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FMJ Networking Event – Counter-terrorism

The latest content-led FMJ networking event which took place on the 19th floor of UBM’s Blackfriars HQ was counter-terrorism, where two experts in the field offered some sage advice, reports Sara Bean

The first speaker of the night was Steve Gardner, Head of Security, OCS Group UK Limited. He is Head of Standards and Compliance in the Security Division and since his appointment in 2015 from a previous 15 years consultancy role has provided directional support to OCS to improve service delivery, which includes liaising with external stakeholders such as regulatory and statutory bodies.  

His presentation, which referred to the feature he penned for the October issue of FMJ on event security, discussed how, following an upsurge in ‘hostile activity’ there is more pressure than ever on security companies, partners and venues in terms of increased manpower and equipment.

He described the key challenges of managing a diverse range of sites, some of which are very high profile, from ensuring there are high volumes of people employed on those sites, to responding to the changing nature of the general threat level in the UK, which this year alone has moved from severe to critical and back to severe.

Explaining how organisations should respond following a UK attack, even if it is elsewhere, he advised consulting with a “whole host of security supply partners and asking them for their thoughts, innovations and ideas to ensure that they explore every possibility they can too benefit clients, their staff and visitors and help keep the public as safe as we possibly can.”

A very useful tip was ensuring that there is a highly visible workforce on site to help deter any hostile visitors, and he recalled that there have been a few incidences where FMs reported noticing people carrying out recognisances outside buildings, an activity which is particularly prevalent within the retail sector.

Other advice included ensuring that you’ve got the right staff on site, to, “know your people, which means carrying out rigorous background checks before anyone is hired and when they do join the team, ensuring they are confident when responding to any incident by offering sufficient training and backup to give them confidence.

Staff morale is so important he added so support them by standing shoulder to shoulder with them, particularly during periods when the threat level has been raised following a high-profile incident.

If an incident does happen on one of your sites, he advised, organisations have to respond immediately as intelligence and information arrives at incredible speed from a vast array of sources. This means keeping pace with developments and fast reactions, so the security team must already be fully briefed to deploy agreed resources, whether that is manpower, equipment or high-tech solutions. And throughout this scenario he said, “you must check, re-check and check again.”

Ian Mansfield, MBE, security adviser from VSG is a former Police Counter Terrorism Specialist, whose commitment to protective security was recognised in 2014 when he was awarded an MBE for services to Counter Terrorism. He now advises businesses at senior level on how to protect their staff and property from terrorist attacks and protester activity.

His first important message was to ‘own your space’, meaning, whether a site is a shopping centre or an office block, if everyone within that building is empowered with the awareness that it’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep it safe, whether they’re a security officer or not, they’ll be more likely to flag up a possible hostile intruder. In that way, he said, “then they are starting to own their space. It has been proved that the last thing a hostile wants, is to have a member of staff, irrespective of where they work, walk up to them with a smile on their face and say, ‘good morning, can I help you?’”

The power of hello, he explained is non-confrontational, “so what we’re doing with our security officers is moving away from someone standing by a control system and saying I want to see your pass. Instead, that officer should own everything which is in front of them in the building and outside, so if a vehicle pulls up and stays for a little while, wander out to the driver and speak to them politely and non-confrontationally, as that will deter hostiles.”

He also advised extending security awareness training to catering staff, cleaners, even engineers, in fact, anyone who might have cause to encounter visitors or notice anything untoward.

Other security innovations VSG has been involved with include looking at plans for new buildings to help build in resilience and using the latest technologies.

He also gave delegates some background on Project Griffin, launched earlier this year which is the Government’s national counter terrorism awareness initiative for business produced by NaCTSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office) to protect cities and communities from the threat of terrorism.

By building a security culture you are being inclusive he stressed and it’s not being alarmist, it’s being vigilant enough to spot suspicious behaviour and perhaps even prevent a major incident.

He also referred to a range of resources which anyone interested in protecting commercial buildings can use and have (see list at the bottom of the page).

The strong message of the night from both experts, who were showered with questions following their talks was, “Do nothing and something always happens,” so by making everyone in the building from the FM team onwards feel they own the space we’ll all be that much safer.



About Sarah OBeirne


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