Ways to combat changing terrorist attacks

by Mark Rowe

Last year we visited Wembley Stadium to feature Prof Chris Kemp, pictured, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, and his training for event managers. Here he looks for effective ways to combat the changing attack methodology of terrorists.

The issue of attacks on crowded spaces has been catapulted to the forefront of the human psyche in recent months as these atrocities touch on the very fabric of our society and all that we hold dear in our wish for the freedom to live in peace. With this in mind four members of the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES) have been working together to create some ground breaking work which focuses on the way in which we should approach such attacks and what can be done to reduce the vulnerability of the environment and the impact of them. Yourope is the organisation which promotes best practice at festivals across Europe with an outstanding record of success. The organisation recently finalised a pan European set of terms and conditions to ensure that there is parity across Europe in event contracts and other aspects of festival delivery.

Dr Pascal Viot (Paleo Festival & Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Morten Therkildsen and Henrik Nielsen (Roskilde Festival) and I have been working both together and separately with security organisations, the police and other blue light services as well as festival organisers, on scenario-based learning to assist those running security and crowd management activities at European festivals to get to grips with the way in which incidents affect both their staff and the public attending such events.

The theme is “How will our festivals look in 2020”. This title, coined by two other YES steering Group members Sabine Funk and Ralf Zimme (IBIT), looks at the way festivals will have to change given the recent threat levels, risks to the event and lack of resilience. Thus, it also focuses on how these issues will affect the way that festivals are operated. With help from the other two steering group members Gerard van Duykeren (The Security Company) and Andy Mestka (Open Air St-Gallen Festival) the group has created a two-day seminar at Eurosonic-Noorderslag Festival in Holland in mid- January.

The scenario based part that this article focuses on is in three parts. The first an introduction identifying some of the socio-psychological aspects of an incident, critical-decision making processes and the ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ philosophy of the UK police. The group discuss whether this is fit for purpose in an open area such as an outdoor festival and try to tease out what other processes might be more effective in mitigating such catastrophic incidents given the environment and context of such events. Finally, a view is taken on crisis management models and the fact that there is no recipe for dealing with a crisis, it is planning on the hoof. For many; given the collapsing time frame, the surprise of the attack and the value of the asset it is difficult to formulate and re-plan a direction under such conditions.

The second part is a scenario in which the 50 attendees at the seminar will take a full part in. The scenario is based at the Roskilde festival where an active shooter attack takes place at an internal gate and stage. The two scenarios test the way in which those participating react to such an incident and whether these reactions would help avert the possible dangers that accompany such attacks. It is hoped that by using professionals from the festival and event industry the team will be able to create a good practice manual which will feed into further work in this area.

The third part of this session focuses on the creation of a balanced security structure ensuring that both crowd management delivery and counter terrorism threat activities are provided equally as if either are neglected they can inadvertently cause issues for the other. This section focuses on the fact that we are creating a paradox and by instituting a range of counter-terrorism measures we may be encouraging further threats. For example, by creating queues to search people before the enter the event or an arena or slowing down ingress to and egress from an area we may be creating a prime target for a terrorist attack.

The conclusion of this section identifies the need for dynamic and continuous risk management, an understanding that the risk level is evolving, that there is no recipe for a crisis and that you have to plan there and then for whatever incident is taking place. It is also clear that there is a duty to share knowledge quickly, effectively and efficiently and that the organisers need to acquire a new set of skills to cope with the changing event and festival environment. There is no panacea for the terrorist attack, each one will have its own idiosyncrasies. The best we can hope for is to be readier than we were last time through the evolution of speedy, fluid and effective planning, staff and public training and effective communication mechanisms.

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