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April 21, 2023


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“Preparedness via behavioural detection training is critical to minimise risk to the general public”

With the findings of the inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 highlighting missed opportunities and a lack of preparedness among security staff, behavioural detection training will be a necessity for any venue or organisation going forwards. So says Paul Mason, Managing Director of Redline Assured Security.

The outcomes of the Manchester Arena Inquiry have informed the Government’s outline for a ‘Protect Duty’ – proposed new legislation to be known as Martyn’s Law. This is testament to campaigning for improved security standards in large and crowded public spaces and venues by Figen Murrary, whose son, Martyn Hett, lost his life with 22 others, in the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist attack.


Paul Mason, Managing Director of Redline Assured Security

Key shortcomings and missed opportunities in the provision of security at the arena, as identified in the Manchester Arena Inquiry include a ‘lack of preparedness’ and an ‘inadequate response to suspicious behaviour’, enabling the terrorist to carry out his attack with tragic consequences.

Is sufficient preparedness missing from the security sector?

Preparedness is unquestionably a key tool in the arsenal of prevention activity, yet it is a fundamental missing piece in the security sector.

The outcomes of preparedness facilitate higher awareness of risk, continuous assessment of evolving risk, training in how to intervene in a potential risk situation and ongoing quality assurance. All outcomes aim to prevent an incident escalating into the lethal space.

Higher levels of preparedness align with recommendations from the Manchester Arena Inquiry, which called for, among others:

  • greater alertness to the threat level of a terrorist attack
  • robust procedures to counter the threat of a terrorist attack
  • prompt action in response to reports or observations of suspicious behaviour that are out of sync with the expected pattern of life at such events

In order to address these recommendations, there is an acute necessity to equip security staff with the right training, in order that they can be prepared to identify and respond to risk in the right way, first time, to deter criminal or terrorist activity.

EBOOK DOWNLOAD: Are you Protect Duty ready?

Training in behavioural detection – “A powerful force against threats”

Behavioural detection awareness skills play a significant role in achieving preparedness across the security sector.

Suspicious-BehaviourDetection-21A workforce that is trained in detecting unusual behaviour, such as individuals working later or starting earlier than normal, a person loitering outside a venue over the course of a few weeks, someone carrying a bulging rucksack or someone who looks nervous, jumpy, overly concentrated or unusually focused in a public space, acts as a powerful force against the threat of terrorism.

Behavioural detection awareness training enables security personnel, venue stewards, information desk staff and cleaners to recognise early indicators that something could be awry and suspicious through careful observation of the behaviour of people as part of their normal day to day activities.

All personnel who come into contact with people, are located close to vehicles outside a venue, or sit behind a CCTV camera, should undergo behavioural detection awareness training – as a minimum. Training will equip them with the observation skills of visible traits to identify potential hostile reconnaissance, preparatory assessments, dry runs or approaches to an attack and to sharpen their instincts to share suspicions with their superiors.

Crucially, it can be provided at low cost and implemented at pace, yielding high impact results to reduce risk and to better protect the public.

A higher level of behavioural detection training can be provided for security staff to become behavioural detection officers so that they can develop the skills to act upon reports of suspicious behaviour and respond appropriately.

By shifting the security sector mindset to be pre-emptive and prepared, and by arming behavioural detection officers with swift response skills, there is a greater likelihood of criminal activity being intercepted.

Technology – A support mechanism in detection, not the answer

More sophisticated security equipment is being deployed in airports and in critical national infrastructure. However, a lot of technology is yet to be widely deployed across venues and spaces that attract large crowds where security equipment is largely limited to handheld metal detectors, random rummage bags search, pat-downs and CCTV.

No matter how advanced the equipment is, a responsibility lies with the operator to be aware of the use and aims of equipment and its capabilities.

CCTV cameras can act as a deterrent, and images can be used as evidence. But, is the user really capable of monitoring 10 CCTV screens all at once and notice suspicious behaviour that is caught on just the one camera, and then act in real time to intercept?

An advanced video surveillance system can be programmed to spot anomalies to the pattern of life that it is trained to recognise, such as a large crowd of people moving at one mile an hour. If the camera spots a static item or someone running, the camera will bring these to the user’s attention.

Similarly, if a long corridor in an arena that funnels people into the central area is typically empty of objects such as bins, when the corridor empties and a bag on the floor has appeared, the camera will alert the user to its field of view because any objects in that corridor are irregular to its pattern of life.


Whilst such advanced systems can bring something suspicious to the user’s attention, it cannot make the decision to respond nor act. Therefore, personnel need to be trained to respond to whatever has triggered the technology, because if it is left unmanaged, it could lead to the very consequences that the technology has been put in place to prevent.

A business can spend vast amounts of money on high tech equipment, but without investing in knowledge and response, the system can provide a false sense of security.

In a trained environment, the user behind the camera will report the trigger to a behavioural detection officer, who is trained to escalate an interceptive response.

Ongoing quality assurance as the threat landscape evolves

As highlighted in the Manchester Arena Inquiry, there was a lack of communication between security employees regarding suspicious behaviour and an insufficient sharing of information between those concerned with security in the arena.

Part of the proposals outlined in Protect Duty, to be enshrined as Martyn’s Law, include the provision of training in counter terrorism for all people working in venues similar to the Manchester Arena, from basic to higher level, depending on role and responsibility. The resultant instilling of positive security culture in environments will reinforce deterrence against attack.

Without the need for costly infrastructure, behavioural detection awareness training can be implemented for all personnel in roles related to an arena, with 20 or 30 specific security personnel being trained as behavioural detection officers.

Meanwhile, ongoing quality assurance as the threat landscape evolves means that all personnel undergo rehearsals and observation during live events to embed skills that are crucial to preparedness and the reduction of risk.

About the author

Paul Mason is Managing Director for Redline Assured Security, part of Air Partner Group, a Wheels Up company. With over 25 years of aviation experience, Paul was at the helm of Redline from inception in 2006 to acquisition by Air Partner in 2019, guiding Redline from a concept through to the internationally acclaimed security training, consultancy, and quality assurance company that it is today.


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