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How to develop an effective counter-terror culture


Jawhar Farhat, Security Consultant assesses the steps organisations can take to prepare for terror attack scenarios.

The most serious threat to the UK’s national security is terrorism. More specifically, those with ambitions to carry out attacks that combine mass casualties with significant disruption to key services such as utilities, communications, defence, emergency services, energy, finance, food, government, health, space and transportation services.

So, how can a counter-terrorism culture be implemented? In addition to the different protective measures that might be implemented, personnel security awareness – their attentiveness and daily routines, for example – is an important ‘layer’ of an organisation’s reaction.

Staff communications, staff surveys and integration all play a significant role, but so does the way a company’s actions ‘back up’ its words. A security culture entails encouraging all employees to share common values and approaches to counter-terrorism threats both within and outside of the business.

Staff communications

Clear, concise and jargon-free instructions on security standards and processes should be widely available. Where extensive procedural documentation is required, it should be complemented by high level summaries addressing key issues such as what to do in the event of a marauding terrorist weapons attack (MTFA).

Security messages should be made obvious to both employees and visitors by utilising accessible internal communications such as posters, staff magazines, message boards and workplace furniture. It is typically suggested that most components of an emergency plan be evaluated, at least annually, in each area.

Staff surveys

Staff opinions on security habits should be polled regularly to determine whether controls and processes are both appropriate and understood. Show that this is a transparent approach by sharing the results – both positive and negative – along with any related measures with personnel.

Staff polls about organisational security requirements are a good way of determining current attitudes and track trends. This could be accomplished through an existing annual survey undertaken by the company or by a prepared activity for specific groups. Allowing a bit of anonymity where possible may be helpful to encourage honest responses. It is critical that corporate leaders and the public feel included in the counter-terrorism effort.

This may be accomplished more through participation and less through posters and random emails but through the creation of agree-to-disagree checklists.


The Integrated Communities Strategy is required to create strong integrated communities in which people of all backgrounds live, work, learn and socialise together based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities.

A successful integration plan is significant; it is also critical to combat and prevent terrorism because there is a link between support for terrorist acts and a rejection of a strong and cohesive community. We believe that communities that do not or cannot take part in civic society are more vulnerable to radicalisation.

How can we make organisations ready to respond?

Defending your company from a rampaging terrorist attack is unquestionably difficult. A successful reaction does not happen by accident. However, lives can be spared with well-developed processes, security systems, training and practice.

In the event of a terrorist assault, skilled staff must follow well-practiced escape protocols, aided by well-designed site layouts and technical measures capable of delaying attackers until police respond and engage. An effective approach consists of:

  • Preparation
  • Development (followed by iterative testing and method refinement)
  • Collaboration (with others both inside and outside your business)
  • Adjustments (to your site, security equipment and working methods)

Probable attack scenarios

Whilst it is useful to visualise attack scenarios to help you focus your planning, remember that it is not practical to plan for every imaginable sort of marauding terrorist attack. Your overall risk assessment will influence the scenarios you plan for, but they should typically include:

  • An attack that begins outside of your site
  • An attack that begins within your website
  • A likely attack showed by a large mass of people coming swiftly towards your site for no apparent reason

Each scenario should consider the following elements: The most likely types of weapons to be used (knives, guns, explosive devices, fire, hostile vehicles as a weapon); The number of assailants; Whether the attackers remain in a single group or are divided into multiple groups.

Crowds of people are an appealing target for rampaging terrorists. Consider how a facility and its procedures might be built to minimise the number of individuals in high-risk areas, such as entrances. Visitors to an office building, for example, could be processed quickly before being directed to a separate waiting space rather than staying in the reception area.

Buildings are evacuated in the event of a fire, not a terrorist assault. Fire evacuation plans may allow individuals to leave a building for many minutes or may demand a phased evacuation so that escape routes are not overburdened. Consider the potential of a crush if many individuals sought to use an escape route while preparing what to do in the case of an assault. Some people may find it safer to seek refuge and conceal rather than attempt to exit the building.

How can we combat international terrorism?

Terrorism continues to pose a significant and broad threat to national and international security. On 26 June 2015 specifically, the Sousse attack happened in which 30 of the 38 tourists killed by a gunman on a Tunisian beach were British. The attack has been considered “the most significant terrorist attack on the British people” since the London 7/7 bombings in 2005.

Before the Sousse attack happened, Tunisia’s tourist police were unarmed and at the time of the attack, the police did not intervene and kill the terrorist until half an hour later. In addition, witnesses claimed that two armed police officers refused to intervene because they weren’t wearing bulletproof vests.

UK assistance has been wide-ranging, including working with the Tunisian government in developing its approach to countering terrorist recruitment and radicalisation, improving the protective security of tourist sites through the “TUNISIA Conflict, Stability and Security Fund PROGRAMME” led by The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Tunisia still has a tremendous need for a Tunisian Centre for National and Personal Protective Security to protect the country’s security by helping to reduce the vulnerability of national infrastructure. As we see regularly, co-operation and intelligence collaboration between countries is crucial in combating international terrorism.

We will not, however, always be effective in preventing attacks. The majority of future terrorist plans in the UK will use simple tactics that can be established quickly and easily. Terrorists are still planning more intricate and more destructive strikes, most likely targeting populous areas or the global aviation system. Terrorists can better mask their plans thanks to the widespread availability and use of encrypted communications.

Terrorists haven’t changed and they can’t change – we must therefore stop them from changing our way of life. We will continue to respond systematically and proportionately, following our guiding values.

This article was originally published in the June 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.