ipsa web logo 1Mike White, who represents the International Professional Security Association (IPSA) on MEI’s Steering Group writes; at the time of writing, it is less than 24 hours since the horrific events of the 13th November in Paris where more than 128 people lost their lives whilst innocently going about their business, enjoying the start of their weekend or supporting their national football team in a friendly against Germany at the Stade de France.

 

In many ways, the attack at the Stade de France has been an event waiting to happen but we must wait and see what the ongoing French investigations uncover before we know for sure how the incident occurred and what lessons must be learned to prevent recurrence.

 

Here in the UK we see crowds of many tens of thousands watch sporting events every single week of the year. We’ve just hosted arguably the most successful rugby union World Cup in the sports history and whilst that was taking place we still had the football Premier League, the lower football leagues, Aviva rugby premiership and many other sporting events taking place concurrently. Quite literally, hundreds of thousands of fans have been to watch their favourite sport in the last month and none of them have probably given a single thought to terrorism or “will I get home alive after the match” and frankly nor should they. But, the challenge for those who do have to think the unthinkable is precisely that. How do we keep the fans safe? How can we ensure no one smuggles a bomb or automatic weapons into a stadium? How do we do this without disrupting the fans pleasure and inconveniencing them and, how do we do this with an overstretched police service and a private security sector that is viewed in many quarters as little more than an industry occupied by lowly hourly paid, poorly trained and poorly motivated individuals? All against a backdrop of transnational terrorist threats that have seemingly moved on from 9/11.

 

The attacks in Paris are an example of what is described as a marauding attack. One where the focus is not on one specific target but, instead, heavily armed multiple offenders (possibly with some training) attack multiple targets in a co-ordinated manner with little or no expectation of survival. Ever since the Mumbai attacks of 2008 police and emergency services have been forced to rethink their training and response to the possibility of such an attack but, by definition, a response is usually reactive and initiated once an attack commences.

 

So, is an attack in the UK inevitable? Will we be watching the sort of headlines we saw on 13th November coming from Wembley, Old Trafford, Twickenham, Stamford Bridge or the Olympic Stadium? The short but brutal answer is that nobody knows for sure but, there are a number of measures that the private security industry and venue management can and should consider.

 

Training can be a bind, it can be boring, difficult to schedule and someone has to pay for the additional hours but, in the event of an emergency at a major sporting event there can be no excuses for continuity and emergency plans not being enacted seamlessly. Training is essential for those frontline staff such as stewards and security officers to be able to react as they need to if any evacuation proves necessary or a crime scene needs to be preserved. Cost will inevitably be a consideration but this is one area where cheapest may not always be best. A few moments researching the training provider to ensure their credentials are sound and that their knowledge and experience is relevant will be a few moments well spent.

 

Practise your emergency response plans. You can have the best training, delivered by the most experienced trainers, resulting in the most comprehensive set of procedures it’s possible to have but if it’s not tested it’s not worth the paper (or hard drive) it’s written on. There is a reason why top sportsmen and women keep winning, they train and practise and hone their skills. It’s the same for emergency response planning. If you want your team to be the best, to operate at the highest levels and to deliver a seamless performance when they absolutely need to then they need to practise. They need to understand what might go wrong, they need to know what to do when things do go wrong and, as importantly, they need to know their own roles and responsibilities and those of their colleagues because it will be teamwork that will ensure success. They should also know about the technology that exists to help them. Increasingly, integrated security at sporting venues means that human beings working with, for example, CCTV, sensors and screening equipment provide a joined-up security response.

 

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) have written the guidance document “Protecting Crowded Places: Design and Technical Issues” within which there is excellent information on how to incorporate counter terrorist measures into new builds and where to find the best advice. Both bodies will also offer best practice advice and guidance on how to adapt and work within existing structures.

 

At major sporting events there will always be some sort of police presence to a greater or lesser degree (more so if a senior Government official or member of the Royal family is present) but it will be stewards and security officers who will predominantly be first responders and by running amok and attacking members of the public, terrorists have negated the tactics that police and security services had developed for terrorist incidents since the 1970s. The aim had always been to take the heat out of an incident, cordon the area and begin tactical negotiations. Now counter-terrorist specialists are unlikely to reach the scene until after the damage has been done and it will be the private sector who will bear the brunt of the initial response. It is those men and women who sporting event venue owners and operators must invest in, on an ongoing basis, to help to prevent tragedies such as the Paris attacks from happening over here.

 

For more information please visit www.ipsa.org.uk or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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