Anders Breivik's terrorist attack on children at Utøya Island on 22 July, 2011 was an avoidable tragedy. Why was there no helicopter or adequate emergency response teams? It took several hours for a police response; the gunman himself called the police-twice and also got no response. Why was the Norwegian government so unprepared for a domestic terror event?
Because the expenses to provide
- A transport helicopter.
- A backup pilot for the surveillance helicopter.
- A backup ferry.
- A small boat on the lake owned by the police.
- A backup security official for the one who was killed.
- Enough phone operators to handle the call volume.
- A plan for compensating for the lack of these things.
had been deemed unnecessary as they had never needed such a thing previously.
It is unclear how many people can fly on the surveillance helicopter. It may be just a two seater or even a one seater.
Consider that the 9/11 attacks in the United States could have been prevented by a rule keeping the cockpit door locked even in the face of a threat to a flight attendant or passenger. But they did not have such a rule in place on September 11th of 2001. Planes as bombs had been previously described in a book by Tom Clancy, but no one saw the need to explicitly prevent them until after they occurred.
It's easy to say after the fact that such-and-such should have been available. Before, the presumption is that things that have never happened aren't going to happen. For example, in Germany, an attacker drove a truck through a crowd. In response, large crowds (in Germany and elsewhere) are often protected by barriers that would keep someone from driving through. But prior to that, such barriers did not seem necessary. After all, what kind of demented idiot would deliberately drive through a crowd? Yet a Dick Francis book (Proof) described such an act decades earlier.
I doubt that you will find what you want, as it is extremely unlikely that anyone made a deliberate choice to not have any of this equipment. They had never really needed any of those things previously. So they didn't provide them.
Transport helicopters are expensive to buy and operate. How Much Does a Helicopter Cost? and How Much Does a Helicopter Cost? suggest that a helicopter would have cost at least US$340,000 for three passengers (four seats including pilot). Three not enough? A twelve seater could be US$7 million.
Each pilot may go through US$50,000 in training. And apparently you would need at least two pilots (if not three) in case one goes on vacation. It may be difficult to hire someone who can pilot and do other things. You may either have to pay extra or have a full time pilot even if you only need part time work. This is also an on-call job, which costs extra.
Operation expenses were about US$20,000 per year in one example. Some of those are civilian expenses that may not apply to a police helicopter. Note that expenses increase as the helicopter gets larger. Expect that each pilot has to run the helicopter about that much to stay in practice.
With maintenance, you essentially have to buy a new helicopter every ten to twenty years (you may spend that maintaining the existing helicopter). New rotors or engines are not cheap. And you have to keep wear parts on hand.
A small boat would be cheaper, but you'd need one for every separate body of water.
Developing a plan often takes time and experimentation. They would need to engage in activities as if responding to a crisis. And of course, in a crisis, the situation might change. In this case, the ferry boat was unavailable because it was on the island. So they couldn't just take the ferry to the island. That might not have been obvious when developing a plan. And of course, their plans may not focus on small areas like islands with five hundred people only on certain days of the year. They may be more focused on cities with hundreds of thousands of people. Most cities are reachable by land. The ones that aren't tend to maintain their own police force.
Even if they had a helicopter or boat, those things wouldn't have prevented the tragedy. They might possibly have reduced it in scope. Meanwhile, a couple armed volunteer deputies for the security officer might have actually stopped the incident when it was starting.
Example article about the report claiming police could have acted faster. This gives a timeline:
- 17:25 Police notified of shooting.
- 18:09 Team at the lake.
- 18:15 Could have reached the island, as per the commission.
- 18:27 Did reach the island (another source puts this at 18:25).
Even if we assume this is true, it suggests that they only could have saved twelve minutes in their response time. The transport helicopter might have shaved some more time off that, assuming they could access it immediately (how long to get a pilot to the helicopter and the helicopter to meet the tactical response team?). It's unclear how many people were killed during those twelve minutes. Or ten minutes if the other source is correct. Possibly less than that if the commission was overoptimistic in its timeline.
Frankly, this seems quite responsive to me. Wasting ten minutes while trying to resolve a unique situation does not seem untoward. They could have shaved off some time if they owned a multi-million dollar transport helicopter. They could have flown straight from Oslo to the island. But in most circumstances, that wouldn't have necessarily given them much of a boost over driving. Hiring a couple extra officers might be more effective most of the time than a helicopter that is rarely needed.
The police in Norway did not expect a terrorist incident because such things were, and are, extremely uncommon in that country. Wikipedia lists three lethal terror attacks in recent decades.
It is quite difficult to keep an organization prepared for high-impact, low-probability events that do not happen for decades. Ask yourself how your hometown would deal with a nuclear war, and what they do to prepare against homicidal vending machines.