8 ways to reduce the threat of a terrorist attack
Recent weeks have seen terrorist attacks on civilians take place on an almost daily basis. There are steps we can take as a society to reduce the potential of producing citizens intent on carrying out such attacks.
These include providing adequate mental health provision, good governance and democracy, and improving community cohesion through reducing inequalities in health, wealth and life opportunities. Many of these incidents are associated with international terrorism, but certainly not all of them. As increasing numbers of organisations are targeted, BuroHappold looks to answer the question that many people are asking:
“What can we do to reduce the chances of terrorism happening to us, within our own workplace?”
The good news is that there are a range of interventions that can be adopted to reduce the risks. We recommend taking an approach that balances both mitigation strategies and adaptive capacity.
In this context, mitigation takes the form of physical defences that can be put in place to make it harder for attackers to infiltrate a business. Adaptive capacity, on the other hand, is the less tangible yet equally vital ability for an organisation to maintain situational awareness at all times. This ensures potential threats are anticipated, and effective decisions made that lead to appropriate actions being taken.
With this in mind, we have put together 8 simple steps to help you protect your staff and organisation:
1. Don’t make yourself a target
Think carefully about whether any press releases, articles, product launches or other public communications are likely to draw unwanted attention to your organisation or staff. This does not mean that communications should cease, but that the risk they incur is matched by an appropriate increase in security measures.
2. Understand your vulnerabilities
Recent events have shown that targets are most likely to be people, and in particular those in crowded spaces, predictable congregation points, or specific individuals, to which a potential attacker can gain easy access. Targets that carry significant meaning or which have a high profile are likely to be at greater risk.
3. Identify likely routes and methods of attack
Historically, terrorists have used four main methods of attack – explosive devices, knives, firearms, and vehicle ramming. Attackers typically seek to enter the target area undetected, with the aim to either dispatch a specific individual or randomly kill as many people as possible.
Mitigation measures work in two ways. First, they deter any terrorist by creating layers of protection that need to be penetrated before the attack could take place. Second, they reduce the scale or impact of an attack should it occur. This is not just about providing bollards or blast resistant design, this is about designing to reduce vulnerabilities from the outset – for example, providing adequate standoff, choosing non brittle façade materials, and good space planning to separate people from vulnerable spaces.
5. Maintain situational awareness
It is easiest to think of situational awareness in terms of the OODA loop – observe, orientate, decide, then act. For most businesses, this means gaining the ability to detect, locate, identify and monitor the threat. This is best delivered through vigilant security staff on the ground and via CCTV, but the more staff can be made aware of what to look out for and the importance of staying aware, the more likely you are to detect a threat before an attack is carried out.
6. Communication is key
Situational awareness is further enhanced when coupled with command, control and ICT systems. These are usually located in a building/campus control room where information from multiple sources can be gathered, the right decisions made quickly, and the resulting actions effectively coordinated with security services and staff.
Each type of attack presents a different threat. While a simple drill of run, hide, tell can be useful when dealing with the general public because it achieves action quickly, a more complex adaptive response is required for organisations. As these more in-depth strategies need to be delivered by trained teams equipped to deal with a terrorist scenario, smaller businesses may consider looking to initiatives such as Crime Reduction Partnerships for additional support. For further guidance, visit the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) website.
If your organisation is subject to a terror attack, the decisions you make and the way you approach recovery could have profound implications in the long term. Consider recovery as part of your response planning – in particular how you will communicate with those directly affected and the wider public audience – as this will greatly reduce negative impact on your business.
Looking to the future, technologies that are currently on the brink of realisation will soon be available to help us counter the threat of terrorism. For example, drones could be used to enhance the dynamic capabilities of CCTV, and AI can help understand how your organisation is viewed by the outside world. Both measures would provide earlier indication of a potential threat, so you can respond with increased security sooner.
It is reassuring to know that, despite the horror of the headlines that hit us every day, we are not defenceless in the fight against terrorism. Our safety still lies in our own hands, and by following the 8 steps outlined above, you’ll be able to set in motion strategies to safeguard your staff and organisation from security risks.