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Stress test Swiss government uncoordinated in terror simulation exercise

mock attack on the UN HQ in Geneva in 2015

Swiss police train for emergencies, like this mock attack on the UN HQ in Geneva in 2015, but seldom multiple incidents.

(Keystone)

A simulation of terrorist acts that included a hostage situation at the United Nations, an attack on a railway station and a potential nuclear radioactive leak revealed lack of coordination at the federal government level. 

The complex scenario was carried out on November 16 last year to test the response of the federal government, as well as the cantons of Geneva and Bern. The government was confronted with a potential radioactive leak at the Mühleberg nuclear power station in canton Bern, a terrorist attack at the Eaux-Vives station in Geneva causing numerous deaths and injuries, and a hostage situation at the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations. 

The report on the reaction of the authorities was released this week and revealed by the Swiss national broadcaster RTS. Results were very mixed, according to the report published by the Federal Chancellery. The report says there was a lack of coordination among all participants, mainly due to the lack of an overall understanding of the situation. Over-reliance on unreliable information and confusion stemming from different versions of events resulted in "ambiguities and uncertainties". It also took seven hours for the Federal Council's crisis response group to be set up and to meet, causing significant delays in decision-making. 

The report also notes a lack of communication between the federal government and the canton of Geneva, which led to misunderstandings and delays. The document says there were problems of understaffing in some teams and some staff members who did not know what to do in the situation. 

The report lists ten recommendations. In particular, it urges the authorities to rethink the organisation of crisis management at federal level and to clarify certain processes and responsibilities. The implementation of these recommendations will be reviewed in 2019 in a new exercise.

RTS/ac

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