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Terror survivors urge for counter terrorism training

Terror survivors have called for businesses and religious organisations to complete counter terrorism training to help protect the UK from future attacks.

Two Londoners have shared their accounts of being caught up in the London Bridge and Parsons Green attacks, in the hope they can encourage more people to sign up to Counter Terrorism Policing’s online training package – ACT Awareness eLearning.

Marking the first anniversary of its release, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office says that the training has been adopted by more than 3,400 businesses nationwide, delivering the potentially life-saving information to nearly a quarter of a million people.

Joanette Fourie, one of those to share her experience, undertook Project Argus training just two days before boarding the carriage that would carry her and an improvised explosive device to Parsons Green.

She recalled: “I got on the train at Wimbledon, and I remember being happy that I got a seat, the train was full, and I was looking at a little girl with her mum going through some spelling words for a test. We were sitting just along the carriage from the device. It detonated as we arrived at Parsons Green, and the explosion lasted just milliseconds but felt like much longer. Thanks to the training I had just done, I knew instinctively what had happened and what I needed to do.”

Natalie Tait, the second survivor, commented: “What affected me most, both during the incident and in the weeks afterwards, was the uncertainty and the panic. Experiencing the training before this happened would certainly have helped me. When the fire alarm goes off at work, nobody panics. That’s because that training is drilled in from an early age.

“If this training allows people to react more calmly in that awful situation then the resulting mental trauma can be reduced and that means we’re not letting the terrorists win, because they want to spread fear.”

Originally designed with industries such as retail, entertainment and hospitality in mind, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and Counter Terror Policing is encouraging faith centres and religious establishments to consider delivering the training to their staff, volunteers and parishioners.

Chief Superintendent Nick Aldworth, Counter Terrorism Policing’s National Coordinator for Protect and Prepare, said: “The horrific attacks which have recently in New Zealand and Sri Lanka demonstrate that places of worship are still viable targets for extremists. Whilst still rare, attacks can occur at any time or place without warning and the threat level in the UK from terrorism remains at SEVERE, meaning an attack is highly likely.

“ACT Awareness is available for faith centres to use and I would urge religious leaders to consider this training for their churches, mosques and synagogues. Natalie and Joanette have bravely come forward to share their experiences with us, so we can better understand why it is so important that as many people as possible arm themselves with this crucial advice – it is 45 minutes that could potentially save your life.”

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