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Charlie Hebdo

Posted by wilkinsoncc on January 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Easy target

Terrorists have found that security surrounding military and Government facilities’ has improved significantly since 9/11 and at the same time organizations such as Al-Qaida have become more splintered, with less training, funding and access to weapons and explosives. As a result they are turning their attention towards easier-to-hit targets such as we saw in France today with the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

In fact the 2008 attack on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai marked a turning point in extremist activity and a study by STRATFOR (the subscriber funded US Intelligence gathering body) concluded that the number of such attacks has more than doubled since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, when compared with the 8 year period before.


Obviously, it is important to ensure that the response is proportionate Particularly relevant to protective security are the specific requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to carry out adequate risk assessments and put suitable measures in place to manage the identified risks. Even where they are not of your making and are outside your direct control, you need to be alert to the need to conduct prompt and regular reviews of those assessments and measures in light of new threats and development.

It should also be remembered that terrorism can come in many forms, not just a physical attack on life and limb. Terrorism also includes threats or hoaxes designed to frighten and intimidate or attacks designed to cause disruption and economic damage. It can include interference with vital operational, information or communication system, which can have a major affect on the businesses ability to operate. Some attacks are easier to carry out if the terrorist is assisted by an ‘insider’ or by someone with specialist knowledge or access. 

What you can do 

The first step is to understand your premises, identifying the threats to it, and its vulnerability to those threats. Ideally you should review and test current safety arrangements, audit them and as a result improve planning and response. In particular you should ensure adequate training, information and equipment are provided to all staff, and especially to those involved directly on the safety and security side. 

In most cases simple good practice – coupled with vigilance and well exercised contingency arrangements – may be all that is needed. If, however, you assess that you are vulnerable to attack, you should apply appropriate protective security measures to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable.

Step One: Identify the threat - understanding the terrorist's intentions and capabilities - what they might do and how they might do it - is crucial to assessing threat. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the current state of alert - Visit or check media
  • Is there anything about the location of your premises, its customers, occupiers and staff, or your activities that would particularly attract a terrorist attack?
  • Is there an association with high profile individuals or organisations which might be terrorist targets?
  • Do you have procedures in place and available for deployment on occasions when VIPs attend your premises?
  • Could collateral damage occur from an attack on, or another incident to a high risk neighbour?
  • Is there any aspect of your business or activities that terrorists might wish to exploit to aid their work, e.g. plans, technical expertise or unauthorised access?

Step Two: Decide what you need to protect and identify the vulnerabilities:

Your priorities for protection should fall under the following categories:

  • People (staff, visitors, concessionaires, contractors)
  • Physical assets (buildings, contents, equipment, plans and sensitive materials)
  • Information (electronic and paper data)
  • Processes (supply chains, critical procedures)

Step Three: Identify measures to reduce risk 

An integrated approach to security is essential. This involves thinking about physical security, information security and personnel security. There is little point investing in costly security measures if they can be easily undermined by a disaffected member of staff or by a lax recruitment process. In the run up to a busy period it is easy to fall into the trap of being desperate for additional staff, and so be willing to circumvent normal background checks. 

Remember, terrorism is a crime and many of the security precautions typically used to deter criminals are also effective against terrorists. Before you invest in additional security measures, review what you already have in place. You may already have a good security regime on which you can build. You should have measures in place to limit access into service or back of house corridors and vehicle access control measures into goods and service yards.

Staff may be unaware of existing security measures, or may have developed habits to circumvent them, e.g. short cuts through fire exits. Simply reinstating good basic security practices and regularly reviewing them will bring benefits at negligible cost. If you need additional security measures, then make them cost-effective by careful planning wherever possible. Try to introduce new equipment or procedures in conjunction with planned building work and remember that significant changes may require statutory consents such as planning permission or building regulations consent.

Step Four: Review your security measures 

You should regularly review and exercise your plans to ensure that they remain accurate, workable and up-to-date. You should be aware of the need to modify them to take into account any changes (e.g. recent or planned building work, changes to personnel, information and communication systems and revised health and safety issues). Rehearsals and exercises should wherever possible, be conducted in conjunction with emergency services and local authorities. 

Make sure that your staff understand and accept the need for security measures and that security is seen as part of everyone's responsibility, not merely something for security experts or professionals. Make it easy for people to raise concerns or report unusual activity and ensure that you investigate such observations. 


The government have recently consulted on bringing Security under the Building Regulations and have created a draft Approved Document Q though this currently only extends to dwellings. I would like to see this extended under powers created by Andrew Stunnells' Secure and Sustainable Buildings Bill to encompass the relevant guidance for public buildings produced by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office alongside the Royal Institute of British Architects see

This Blog includes material from an article by Chris Phillips that first appeared in Big Hospitality News

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