Preparing for protect duty
Though it is not known when any form of Protect Duty will come into effect, early 2023 is the date that has been mentioned. And with the current situation in government, this may be pushed back. However, there are several things you can do now to prepare
In anticipation of Protect Duty, the Association of Event Venues (AEV) has provided some helpful information on how to prepare. The guidance points out that any Publicly Accessible Location (PAL), is a potential target. Therefore, it is important that owners and operators understand the risks and consider appropriate measures to mitigate the risks.
The AEV recommends that owners and operators work to understand the terrorist threat and recognise that this threat may vary over time, for example in regards to motivation or method of attack. It is also important to understand how the threat relates to your specific venue or organisation – this could be directly or indirectly due to proximity to a neighbouring site.
The AEV website is regularly updated with new information. The AEV Security Working group meets every month to review security issues and has shared thoughts and submitted a collective view in collaboration with the National Arenas Association (NAA) on the consultation. The group also runs Protect Duty Awareness Sessions.
Though Protect Duty has not yet been finalised, there are some things we can be likely to expect. It is likely that the Protect Duty will apply to three main areas. These include public venues with a capacity of 100 people or more, such as entertainment and sports venues, tourist attractions and shopping centres; large organisations such as retail chains that employ 250 or more staff and operate in PALs; and public spaces. Public spaces may include parks, beaches, town squares and pedestrianised areas. Therefore it is likely that your venue or location will be covered by Protect Duty and it is important to be prepared.
The first way to do this is to read up on Protect Duty and learn about it in advance. However, be careful to get this information from reliable sources. As Protect Duty hasn’t been finalised yet, no one knows what the finished product will look like. Be wary of those who claim to be experts. Also be cautious of anyone offering Protect Duty training courses or accreditations, as you cannot be sure they will be Protect Duty compliant when the legislation comes into force.
There are several places where information is already available. Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) E-Learning provides information on how to respond to suspicious activity. The ProtectUK app has lots of guidance and is regularly updated. It provides advice on how to protect your organisation or venue and how to respond to an attack. It also sends real-time news and counterterrorism incident updates from UK Protect. The CPNI also provides guidance on Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) awareness and countering threats from Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
As part of the Protect Duty, it is anticipated that owners and operators of public venues and large organisations will be expected to use information and guidance from the government and the police to consider terrorist threats and assess the potential impact of these risks.
It is important that staff are aware of and trained in threats, likely attack methods and how to respond, as well as how to identify hostile reconnaissance and what to do should they become aware of it. Information will be available on the links listed above, as well as likely on the official Protect Duty website, when available.
AEV recommends that you consider what can be done to make it harder for a terrorist to carry out an attack. This could include being aware of suspicious behaviour in the area such as loitering, taking photos or asking lots of questions. You should be security-minded in your communications, for example in event planning and on social media, do not share information that could be useful to a terrorist. In the workplace, encourage and enable a security culture, where the topic is commonly discussed and ensure that any concerns can be easily reported and staff know that they will be acted on.
Though it is not yet clear when Protect Duty will come into effect, there is lots you can do now to prepare. Lots of information is already available, though do check the reliability of the source. It is never too early to prepare and indeed, the sooner the better, as your venue and its visitors will benefit anyway.