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January 7, 2022


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The Protect Duty and what it means for the security of publicly accessible spaces

Industry Liaison, Architecture & Engineering at Axis Communications, Steven Kenny, looks at the proposed UK Protect Duty, what it means for the owners and managers of publicly accessible spaces, and the role of technology to support and secure.

Steven Kenny, Axis Communications

A publicly accessible location is defined as ‘any place to which the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission’. The UK Protect Duty, a new piece of proposed legislation, represents a major step towards improving security and preparedness at such locations.

It will require owners and operators to carefully consider the range of potential threats, relative to their business, and to take reasonable practical security measures. These can include the implementation of relevant technologies, to mitigate these threats.

The Government’s proposals, set out in early 2021, have been welcomed by many, not least the mother of Martyn Hett, one of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack who was a tireless campaigner for its introduction. The managers and operators of all publicly accessible spaces should now be considering the most appropriate measures, and looking carefully at the available technologies to help them improve security across their sites, ahead of the Duty coming into force.

Considering the scope of the Protect Duty

The scope of the Duty could be substantial and apply in three main areas including public venues, such as festivals and sports stadia; large organisations, such as retail chains; and/or public spaces, such as parks. There are many reasonable and appropriate measures which can be, and often already are, undertaken by organisations who operate at such locations including risk assessments and security response planning; training programmes and awareness courses; and deploying simple security and target-hardening measures such as bollards and signage.

However, the owners of such spaces are currently under no obligation to act on advice from specialist counter-terrorism officers on how to reduce the risk of a terror attack. It is therefore the purpose of the Government’s consultation to examine and identify how this position could be improved through reasonable and not overly burdensome security measures, where and to whom the legislation should apply, what the requirements might be and how compliance might be sustained.

For many, it is envisaged that these requirements would be simple changes to existing systems and processes, entailing nil or low new costs, such as ensuring that staff are trained to identify hostile reconnaissance, aware of the likely attack methodologies and exercised to take appropriate action in accordance with planned response protocols.

For others, a legislative change could have a significant impact. Where proportionate security measures would entail more significant mitigation requirements, a reasonable time would be allowed to plan and progress measures within business planning processes and cycles.

Implementing technology to support compliance

While physical security systems are not a central requirement of the Protect Duty, technology is a force multiplier to improve operational efficiency, accelerate decision making and demonstrate compliance. Cloud connectivity, the internet of things (IoT) and advancements in network camera technology have transformed physical security into a smart, interconnected system of cameras and sensors. Such systems are now capable of collecting and processing data through an analytics engine to produce powerful insights, serving to inform security and operational decision making.

Devices such as network cameras have become increasingly capable of processing and analysing video at the edge. Onboard processing power has huge benefits in relation to the recording and analysis of video in real time and the availability of related data.

The ability to export and package video surveillance data in the event of an incident, without the potential time lag and energy drain associated with the sending of data back and forward to a server, results in an efficient, cost effective and faster means of video capture, analysis and delivery.

Secure technologies for comprehensive protection

It is crucial to ensure that such technologies are installed, operated and maintained properly to provide effective capability and complement other security measures. Whatever the proposed solution to counter the level of risk, it is important to strike the right balance between Security Effectiveness (emphasis on surveillance and controlled access), Operational Efficiency (emphasis on data and intelligence to inform business decision making) and Visitor Experience (emphasis on the customer’s safety and welfare).

The importance of physical security is such that the management of risk and mitigation of threats should extend to the forging of trusted relationships with partners and vendors who value openness and trust.

The managers and owners of publicly accessible locations should not be afraid to ask questions or challenge vendors and anyone in their wider supply chain about their capabilities, accreditations and credentials. This should include their approach to cybersecurity and understanding of appropriate cyber-hygiene; demonstrating that they adopt a security-centric mindset and behaviours that can help individuals and organisations mitigate potential online breaches.

Establishing partnerships based on high levels of trust can lead to a more resilient, and transparent, security strategy. This will be important for managers and owners of publicly accessible locations as they endeavour to find the very best solutions to keep their sites and locations safe and secure, fulfilling the requirements of the Protect Duty and resulting in a smarter, safer world for all.

To download Axis’ whitepaper, ‘The Protect Duty (UK) and its implications for the security of pubic spaces’, click here.

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