Set against the background of high security alerts across Europe and the recent lockdown in Brussels, Belgium, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) in the UK has been hosting a National Counter Terrorism Awareness Week 2015 from November 23 – 27, 2015, writes Editorial Advisory Panel Member Roger Gomm.
This is a campaign from the police service and partners to inform the public about the terrorism threat; what is being done to tackle it; how communities can help, and offering practical advice about how to stay safe and be vigilant to the threat from terrorism whether at home, in business or online.
Heightened security in Brussels after the Paris attacks (Photo: Isopix/Rex/Shutterstock)
Says NaCTSO: “Following the recent shocking events in Paris, it is important to highlight that the threat level to the UK from international terrorism remains at SEVERE, which means an attack is highly likely. The UK has been operating at this level since August 2014 and it is important that following these events all communities remain alert but not alarmed.
“The police and security services are working hard to protect the public and businesses from terrorism and this week gives us an opportunity to remind communities about this threat and help them to take the necessary steps to stay safe. The launch today outlines the current threat and what is being done to tackle it.”
On Tuesday the focus was on public vigilance to help report terrorist activity – both online and off – and explained what to look out for and how the public can get in touch with the police if they have concerns or information about suspicious behaviour or activity.
Wednesday moved the conversation towards how businesses and industry can be prepared against the online threat from cyber terrorism. On Thursday efforts will concentrate on the dangers of online radicalisation and how to safeguard those who are vulnerable.
At the end of the week, in advance of one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, NaCTSO will highlight useful information that will explain how to keep popular digital gift items safe from unwanted external influences.
“We recognise that in these times our relationship with the public – who we depend on for information about suspicious behaviour - needs to be stronger than ever before,” says NaCTSO. “We are advising the public not to be concerned about the things they are unable to control, but instead to focus on what they can do that will make a difference, and to make sure they know where to get information from the police in a crisis, whether it’s through social media or more traditional ways such as radio and TV.”
NaCTSO has previously issued advice on developing dynamic lockdown procedures, providing guidance for organisations to lock down their their sites dynamically in response to a fast moving incident such as a firearms or weapons attack, either directly at the site or in the vicinity.
Dynamic lockdown is the ability to quickly restrict access and egress to a site or building (or part of) through physical measures in response to a threat, either external or internal. The aim of lockdown is to prevent people moving into danger areas and preventing or frustrating the attackers accessing a site (or part of). It is recognised that due to their nature some sites may not be able to physically achieve lockdown.
Those seeking to conduct attacks often undertake a level of planning including hostile reconnaissance. All opportunities to detect and deter threats at the attack planning phase should be taken. Presenting a strong security posture through visible and effective activity, for example by staff awareness and reporting processes, efficient use of CCTV, deterrent communications and active security zones.
If preventing an attack has not been possible, the ability to frustrate and delay the attacker(s) during the course of the attack and reduce the number of potential casualties can be greatly increased through dynamic lockdown.
Advance planning of what needs to be done to lockdown a site and recognising the need for flexibility in those plans will save lives.
Planning should consider:
- How to achieve effective full or partial lockdown
- How to let people know what’s happening
In your planning you should identify all access and egress points in both public and private areas of the site. Remember, access points may be more than just doors and gates:
- Identify how to quickly and physically secure access/egress points
- Identify how your site can be sectored to allow specific areas to be locked down
- Staff roles and responsibilities should be included in the plans.
- Staff must be trained to act effectively and made aware of their responsibilities
- Stopping people leaving or entering the site – direct people away from danger
- Ability to disable lifts without returning them to the ground floor should be considered
- Processes need to be flexible enough to cope with and compliment invacuation and evacuation
- Various options exist depending on the nature and occupancy of the site, these include:
- Public Address (PA) system
- Existing internal messaging systems; text, email, staff phones etc
- “Pop up” on employees computers / internal messaging systems
- Dedicated “Lockdown” alarm tone
- Word of mouth
For multi occupancy sites, methods of communication between all businesses need to be considered. Likewise, working with surrounding businesses will not only benefit situational awareness but build effective lines of communication. Using fire alarms should be avoided to reduce the risk of incorrect response to an incident.
Due to the fast moving nature of incidents that require lockdown it is important that all staff are able to act quickly and effectively.
Training staff is of vital importance. NaCTSO has issued a short film called ‘Stay Safe’, which captures the actions that people should take in the event of a firearms or weapons attack. It contains the main messages of RUN > HIDE > TELL
Organisations should ensure people know what is expected of them, their roles and responsibilities, and check that understanding regularly. They should also test and exercise plans with staff and training should be refreshed on a regular basis.