Security advisor to London’s diplomatic community David Varney urges missions to take responsibility for their own safety and security, and offers a number of solutions
We should not forget that the threat level to the UK from international terrorism is currently assessed as ‘SEVERE’, which means ‘an attack is highly likely’. But when we remind ourselves that this threat level has actually been in place since August 2014, surely our security and safety measures should have already been assessed, upgraded and implemented? Surely, with an incident like the one in Paris, this is just an opportunity to reassess what we have in place, dust down our security and contingency plans, and make sure they are fit for purpose? Sadly, that’s not always the case, and if you are now in a position where your measures and protocols have not been addressed and upgraded, are you beginning to think how you and your organisation might deal with a serious security incident like those we saw in the French capital?
In terms of the current threat, one of the issues we face is the evolving methodology of attackers. The open approval of ISIS leaders to use all means available to attack potential targets, inspires groups and individuals to continually look to act to further their cause.
We in turn are continually looking at the evolving threat with the intention of bringing the most up-to-date protective security advice to the diplomatic community, but a key message would be to ensure security measures are implemented now. Do not wait until after an event.
My role as a security adviser is to help the diplomatic community in London to protect themselves. As a receiving state, we have a duty of care to protect you under the Vienna Convention, and with the Metropolitan Police’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection, we have numerous resources to fulfil that obligation. However, with the ever-evolving threat and increasing methodology of terrorist attacks, the diplomatic community also have to take responsibility for their own safety and security.
We can attend your diplomatic missions to carry out a security survey, then provide you with a report with recommendations on how to improve your physical, personnel and information security. In conjunction with the National Counter Terrorism and Security Office (NaCTSO) presentation ‘Stay Safe,’ we can assist you in assessing your plans and procedures should your premises come under multiple weapons and firearms attack. We can provide you with presentations on personal safety and security to help prevent you becoming a victim of crime, but I would strongly suggest that now more than ever, you not only take our advice but start to act upon it to ensure your security and safety as well as that of your family, your staff and your premises.
There will of course be some sites that already have good security measures in place and staff that are already vigilant and aware of their surroundings. However, one of the problems we face is complacency, for when we look at the existing threat level having now been in place for over a year, it starts to become part of our everyday life, and when we have no terrorist incidents during that time, we start to forget why the threat level was increased in the first place and our behaviour reverts to normality and our vigilance diminishes.
Unfortunately, it’s only when an incident occurs, that we become vigilant once again. It’s then that we start to assess what we should be doing; asking what more can we do and wondering how can we protect ourselves.
What action can the missions take?
If you have not yet had a security survey conducted on your mission, then please ensure you contact your security adviser to do so. However, another way to assess some of the best ways to protect your working environment is by visiting The Home Office Security and Policing Exhibition. From the 8th-10th March, 2016, the diplomatic community have a unique opportunity to attend this exhibition feature that has been designed and created with them specifically in mind.
The Home Office Security and Policing Exhibition at Farnborough has two ‘live’ demonstration areas with one of the features being a ‘Mock Embassy’, where a live immersive experience has been created to allow delegates to be led through the exhibit that showcases some of best physical security products and services available.
This exciting new addition to the event in 2016 will be a mock-up of a fictional embassy and the event organisers have been working closely with our office in order to guarantee that the very best of British standards will be displayed and promoted in this new feature: www.securityandpolicing.co.uk/live-immersive-experience.
The UK security industry has a proud history of providing equipment and technology both at home and overseas in protecting embassies, high commissions, consular sections and official residences. Visitors and delegations will be able to see for themselves the many different elements of security afforded to protecting such sites, and throughout the day, a number of live scenario/role play situations will take place to help visitors visualise such circumstances as a ‘full security lock down’ and see how the UK security industry can contribute to its effectiveness.
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