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How to Protect Your Business from the Threat of Terrorism

Chris Phillips, Former Head of National Counter Terrorism Security Office

Chris Phillips, Former Head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office

By Chris Phillips, Former Head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Terrorists once again target the soft target of the leisure industry. Innocent people murdered by a cowardly maniac acting in the stupid belief that this evil will take him to heaven. What sort of warped mind-set is that? Unfortunately it’s a mind-set that all owners of hotels need to take seriously, as this threat is not going away anytime soon. Fifteen years ago we were talking about international terrorism being a generational issue. Well, all these years later we can safely say that another generation at least will deal with tragedies like this from time to time. Your children and their children after them will be dealing with this terrible issue in their business life.

I am actually writing this article from Mumbai in India, where I am helping security professionals understand better how they can protect their businesses. This City is still living with the scars of an attack equally as vicious but involving a far bigger and more organised group.
Terrorism acts are designed to terrorise the public into changing their way of life. After an attack it’s our responsibility to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible. The stories I have heard this week, Mumbai hotels empty for many months after the attack prove that this is easier said than done. Ask yourself how you would cope with a massive drop in trade for a sustained period of time, caused by a terrorist outrage in your area.

It makes sense then that the hotel trade looks at itself and does something to reduce vulnerability. There is a common misconception that nothing can be done by small business around terrorism. This is just not correct. Importantly actions you take to prevent terrorism will also reduce your likelihood of suffering crime generally.

Terrorists really need to look at the location they want to attack. This is called hostile reconnaissance. It is a great opportunity for a hotel to put a potential attacker off, or better still detect them before they can cause carnage. Even small businesses these days should security on their agenda. Ensuring CCTV is serviced and doing what you want it to do is a must.

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:

The government announces security levels and it’s important to pay attention. The national media will give you a good feel for the nature of the threat you face.

Small hotels naturally would not feel that they are a target, but Is there anything about the location of your premises, its customers, occupiers and staff, or your activities that would particularly attract a terrorist attack? Just being near a tourist attraction or city centre may cause you a problem.

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 a high risk neighbour be the reason you are dragged into terrorism.

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

A holistic 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 poor recruitment process. In the run up to a busy period it is easy to think that any staff will do 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.
You may already have a good security regime in your business 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. Good access control, CCTV and lighting along with an alert workforce who are ready and willing to confront suspicious behaviour will go a long way to protecting your business.

Security measures must be reviewed regularly. Staff will often be tempted may 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 in your hotel or restaurant (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.

All staff need to be made aware of the importance of security. There is no point in building a strong security regime if staff don’t understand why security is important. Security should be 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. If all businesses improve their security, we can make the job of terrorists more difficult.

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