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September 20, 2023

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Technology’s role in effectively responding to modern security incidents

As the methodologies from security and terror threats have transitioned towards more unpredictable, increasingly lone actor incidents, how can safety and security teams evolve to prepare for these new challenges?

Here, Peoplesafe’s Naz Dossa explores the threats outlined in the UK’s updated counter terror strategy, what may be expected from incoming legislation and why critical communications tech platforms have an essential role to play.

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Naz Dossa, CEO of Peoplesafe & Chair of the BSIA Lone Worker Committee

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the nature of security threats has undergone a significant transformation. The once coordinated terrorist attacks of the past, such as those witnessed in London in 2005, have largely given way to a more fragmented and unpredictable threat landscape.

Recent statements by government officials, such as Damian Hinds and Priti Patel, highlight the shift towards lone actors and unpredictable smaller-scale attacks outside of larger terrorist organisations, making it crucial for organisations to adapt their crisis response strategies.

The evolving terrorist threat

Analysts, including the Home Office, have observed a significant shift in the nature of terrorist threats in recent years.

In the July update to the UK’s Counter Terror Strategy, CONTEST, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary commented: “Despite the prevalence of lower sophistication attacks in the UK, the threat today is more diverse, dynamic, and complex.”

This change has made it increasingly challenging for authorities to safeguard against terrorism.

One example illustrating this shift is the recent attack in Nottingham, categorised by its individual and less coordinated nature.

In such instances, lone actors may choose to act independently without affiliations to established extremist groups. These individuals often operate under the radar, making it difficult for intelligence agencies and law enforcement to predict, detect and prevent their actions.

Counter-terrorism challenges and the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill

For the estimated 650,000 organisations likely to be affected by the impending Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill – such as retail establishments, transport hubs, universities, campus environments, places of worship, and Publicly Accessible Locations (PALs) – there is even more emphasis on researching and implementing effective safety measures.

Some challenges that organisations will need to address include:

Keeping people safe: Organisations have a duty to protect the safety of employees, visitors and members of the public. To do this, they must conduct a thorough risk assessment and invest in appropriate and proportionate security measures to manage the identified risks to an acceptable level. This includes creating a thorough crisis response plan outlining the steps to be followed in an incident.

Those falling under enhanced duty premises or qualifying public events in the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill will also be required to have a terrorism risk assessment that is separate from their standard risk assessment.

Reacting to real information: Technology is a real enabler, but using it incorrectly can lead to the rapid spread of misinformation during a crisis.

This spread of inaccurate information can escalate fear and hinder effective response efforts, damaging the success of the response to the incident. To mitigate this risk, organisations should have tools and solutions in place to securely share centralised, accurate information.

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Communicating effectively: Timely and clear communication can make all the difference during a critical event. So, organisations must establish robust communication protocols to relay the right information to relevant stakeholders at the right time.

Organisations should consider the risk of needing to communicate out of hours, reporting on messages sent and the speed at which these messages can be created and delivered.

Keeping data up to date: Keeping staff data up to date presents an administrative burden for large organisations due to the number of internal role changes, employee turnover rates and contractors frequently coming in and out of the business.

This can make it challenging to ensure up to date contact information is held to deliver critical communications to everyone necessary.

The role of technology

In her CONTEST speech, the Home Secretary referenced the 2017 Manchester Arena attack, commenting: “The threat continues to evolve and is increasing – meaning that we must also evolve, faster and better, to stay ahead of it and to keep the British people safe.”

Recognising the pressing need to adapt, many organisations are turning to new technologies.

Technology can play a vital role in modern counter-terrorism strategies and in addressing the needs of the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill.

Tech communication platforms can serve as invaluable assets for organisations, prioritising the safety and security of their employees and stakeholders during critical situation. Secure and encrypted safety notification tools can empower proactive communication to ensure everyone stays well-informed.

Technology should also allow for real-time alerts, updates and instructions to be sent via push notifications and SMS, which can override ‘do not disturb’ and silent settings on phones, if deemed a requirement.

Crucially, the platform used should have robust security measures in place to prevent message tampering, editing or forwarding. This is designed to reinforce the credibility and accuracy of shared information and minimise the threat of misinformation.

Case study: Peoplesafe Alert and Merseyside Fire & Rescue

One piece of technology that is already supporting organisations such as Merseyside Fire & Rescue, is Peoplesafe Alert.

For Merseyside Fire and Rescue, the ability to send real-time alerts has proved instrumental by mobilising workforces and coordinating responses to security incidents more efficiently than the SMS messages that were previously being used.

By overriding device settings to ensure messages cut through, the Fire & Rescue service has also achieved a 91% open rate in under a minute, ensuring the prompt receipt of critical communications.

A spokesperson for MFRS explains: “Peoplesafe Alert has improved message response time from up to an hour, to an auditable 91% open rate in under a minute, with an 80% response rate also under a minute.

“The success of the installation has given the fire service the confidence to extend their capabilities. It is the intention to now integrate Peoplesafe Alert with the fire service’s command and control system. This will consolidate the management of critical communication and further streamline operations.”

As organisations prepare for the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, they must prioritise the safety of their staff and effective communication of accurate information.

By staying vigilant, adapting to the changing threat landscape, and leveraging modern tools, organisations can better protect themselves and their communities from the unpredictable challenges posed by contemporary terrorism.

Find out more about how you can prepare for the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, here >>

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  • The current state of wireless access control solutions in the market
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