COVID restrictions across the UK are slowly easing and many public venues, including stadiums, are beginning to reopen following a year of closures and uncertainty. According to recent ONS figures, criminal offences – excluding fraud and computer misuse – dropped significantly during the lockdown periods of 2020.

In fact, 25% less crime was reported in April 2020 compared to the same month in 2019. However, as lockdown measures eased each time, crime levels quickly crept up, sadly emphasising the remaining very real threat of theft, terrorism, and random acts of violence.

Considering protective measures

These stats reiterate just how crucial it is for venue owners to consider protective measures to ensure the public can enjoy the site, or space, safely. To support this, the government launched a consultation in February, on newly proposed anti-terrorism legislation to help better protect the general public when they visit public venues. The Protect Duty Bill builds on ‘Martyn’s Law’, legislation campaigned for by the mother of one of the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena attack.

The consultation will consider ways of developing robust security measures in public areas

The consultation will consider ways of developing robust security measures in public areas. Currently, there is no legal obligation for venue operators and owners of public locations to take the responsibility of protecting the public. This Bill will ensure they are liable and certify they take steps to assess and mitigate the security risks.

Achieving improved security

Publicly accessible locations are any spaces the general public have permission to enter. This comprises of three main categories: public venues with a capacity of over 100 people, e.g., entertainment venues, tourist attractions, and shopping centres; large organisations like retail or entertainment chains with a minimum of 250 staff; and public spaces such as parks, beaches, and thoroughfares.

Public spaces are significantly tougher to protect, and the government is intent on exploring the most effective way to achieve improved security, alongside the parties responsible for these locations. This means establishing responsibility for safety in these spaces, considering what the reasonable expectations are, and the potential role played by legislation in mitigating the issues.

Providing security framework

Measures must be put in place to ensure they’re ready to take appropriate action at any time

It’s impossible to predict or prevent all terrorist attacks, so any publicly accessible location has the potential to be a target. Measures must be put in place to ensure they’re ready to take appropriate action at any time, should an incident take place.

The consultation aims to provide a security framework to help venues be prepared, by considering the adequacy of adopted security measures, systems, and processes. The consultation document includes a list of recommendations for venues:

  • Be alert to suspicious behaviours, engage the person in a welcoming and helpful manner, or report them to the police.
  • Be alert to abandoned bags.
  • Be security-minded, especially online. Avoid providing specific information that could aid a terrorist, for example, floor plans with security details.
  • Encourage and enable a security culture.
  • Complete and provide ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) Awareness e-learning.
  • Have a clear action plan. How would you respond to an incident inside or outside your site?
  • Periodically review and refresh the risk assessment.

Security-minded culture

The framework comprises of three key points that should be strongly considered for all spaces and organisations:

  • Completing a risk assessment – This involves understanding potential terrorist motivations, targets, type of attack, and how those motivations and methodologies might change or evolve.
  • A systemic approach to security – It’s vital to think of security as a combination of physical and behavioural interventions to ensure a far more secure area or venue. Physical measures such as fences, bollards, CCTV, and blast-resistant glazing should be installed alongside a security-minded culture. Vigilance should be encouraged and the appropriate training offered to staff involved in the day-to-day running of the establishment.
  • Investigate the ins and outs – while it may be tempting to choose a product and hope for the best, it’s crucial to investigate further to ensure your system doesn’t conflict with other safety measures, including health, safety, and fire regulations.

Practical preparedness measures

Venues should also consider a ‘reasonably practicable’ organisational preparedness system

To meet the terms, be sure to use all the information and guidance provided by the government, and police services. The guidance is designed to help realise the risks, and the potential impact they could have on people and property. These will vary per site as each venue is unique and will have a specific purpose which will influence the security measures required.

Venues should also consider a ‘reasonably practicable’ organisational preparedness system. This doesn’t mean that all employees have to become security staff, but rather providing training and planning so that everyone knows how to react quickly in case of an emergency. First and foremost, the government is offering advice on understanding threats and attack methods, practical preparedness measures, and how to stay vigilant and plan for incidents. There are also plans for a new digital platform to be launched later this year for advice and training purposes.

High-quality products

In addition to this, sectoral and regional engagement days have been outlined in the proposal, with updates and revisions to training and e-learning programmes. An app devoted to ACT was launched in March 2020, and the government authorities Career Transition Partnership (CTP) and Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) are also providing advice.

Organisations that specialise in delivering and supporting security solutions can help owners

There are plans for the government and businesses to have increased engagement with the security industry. Organisations that specialise in delivering and supporting security solutions can help owners and operators of publicly accessible locations comply with the Protect Duty. It’s becoming more important than ever before to ensure the market can provide sufficient high-quality products, services, and expert information to those who require it.

Maintaining appropriate standards

The government may consider introducing new schemes to promote and maintain appropriate standards such as accredited training and approved contractor schemes or regulation, in addition to existing initiatives. A renewed focus on integrated security in public venues is hugely encouraging. We have demonstrated for years that it is very possible to make a site both secure and aesthetically pleasing, in keeping with its existing surroundings.

Furthermore, in many cases security can positively enhance user experience. Many visitors feel reassured by carefully integrated physical security when they attend large scale events, meaning they’ll visit again. Do this in a hostile way and people will be put off. Robust protection in these venues and spaces is all about achieving a careful balance, and with the right guidance and fit-for-purpose solutions, we can help to create a safer spaces for everyone.

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