Sadly there is not a day goes by where somewhere in the world a terroist attack takes place; despite the relative safety of the UK the deadly assault last month on Westminster has brought to an end what one Glasgow-based event security specialist has termed ‘threat fatigue’ felt by many event organisers.
Now, perhaps more than ever, event organisers have to be on top of their games, plan accordingly for the unthinkable and to try and translate what on paper can seem like a rather prosaic list of items to tick off from a SAG (Safety Advisory Group) process into real-life, exercise-based scenarios.
ID Resilience, a company founded two-and-a-half years ago by former counter-terroist police, consults widely with event planners and security officers in Scotland and the UK to bring those scenarios to life and offer some “consistency” to a planning process that may be extremely well-defined within the police but is less well understood among many corporate clients.
It is a matter of fact that police will not attend every single event in Scotland, and therefore anyone organising an event should have a plan that they follow to the letter if a terror threat were to materialise.
Ian McLeod Kerr is a former counter-terrorist and emergency planning police officer from Glasgow and now Managing Director of ID Resilience, which has worked on high-profile events such as the Ryder Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup.
“I think the threat without a doubt has changed,” he says. “Something I picked up on recently when I was at the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s annual conference, was this idea of ‘threat fatigue’.
“I found that really interesting – we’d all been at the threat level for so long and we were told something may happen, but now it has at Westminster so it sharpens the focus and gets rid of the threat fatigue and it reiterates the fact that you have to be prepared for these events and also backs up the intelligence that suggests the attacks a much more likely to be from a lone individual now who’s potentially self-radicalised or whatever it might be.”
He adds: “I think there is potential for Scotland to benefit, however. I don’t think that even although we’ve had high-profile attacks that it will have a major impact on people going to major events – I think that would be seen as the terrorists winning. I think that will be in people’s minds but I think what we have to do as organisers is to be prepared and to be able to mitigate the consequences, so it’s about having the right people in place and the right plans in place and make sure that they are exercised in what they need to do.”
Above all, McLeod Kerr says, event organisers have to be ‘smart’ in the way they resource their events. The approach must be professional and there must be a realisation that if there is no police presence on site, staff at the event need effective communications between themselves and those attending, whether that be via announcements on stage or loudspeaker.
He insists there is not a textbook response and that each event will have a bespoke plan but the crucial thing is to make sure event organisers ‘exercise their people’ so that their response to it becomes second nature, mitigating the effects of shock or panic.
As for security trends within hostile terror incident training, the focus now is understandably on vehicle or single person attacks and the measures that can be taken to prevent those unsophisticated but potentially lethal assaults; one major focus for event organisers is how they plan security around entrances and egresses to ensure large groups congregating for an event can be better protected.
Fortunately, the availability of firearms in Scotland and the UK is extremely limited and weapons do not travel easily into the country. McLeod Kerr is in favour of the current Police Scotland stance which does not allow for the routine arming of police officers and does not support calls to do so, a hot topic of debate at the recent Scottish Police Federation conference.
ID Resilience is working with the likes of EventScotland and has hosted its own VenueX conference in Glasgow, working with major event venues such as the SEC and smaller venues as well.
“The idea behind that was to share in the best practice so you’ve got some of the smaller venues who’ve never dealt with this before and would not necessarily know how to react. For me where the major gap is is the commercial side – we want to take our knowledge and make it relevant to the event organiser and empower them slightly more than they have been. There has been a traditional reliance on the police to come in and run the joint operations centre or run the command and control, but what we say is we’ll give you the tools and you can run the event.”