Preparing for a Terrorist Attack: 6 Simple Steps for Retailers

Shopping Mall

A recent video released by militants has called for strikes on shopping centres — including Oxford Street and the two Westfield malls in London, the Mall of America in Minnesota and Canada’s West Edmonton mall. This threat shows no sign of abating and for retailers any adverse publicity concerning the mishandling of a security or terrorist incident can have lasting reputational and financial consequences. Here is some guidance to assist retailers with strategic security planning.

1. Review Your Risk Assessment and Security Plans

It is important to make sure you have as much input as possible when reviewing your risk assessment and security plans. Involving your local police force and security personnel provides an objective view point and helps ensure that your plans are suitable and sufficient. Make sure they are simple, clear, flexible and compatible with existing strategies, as well as ensuring all necessary regulations are met, such as local planning permission, building consents, health and safety and fire prevention requirements.

2. Enhance Staff Training and Communication


Reiterate, review and retrain – with high numbers of staff it is important to raise awareness and make sure that everyone (including cleaning, maintenance, contract and concession staff) is vigilant.

Staff should be re-briefed to look out for unusual packages, bags or other items in odd places and people showing particular interest in sensitive, important or less accessible areas. They should also have the confidence to report suspicious items or behaviour.

Communication is key to reinforcing this and could include sending out memos to managers and using posters at entrance points and staff areas – regular and consistent communication means people are likely to be more vigilant.

3. Establish Contact With Counter-Terrorism Security Advisers (CTSAs)

Someone should have clear responsibility for establishing contact with your local CTSA who can:

  • Help assess the threat, both generally and specifically.
  • Give advice on physical security equipment.
  • Arrange contact with emergency services and local authority planners to develop response and contingency plans.
  • Identify trade bodies for the supply and installation of security equipment
  • Offer advice on search plans.

If a CTSA identifies any security vulnerabilities, they can alert the appropriate authorities (for example, the emergency services) that an inspection is necessary.

4. Maintain Good Housekeeping

On a practical level this may mean the use of clear plastic bags for waste disposal, or establishing a procedure for checking the registration of contractors’ vehicles. On a more strategic level this might mean ensuring an organisation’s security system has an uninterruptible and regularly tested power supply. All equipment, from IT systems to fire extinguishers, needs to be regularly checked and monitored for interference.

5. Control Building Access

Terrorists need physical access to a building to carry out an attack. In public areas this becomes very difficult to control so you should review and consider; enhanced monitoring of CCTV, heightened physical security and staff awareness, other means of entry such as staff entrances, delivery/collection points and maintenance access.

Also consider who is gaining access, for example, temporary staff, contractors and delivery persons. A balance must be found between business needs and effective security and any system must comply with relevant legislation.

6. Ensure Stringent Personnel Security

Some external threats, whether from criminals, terrorists, or competitors seeking a business advantage, may rely upon the cooperation of an ‘insider’. This could be an employee, a contractor or an agency staff member who has authorised access to your premises.

Personnel security policies and procedures limit the risk of staff or contractors exploiting their legitimate access to an organisation’s assets or premises for unauthorised purposes, while pre-employment screening establishes whether an applicant has concealed important information or otherwise misrepresented themselves.

About Kelvyn Sampson

Kelvyn Sampson is the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Industry Practice Leader for Willis Towers Watson, Great Brit…
Categories: Retail, Terrorism

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