|Counter- terrorism – BIDs leading the way on communications and training
Since the appalling terror attacks in Paris, many of you have been in touch asking what systems and projects other BIDs have implemented in their attempts to plan for the unthinkable.
The Mayor challenges being reported relate to coordinating communications from multiple sources and making sure that the BID is sufficiently embedded within local policing and security partnerships to receive real-time information as situations develop. For BIDs that do not have their own wardens or dedicated Police this can be particularly difficult and can be a real test of strength of their local relationships.
Other challenges relate to the best means of disseminating information to diverse groups of businesses – from independent shop keepers without on-site access to email through to office buildings with large numbers of staff.
A key lesson to emerge is that there is no single solution to handling this issue and that multiple communications channels need to be exploited to keep getting the message out to members.
angel.london has been at the forefront of developing new systems to support its members in combating the threat of terrorism and has recently launched a ‘UK-first’, developing a WhatsApp group supported by the Police for 25 of its largest businesses to report suspected terrorist activity. A single, dedicated manager at each business is allowed to be a member of the WhatsApp group in a move to cut out the hierarchies in organisations that can be a barrier to timely communications.
The system has been made possible in Angel, as the BID funds its own Police team and has its own mobile phone number for contacting the officers.
Christine Lovett, Chief Executive of angel.london, said ‘The system is particularly effective for organisations with large numbers of employees and many of our largest offices and supermarkets have signed up. Early warning through a WhatsApp alert can help them go into lockdown if required in the event of an attack, but the first point of call is always to dial 999.’
Confidentiality is critical as in many cases personal mobile numbers have been supplied to the group. All users are required to sign a confidentiality agreement before joining. Due to the restrictions of WhatsApp, the group is currently limited to 100 members.
angel.london are clear that the scheme is just one of a number of systems for their members to report in concerns and information. It will work alongside the BID’s existing Shopwatch and radio scheme.
In the event of mobile networks going down during an attack, the BID will always rely on email as its back-up communication to get messages and updates out to all members. These systems were first developed during the riots of August 2011 and remain an important tool for security updates.
Other excellent examples of best practice coming through from BIDs include the Mansfield BID, who have enrolled their wardens on counter-terrorism, safeguarding and radicalisation training with the Community Safety Partnership. Following the Paris attacks, all the businesses in the area started to review their security processes and worked closely with the BID – itself a member of an innovative county-wide Business Crime Partnership – to develop a strategy for the town centre.
Radicalisation training for wardens is an interesting angle to this issue and is an example of where BIDs have engaged deeply with their communities to address local concerns. It sits very much within the objectives of the Home Office’s counter-extremism strategy. The wardens talk to local teenagers on a daily basis in the town centre area and are therefore ideally placed to make use of the training they have received to spot signs of radicalisation.
The Fitzrovia Partnership has also focused on providing training for its members and works closely with its borough Counter Terrorism Operations Team to arrange Argus Seminars (advising senior management on preparing a response to a serious event such as a terrorist attack at crowded places), Griffin briefings (community awareness and information sharing) and providing fraudulent document awareness training for employers.
The BID is clear that the community as a whole within the Fitzrovia area needs to have the knowledge and plans in place to respond to a major incident. It has initiated a Community Security Zone strategy group to help facilitate this. The group is chaired by the BID’s Operations Director – another example of BIDs successfully placing themselves at the heart of security networks in their areas.
We will be following this subject closely in the coming months and are very keen to hear of any other examples of best practice or innovations being developed by member BIDs.