SCMC 2016 Report: Going to critical

Published:  14 April, 2016

The Bataclan attack in Paris has prompted many centres to look again at the security plans, and particularly at how they would deal with marauding gunmen. So what is the latest advice?

The UK threat assessment is currently ‘severe,’ meaning a terrorist incident is highly likely but there is no specific evidence of where and when it might be. In the event of an attack it would move to ‘critical’ as it last did in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Tiger Tiger in London and Glasgow Airport.

Philip Jones, Westfield Europe’s senior security manager and chair of the BCSC security & safer shopping committee, set out what this would mean in practice: “Dealing with a major incident once we’ve gone to critical, the steps are simple and not hugely costly,” he said.

“Ensure everyone from the manager to the cleaner understands exactly what their role is and what the plan is. Planning, planning and planning – and exercising those plans – is key,” he said. “And add in the multiplier – any people working in a centre, not just the centre management staff, can be trained in security to identify hostile reconnaissance and report anything suspicious.”

Chief superintendent Dave Roney from NaCTSO, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said: “Practically going to critical would mean a different look to policing. You might see greater numbers of armed police on the street and you might see military on the street in support of the police operations. But in reality most centres already have what they need to go to critical.”

Katy Woolford, chief inspector of the Brighton & Hove division of Sussex Police, would be responsible for putting this into practice in her area. “Going to critical is a balancing act,” she said. “You don’t want to increase risk but people need to be aware there’s a genuine threat.”

And she said groundwork carried out in advance will pay off in the event of an attack. “Concentrate on building relationships now,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of time plotting it who it could affect in the area, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.” And she reiterated Jones’s advice: “Always re-test your plans and carry out training.”

Roney concluded: “Generally shopping centres are well prepared. It depends on their size, but we’re seeing increased engagement with our NaCTSO advisors. Generally our view is that there’s virtually nowhere that isn’t complying with our advice and guidance.”


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