On the 22nd May 2017, just two months after the Westminster attack, a suicide bomber struck the Manchester Arena at the end of a pop concert, filled with children and young adults. The bomb, detonated in the arena foyer, killed 22 people and injured scores more. This was followed by a further attack in London with multiple fatalities less than two weeks later.
The UK terror threat level, which directs the response from the police and armed forces in their protection of us, is a key indicator in advising us of the level of threat from terrorist activity. The temporary increase in the threat level to critical following the Manchester incident demonstrates the volatility in risk perceived by the authorities. The terrorism risk landscape we now face is unpredictable - with attacks more diverse than ever and dispersed over a wider geographical area. Events in the UK and mainland Europe in recent times suggest that we are now exposed to potentially more frequent, less sophisticated terrorist attacks.
As a country, we have increased our legal powers in recent years to strengthen our ability to capture, investigate and prosecute terrorists. This includes – but is not limited to – the Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, and the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
The terror attack in Westminster, London on the 22nd March 2017 prompted a security update from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) calling for organisations to consider protective security tactics to aid their security.
Risk Prevention Measures
The prevention of attacks, such as the recent incident in Westminster is difficult where multiple methodologies are deployed. In situations such as this, no one security measure will wholly mitigate the event.
Despite this, there are still steps that Local Authorities can take to ensure their security and protection measures are as robust as they can be. A useful resource point is the Government’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) website. NaCTSO is a police unit, working with the Home Office to support the ‘protect and prepare’ strands of the Government’s counter terrorism strategy.
The message from the government is clear – effective security and effective communities defeat terrorism.
Staff should be reminded to remain vigilant at all times and be encouraged to proactively challenge visitors, vehicles and anything out of the ordinary. The creation of a hostile environment for such criminals can be an effective deterrent.
It is common place for local authorities to have responsibility for buildings where members of the public can readily access. It is vital that security plans for these buildings are reviewed and refreshed as necessary. These plans should be well communicated to staff and should cover the following incidents:
- Firearm threats.
- Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.
- Suicide attacks
- Chemical, biological and radioactive threats.
- Insider threats.
- Cyber threats.
Protective Security of Crowded Places
We have seen with the incident in Westminster and subsequently Sweden that crowded places are a key target area for terrorists. These areas are usually easily accessible and offer the terrorist significant opportunity for high levels of loss of life.
NaCTSO provides guidance documents to anyone involved in the design and development of the built environment on their website as well as helpful tips for local authorities and businesses to consider in improving their protective security measures. There are also sector specific guidance documents available for download. There is a national stakeholder menu of options on the website which highlight areas of particular risk to consider such as those related to the night time economy and iconic sites.
Business continuity and emergency plans are an essential control measure that should not be overlooked. Additional supporting plans can be added to these such as evacuation arrangements, communication plans, refuge arrangements for the public and first-aid training – to ensure they are all in order.
Local authorities are facing the demanding challenge of needing to effectively strike a balance between implementing measures to protect members of the public whilst not increasing public fear and uncertainty to a level which makes people feel they are so unsafe they cannot live their lives within normal boundaries. The UK Government as well as the police and intelligence services are working to ensure that the public are protected from harm, however, local authorities have a duty to work alongside them to support their counter terrorism strategy, prevent agenda and other initiatives in the bid to combat terrorism. Members of the public may look to the local authority for guidance, reassurance and support in these times of heightened fear and uncertainty and so it is vitally important that organisations such a s these are equipped to respond effectively to such requests.
Additional useful sources of advice and information can be found at:
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