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The Pen is mightier than the Sword

A critique of public information security initiatives 

 

March 2017

There have been an increasing number of public information initiatives of late in response to the recent terrorist attacks across Europe and the real threat of further terrorist attacks in the UK. These campaigns rely on the power of a few words to convey a strong message in an attempt to capture the public’s attention, influence behaviour and shape their responses but how effective are they? Can the word really be mightier than the sword?

The most recent of these initiatives is ‘Action Counters Terrorism’ (ACT) which uses a range of on-line media in order to communicate with the general public. The campaign asks people to take note of and report a range of suspicious activities and behaviours relating to attack planning and preparation.

This initiative comes in the wake of ‘Citizen Aid’ which uses an app and a paper pocket guide to offer advice on how to respond to an active shooter, knife or bomb attack. This in turn was preceded by the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Run, Hide, Tell.’ campaign giving guidance to members of the public caught up in a complex attack. Meanwhile the British Transport Police have also weighed-in with two campaigns of their own. Firstly, ‘We Love Rush Hour’, promoting security awareness amongst the commuting public and secondly ‘See it, Say it, Sorted’, encouraging passengers to report unattended bags or other suspicious items found on trains or in stations.

So how effective are these initiatives and are they an appropriate way of achieving the desired effect?

There is of course a danger that a plethora of separate campaigns may only serve to confuse rather than inform. The alternative being one overarching national campaign built around a common theme and perhaps offering greater clarity.

The content also varies in terms of depth and complexity. Some provide basic three-point guidance while others offer a greater level of detail, such as Citizen Aid, perhaps straying into areas where basic guidance rather than formal training is simply not effective. Citizen Aid for instance talks about life saving medical assistance, including the use of tourniquets, which in reality, requires formal first aid training if it is to be delivered safely and effectively.

It also seems that most people are simply not aware of these campaigns, even people within the key target groups such as commuters or those living in major UK cities.

So, in short, any public information campaign would surely benefit from being UK wide, built around a common theme and brand. It should focus on single, simple messages around security awareness and behaviours, as is the case of ACT, but avoid entering into more complex areas where a deeper level of understanding and specific skills are required.

Where more complex interventions are appropriate, perhaps for key or vulnerable personnel, these should be addressed through more formal programmes. Project ARGUS, a UK Police initiative which is a contact learning based two hour training package, is an excellent example. It addresses responses to complex attacks in public spaces. For organisations that qualify, this programme is excellent and for those that do not, commercial versions are available from organisations such as ours along with relevant basic first aid and trauma training.

 

David Curran MA FCIPD MSyl

Left of Bang

The importance of Situational Awareness

Situational awareness, like cultural awareness is much talked about but all too often misunderstood and poorly applied in any practical sense. Recent events have caused many people to ask what can I do to better equip myself in order to avoid bad situations. The answer is situational awareness and alongside it, what we call tactical awareness.

Situational Awareness is a process that helps us identify potential threats early on and allows us to take early evasive action and avoid the threat. The term Left of Bang is used by the US Marines to refer to this pre-event activity. Military timelines run left to right so left of bang means activity before the bad event or the bang we wish to avoid.

The US Marines call it Combat Profiling. The programme is intensive and lasts several weeks. I was similarly taught situational awareness during my training as an Intelligence Officer before being posted to high threat environments overseas. Clearly the average business traveller can’t spend several weeks undergoing such training but a few simple techniques can be taught in a relatively short period of time and change how people see and interpret the world around them.read more

Cornwall comes to Devon

Edson Tiger on Royal Duties

We were recently asked to provide security for a visit by HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall to Plymouth where she opened the new BBC South West Regional Centre. We were of course very honoured to play our small part in this event working closely with our client the BBC and our friends at Devon and Cornwall Police. Our role was to act as the advance party, control access and provide over watch of the venue and surrounding area in support of the principal’s close protection team.

This was a rather unique assignment but we do provide complete close protection services in the UK and overseas for a number of clients ranging from celebrity protection at high profile media events in the UK to client protection teams working with the United Nations in Africa.  But whatever the environment it’s important that operators have the right core skills and experience.

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Bursting the Balloon

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Islamic State (IS) continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq this amounts to nearly fifty percent of the ground they once held including the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. In Syria they have lost around twenty percent and Raqqa itself is now under threat from a coalition of anti IS forces. As well as ground, they have lost valuable oil revenue and conditions inside IS held areas are deteriorating with shortages of basic supplies becoming common.  If Raqqa falls IS will lose not only its symbolic capital and centre of leadership but its main logistics base.  So how will IS respond to this change in fortune?

When conducting counter insurgency operations in Afghanistan we used to talk about squeezing the balloon. You put pressure on the Taliban in one district and they would simply withdraw only to re-emerge elsewhere. And so it went on like a balloon half filled with air. We would bring pressure to bear in one tactical space but the Taliban threat would simply be displaced to another as we lacked the resources to apply pressure equally across the whole of Helmand Province.

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There’s a Ghost in my House

The increased threat from technical surveillance

Technology tends to bring opportunity and risk in equal measure, better defence and detection systems but at the same time a wider range of technical surveillance options available to those that might wish to eavesdrop on us. So how has the threat changed over the past few years?

Firstly device technology, microphones and cameras are smaller, better quality and commercially available and at high street prices. This means that technical surveillance options are available to all not just to security and intelligence organisations, law enforcement and high end commercial espionage providers. Today they can be easily obtained by the man in the street, on-line or from a commercial spy shop. So the opportunistic competitor, disgruntled employee or a clandestine voyeur can all easily obtain technical surveillance equipment.

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Duty of Care towards International Travellers

Edson Tiger and Penningtons Manches host a joint seminar

On 26 April Edson Tiger and Penningtons Manches jointly hosted a seminar in Oxford for HR directors and security and safety professionals with responsibility for overseas travellers and projects. A range of organisations attended ranging from major corporates to representatives from the education and voluntary sector.

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Post the Brussels Attack

How should organisations respond?

The recent attacks in Brussels, previous events in Paris and now a plane hijacking in Egypt have highlighted the ongoing threat from international terrorism and its universal nature. These events have naturally grabbed the headlines and understandably led to organisations and their employees becoming increasingly concerned about their security while at work and travelling at home and overseas.

So what should organisations do? This guidance is intended to help you address that question and decide on what actions you should take in response.

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A Journey Less Perilous

Managing Risk in Complex Environments

Many organisations are increasingly required to operate globally including in some of the more challenging regions of the world. At the same time the media constantly reminds us of the inherent dangers involved in traveling and working overseas. The shootings in Tunisia and two attacks in Paris to name but two such events. Tunisia yet again bought home the vulnerably of even mainstream travellers. In this case British package holiday tourists travelling to an established tourist destination. While Paris was the latest in a long series of attacks in European cities, including London and Madrid, leaving many asking the question is anywhere truly safe?

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