Protecting crowded places poses serious challenges.

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ANZCTC’S Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism outlines a whole of community and whole of business approach to securing public places. The strategy advocates partnerships and layered solutions – and underscores personal responsibility for public place defence.

Attacks on crowded places including  the Sari Club bombing in Bali, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Westgate Nairobi attack, the Paris and the Bataclan Theatre attacks, the Kenya University attack, the Bardo Museum attack and the Sousse beach attacks in Tunisia, the Bastille Day Parade attack in Nice, the Berlin Christmas Market truck attack, the Lahore Playground bombing, London Bridge and Borough Market attacks, the Manchester Arena bombing, the Bourke St Mall attack in Melbourne, the Lahore Ahmadiyya mosque massacres, attacks in markets, streets and stadiums across Iraq, mosque attacks in Canada and New Zealand, multiple church attacks in France, Egypt and the USA, and countless other incidents and thwarted attacks globally – demonstrate how weapons; including vehicles, knives, and firearms and home made explosive devices; can  be used by terrorists to devastating effect.

The SPCP defines crowded places as any location large numbers of people gather – that might be a pedestrian mall on a summer afternoon, a place of worship, a beer garden overlooking the beach, a sports ground, a shopping mall, a train station, a light rail station, a restaurant, a market, a busy children’s playground. It insists that owners and operators of all such crowded spaces undertake security analyses by licensed security consultants in order to assess risk levels, and most importantly, it directs owners and operators for crowded places to undertake the recommendations of these security audits. For large organisations this is manageable – for smaller community groups, the cost may be onerous.

At issue is the underlying truth that law enforcement and anti-terror agencies cannot secure every possible location at a national level and trying to do so would dilute their primary roles of disruption and rapid response. Instead, the SPCP outlines a way in which the government will assist every organisation to manage that risk themselves in the most effective way possible. Ultimately, SPCP underlines that the responsibility for defence of private space – the physical, electronic and procedural mechanisms of deter, detect, delay and initial response – fall entirely onto operators and owners.

Something interesting about the SPCP is the complexity of the solutions envisaged. The authors of the strategy were clearly writing with a range of site sizes and complexities in mind – the classic onion skin is very much in evidence. Site design, fences, bollards, access control, intrusion detection solutions, CCTV, communications, well-trained security response teams. But there’s more to it than that. The strategy also imagines solutions that provide situational awareness to inform response and it insists on complex procedures which must be known by all staff, in real time, all the time.

Such stipulations sound easy but they are not and the larger the site, the more complex the delivery of intelligence is going to be. Managing operational intelligence in real time is tough, too. Procedures don’t write themselves but are site and event-specific and communicating them to groups of staff once, let alone in real time during the chaos of unfolding threat, is profoundly challenging.

At a sobering level, the SPCP is an admission by government that the violent terror threat is real, is pervasive and is metastasizing across multiple sections of the wider community. You can download the ANZCTC’s Strategy for Protecting Public Places From Terrorism whitepaper here.♦

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