In recent years, the nature of terrorist attacks across the world has shifted. Acts of terrorism are increasingly being carried out by lone agents against soft targets, in busy streets or establishments and during working hours. Lone individuals launch attacks at their own will in a range of public areas and likely involve the use of vehicles, knives and other handheld devices.
While such attacks generally result in fewer casualties, the unpredictability and rising frequency of attacks cause mass panic and fear as they target groups of individuals while carrying out their daily lives. 2017 saw a high number of these types of attacks such as the Manchester Bombing and the London Bridge vehicle-ramming and stabbing, while just last week, 11 people were arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack involving guns and a vehicle.
In recent months, other attacks around the world have taken the public by surprise as they target commercial and public spaces and are carried out by both lone wolves and groups of extremists. In the UK five letter bombs were sent to offices near major transport hubs including Lone Waterloo train station and Heathrow airport. An IRA group claimed responsibility for the series of bombs.
In New Zealand, a lone attacker entered two mosques and shot at worshippers, killing 50 and injuring a further 50. The attack came as a complete shock to the country which had never experienced a terrorist attack before and the incident was live streamed on social networks. The attack also incited a string of far-right attacks across the world.
Such incidents demonstrate that terror attacks can occur against any target and in any environment. Not only does this increase fear amongst members of the public, but also large organisations and businesses whose employees are more likely to get caught up in an attack while under their care.
But what can and should businesses be doing to protect their employees from the threat of terrorism?
Whilst the chance of getting caught up in a terrorist attack is low, the impact on communities, businesses and individuals when it does happen, is substantial. The level of unease and fear that terrorist incidents cause is high, and it is likely that your employees have worries, especially when visiting cities and large events. The very nature of terrorism is that attacks take us by surprise and therefore can cause unprecedented periods of panic and downtime for businesses and their workforce.
Being prepared and having solutions in place to ensure the safety of employees, is not only good practice but can also ensure businesses are meeting their duty of care.
Businesses are legally required to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees as far as is reasonably practicable. This includes having emergency procedures in place for a number of possible incidents. As part of a risk assessment, organisations should consider the level of risk for employees getting caught up in a terrorist attack.
When assessing the potential risk, some factors to consider include;
- The location of your business e.g. are you located in a large city?
- The size and nature of your business. Could you become a target for terrorists? E.g. as a political or economic target. Or as an establishment housing large numbers of people.
- How and where your employees travel for work e.g. through busy streets or shopping centres
- Whether your employees work abroad in areas with higher rates of terrorism
Mitigating against the risk of terrorism
There are some straightforward steps employers can take to protect staff and minimise disruption in the event of an attack.
Making your employees aware of government advice is a simple way of ensuring that they are better equipped to keep themselves safe in the event of a terrorist attack. In the UK, the government have published resources such as a flyer and film that can be easily distributed to your employees via email. The general advice remains RUN HIDE TELL.
Provide counter-terrorism training
There are different types of training programmes that could equip your employees with the preparation they need to respond safely in an emergency situation. Depending on the identified risks to your staff, you may decide on a general emergency response training or a specific anti-terrorism training programme.
In the UK, the Government developed a training programme name ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) Awareness to protect buildings, business areas and their surrounding neighbourhoods from the threat of terrorism. Over 1500 organisations signed up for the training which can be taken online and takes under an hour to complete.
Some of the modules covered in the ACT Awareness training include;
- Identifying Security Vulnerabilities
- How to Identify and Respond to Suspicious Behaviour
- What to do in the Event of a Bomb Threat
You should also consider training for a specific response depending on the nature of your business. For example, you may implement a lockdown procedure to prevent an attacker from accessing your work site or to prevent employees from moving into dangerous areas.
Implement a response plan
To prepare your organisation and employees for a large scale incident such as a terrorist attack, every business should have a disaster management and response plan so that employees are aware of what is required of them and to prevent panic. A clear and easy-to-understand disaster management policy, distributed as part of your employee handbook, will help employees understand their roles during an emergency.
As part of this, you should develop a strategy for locating your employees and ensuring their safety. Whether a disaster occurs in a large office building or at a more remote site, this should be a top priority. You must ensure you have a communication plan in place for effectively contacting employees so you can identify who is safe and who may be in need of assistance.
However, locating and communicating with employees is perhaps one of the greatest challenges organisations come across in the event of a disaster. If employing a large workforce operating remotely or over several sites, this can be particularly difficult. Fortunately, a number of solutions have been developed to assist with this issue.
IncidentEye Locate and Protect
IncidentEye is a crisis management tool developed specifically in response to the challenge of locating and protecting employees during a large scale incident. Comprised of an app and online hub, IncidentEye allows organisations to immediately identify who is in the vicinity of an incident and prompt employees to specify whether they are safe or in danger.
Communications can then be sent to employees depending on their location or safety status, advising them on what to do or updating them on the situation. Employee safety status can be viewed in real time so that you can answer the question, are our people safe?