to save life.

"But we do not yet have an equivalent critical mass of people who will feel comfortable in being able to intervene when there is serious injury.

"The message is that we are here to build public resilience, to give people information that will keep them safe, keep others safe and allow them to do the right things in the right order to save lives in the unlikely, but not impossible event, of being caught up in a deliberate attack."

The charity's website and app also include directions on how to deal with life-threatening bleeding and how to prioritise the injured.

The inquiry has been told only one paramedic was at the City Room foyer area of the Arena - where Salman Abedi detonated his explosion - for the first 40 minutes after the blast, and fire crews did not arrive at the scene for more than two hours later.

The attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert killed 22 people and left hundreds injured.

The inquiry resumes on Tuesday, with individual firefighters giving evidence.

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