I’m Peter Webster, chief executive of Corps Security, and this is where I examine the issues affecting the security industry. My thoughts and opinions are intended to generate debate and whether you agree or disagree with them, you’re welcome to post your comments below.
The brutal terrorist attack in Paris yesterday highlights once again that the threat from terrorism remains both real, and deadly.
It is important to note that yesterday’s attack in Paris on the offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was both specific in nature and intent, as well as being extremely well planned. Those who have viewed the horrific images and video clips of the attack would have been struck by the professionalism of the attackers, and their handling of their weapons. The ‘grouping’ of the bullet holes on the Police car windscreen, for example, revealed a high level of training in the use of assault rifles.
In addition, the attackers also knew exactly where to find their unfortunate victims, and appear to have had detailed knowledge of the layout of the interior of the premises they attacked. It is therefore almost certain that the terrorists had carried out pre-operational hostile reconnaissance in one form or another.
The most important issue must be the method of this attack. This ‘swarm’ attack method first became widely known with the 2008 series of twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. We have also seen similar methodology used in Africa in the January 2013 Tigantourine gas facility attack and hostage taking in Algeria, and the September 2013 attack on the upmarket Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
To my knowledge the Charlie Hebdo attack is the first time this form of terrorist attack has been seen in Europe.
However, I fear it will not be the last time.
The attack has led the French authorities to raise their terror threat category to its highest level. Whilst yesterday’s attack was very specific in its nature, such attacks could happen here in the UK. The current Security Services Threat level in the UK currently remains at its second highest, namely: SEVERE.
What steps can be taken by the management of businesses and organisations here in the UK to help prevent such attacks, as well as to mitigate the consequences of such attacks, should they occur?
Whilst we at Corps Security recognise that risk and threat levels will vary amongst our customer base, there are nevertheless some generic steps, or ‘Top Tips’ that can be taken to help when thinking about our customers’ individual and specific counter-terrorism measures and programmes:
- Ensure there is a clearly defined security policy in place.
- Maintain a good flow of intelligence and information, including close liaison with local Police and Counter-Terrorism advisors.
- Have the right calibre of trained people in place, including well-trained Security teams, and run Security Awareness programmes for all staff and personnel.
- Select appropriate technical solutions, especially to enable robust access control measures.
- Implement effective operational procedures.
- Ensure that control and supervision protocols are in place.
- Carry out regular tests (including Penetration Tests) and drills of all security and safety systems.
- Implement both internal and external security audits.
- Ensure that Contingency and Emergency plans are in place and are easily accessible for all relevant personnel.
- Always ensure that Security teams are alert to suspicious behaviour and activity in or around your subject premises or environment! As mentioned above, the Paris attack shows that the terrorists had done their homework, and had carried out pre-operational reconnaissance on their target premises.
The job of all of us is to maintain awareness, and to focus on identifying suspicious behaviour and activity. If something occurs that bothers you, or arouses your suspicion, or just doesn’t seem routine, then please: Report it! You may end up saving a life or lives.
Remember: everyone should always remain alert to the danger of terrorism and report any suspicious activity to the police on 999 or the anti-terrorist hotline: 0800 789 321