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November 25, 2021

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Event Security

Wisconsin tragedy highlights growing need for tighter security at public events this Christmas

After at least six people died and more than 40 were injured after a car ploughed through a Christmas parade in the US state of Wisconsin, professionals are stressing the importance of implementing increased security measures during the festive period. 

CBS News told the BBC that the suspect appeared to have been fleeing another scene when he ran into people at the parade.

Families lined the sides of the road to watch the event, which was returning after a year’s absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Officer Thompson told reporters that they had recovered a ‘suspect vehicle’ and a person of interest was in custody. The police do not believe the incident to be an act of terror at this time.

An awareness on the need for heightened security measures at Christmas and other seasonal events is not a new-found notion. In 2017, IFSEC global reported on the tightened security measures being put in place at UK Christmas markets after the Berlin attack of 2016 that left 12 people dead and 56 injured.

Christmas market organisers quickly began working with police to provide anti-terror training to staff as part of Project Griffin, a counter-terrorism initiative aimed at businesses. The guidance was later withdrawn in 2018 and is to be replaced by ACT Awareness eLearning.

Mitigating factors

Now, four years later, the UK enters the festive season with a terror threat level of ‘severe’ after a bomb exploded in in a vehicle outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on 14th November.

A holistic approach to security is advised, which includes working with companies well established in providing temporary security fixtures and products for seasonal events and festivals.

Commenting on the need for a coordinated approach to mitigating terror threats, Ian Moran, Director at Security Specialist ATG Access, says: “While it’s important not to create unnecessary panic, a coordinated effort is our best defence against any kind of terror threat.”

“With Christmas festivities finally returning following the lifting of COVID restrictions, cities and towns around the UK will be welcoming record numbers of revellers in the following weeks.

“As a result, one area that remains a concern is the lack of sophisticated security at our Christmas markets. Attracting thousands of visitors each year, markets across Europe have previously been targeted for terror activity, such as the devastating attack in Berlin in 2016.

“Although security has been bolstered in years since, many local authorities in the UK are still choosing to protect the perimeter of their markets with very basic and untested technology.”

There is little doubt that events such as this may be included in the incoming Government legislation, known as Martyn’s Law or the Protect Duty. Designed to make the public safer by improving security standards in crowded public spaces, venues, and publicly accessible locations.

While the Duty is currently in the process of analysing responses to a public consultation for what it should include, it may include legal obligations on event organisers to develop more rigorous processes to mitigate the threat of terrorist attacks. Guidance may include a thorough risk assessment and strategy, as well as ensuring stakeholders are more aware of potential threats through training.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations, Matt Twist, told Nick Ferrari on LBC radio that, “this is all about being alert, not alarmed”.

Matt says: “We want people to be vigilant, looking out for what’s unusual, looking out for things that may be suspicious, may concern them.

“That can be anything from a bag that’s in the wrong place – I think the public are well aware of that sort of thing – but also to stuff in their home or family lives, their friends becoming withdrawn or isolated, or making concerning comments.”

He concludes: “We ask our security officers to put in place things like vehicle mitigation and barriers in order to limit the risk to people.”

‘Secure by Default’ in the Age of Converged Security: Insights from IFSEC 2019

From data security to the risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence, the conversations at IFSEC International shape future security strategies and best practices. This eBook brings you exclusive insights from these conversations, covering:

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  • The Ethical and Geopolitical Implications of AI and Machine Learning

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