AUSTRALIA’S Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism seeks to create a framework that will increase inherent security levels in public spaces but it places the duty of care firmly on owners and operators of crowded places to undertake security audits and implement the recommendations to provide layered security for their sites. 

The Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism is a necessarily pragmatic document that recognises there is a terrorist threat to Australia from groups and individuals with the means and will to carry out such an attack. The document recognises that this threat is persistent and is not confined to any location. Attacks include those with vehicles, knives and firearms such as have been used to devastating effect overseas in concert halls, pedestrian walks, shopping malls, schools, universities, marketplaces, places of worship – anywhere people gather in vulnerable groups. 

The report states that while government agencies have an excellent record of stopping attacks on Australian soil, they will not be able to stop every attack and that in the event of an attack occurring, owners and operators of public space – private and government – must protect their own locations. According to the report, owners and operators of crowded places have primary responsibility for protecting their sites and a duty of care to protect people on their sites from all foreseeable threats, including terrorism. 

The Strategy lays out a national framework called the Crowded Places Partnership, which will provide a consistent approach in each state between all levels of government, police and owners and operators of public space. A range of supporting materials will be made available to assist members of the Crowded Places Partnership that propose guidelines to defend against armed offenders, IEDs, hostile vehicle mitigation and more. The strategy will be reviewed regularly by the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee. 

Owners and operators are liable

The strategy makes clear it is owners and operators of crowded spaces who bear the responsibility for protecting their sites and the first aspect of this responsibility is to undertake a risk assessment or vulnerability analysis and to implement the appropriate mitigations, monitor them for effectiveness and review them regularly. Personal liability can attach to some of these obligations if they are breached, according to the document. 

The strategy calls for a plan to be implemented by every crowded place that prioritises saving lives and minimising harm while protecting physical assets, information, reputation and elements that could affect the business community. At all times, owners and operators remain responsible for understanding terrorist threats and adjusting their security arrangements to meet them. 

Owners and operators are encouraged to implement layered security which could include obviously physical and electronic target hardening measures, including electronic access control, physical counter measures including bollards and trained security responders, video surveillance solutions to monitor space and facilitate co-ordinated reactions by security teams to unfolding events. According to strategy, the layered approach works by building multiple layers of defensive redundancy around a site in such a way that failure of any one layer will not compromise overall security of the site being protected. 

It goes without saying that for many sites, applying layered security is going to be challenging and private security people will need to assist. Furthermore, many sites that up until now have been considered relatively secure will have to go back to the drawing board and beef up security measures or risk liability in the event of an attack. While the strategy does not demand every site install the highest levels of security, most crowded places will need to install additional measures – some will have to start from scratch. 

Deter, Detect, Delay, Respond

The strategy calls for deterring an attack with physical and electronic target hardening, including fencing, perimeter security lighting, warning signs, security patrols, CCTV cameras, vehicle security barriers and bollards. Terrorist attack detection systems are described as CCTV cameras, intrusion detection systems, active reporting by staff, security teams or the public, vehicle screening and searching, canine explosives detection, X-ray machines, metal detectors and explosives detection systems. 

The security solutions implemented must delay terrorists using security fences, environmental barriers, vehicle security barriers, pedestrian and traffic access points, trained staff interventions and rapid security response. And there must be a response to attacks via trained security staff, reliable emergency communications systems and comprehensive security plans that are understood by all staff and security personally, regularly exercised and compatible with local emergency services plans. 

The breadth and depth of the various security solutions and measures suggested in the document relates to the different risk levels and disparate size of crowded places envisaged by the authors – a large sports ground on one hand and a busy local pub on the other. The report recognises the expense of security and states that owners and operators must prioritise the highest risk areas of their crowded place and should try to incorporate security measures into site design where possible to reduce costs.

Also considered vital under the strategy is fast recovery from terror attack – that means adjusting operations to ensure minimum exposure of high risk assets to the most vulnerable areas of a site. There must be a business continuity plan, a high level of training, as well as cross-training of skills. There must be documented procedures so staff can readily perform unfamiliar tasks, relocation bases outside the primary location, remote access to IT services incorporating backup, alternative essential equipment and out of hours contact for critical personnel. 

According to the strategy, resilient crowded places can do more to prevent a terrorist attack, can reduce the damage caused by an attack and can recover more quickly after an attack – building a strong security culture is central to developing resilience to terrorism, states the strategy. ♦