In 2017, the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) released Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism.
The document sets out measures to be considered and implemented to ensure owners and operators of ‘crowded places’ are aware of their obligations to protect visitors and staff.
The objective of this strategy is simple – “To protect the lives of people working in, using, and visiting crowded places by making these places more resilient”.
This article provides a brief synopsis of the publication, and what it means to owners and operators of crowded places (including local government).
What defines a ‘Crowded Place’?
Crowded places are locations which are easily accessible by large numbers of people on a predictable basis. A crowded place will not always be necessarily crowded, crowd densities may vary between day and night, by season, and may be temporary, as in the case of sporting events, festivals, or one-off events. Typical examples of crowded places include stadiums, shopping centres, transport hubs, community events, places of worship and markets.
Why are they a potential target?
Crowded places continue to be attractive targets for terrorists. The current National Terrorism Threat Level in Australia remains at PROBABLE, and has done for a number of years.
This indicates that individuals and groups continue to possess the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia. This elevated terror threat is likely to persist for the foreseeable future and it is not confined to any one city or metropolitan area.
Recent attacks on crowded places overseas, demonstrate how basic weapons, including vehicles, knives and firearms, can be used by terrorists to a devastating effect.
Extremists have carried out similar attacks here in crowded places, and we expect more will occur. The two ‘vehicle as a weapon’ attacks on Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall are cases in point (one was also combined with a bladed weapon attack), as is the Sydney Lindt Café Siege in 2014.
Furthermore, in July 2017, Police and Intelligence Officials disrupted a plot to conduct a terrorist attack using an improvised explosive device against the aviation sector and a plot to develop an improvised chemical dispersion device for use in a terrorist attack on Australian soil.
In reality, it will not always be possible to prevent all terrorist attacks from occurring so we need to strengthen our national arrangements in order to help owners and operators better protect crowded places from terrorism.
What does this mean for local government in Australia?
The release of Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism places an onus on local government, as owners and operators of crowded places to review safety, security and emergency management arrangements for the sites under their ownership.
Owners and operators of crowded places have a primary responsibility for protecting their sites, including a duty of care to take steps to protect people that work, use or visit their site from a range of foreseeable threats, including the threat of terrorist attack.
Local governments are often responsible for managing civic spaces, public activities, celebrations, agricultural shows and community days. This means they have the same roles and responsibilities as other owners and operators of crowded places, including a duty of care to develop, implement and regularly test protective security measures.
Developing, implementing and regularly testing a comprehensive security plan is a matter of good business and a corporate responsibility. The plan needs to prioritise saving lives and minimising harm while aiming to protect physical assets, information, reputation and other elements that could affect business continuity.
Local governments also play an important role in designing and approving public spaces, this gives them a unique opportunity to consider and creatively apply protective security during the early stages of crowded place design. Doing so helps to reduce cost and minimise the disruptive effect of protective security on the public’s enjoyment of public spaces.
Given the above context and the increasing concerns regarding threats posed by recent terrorist attacks across the world, it is imperative that owners and operators of crowded places carry out security audits / risk assessments and, where necessary, seek specialist security consultancy services.
A Risk Based Approach
It is important that security measures are proportionate to the level and type of threat, which is why we need to first understand the threats and vulnerabilities present and provide mitigation measures to address them. Following an internationally recognised standard for security and risk management, such as ISO-31000 will provide a solid baseline for assessing, ranking and addressing potential threats. Oftentimes, simply being aware of risks means that they can be managed without additional measures or cost. The key is providing a balanced approach to the level of threat in a particular location.
Cundall specialises in providing security risk assessments and specialist security consultancy services for our client base globally. We are creating safer, more secure and resilient environments for our communities to enjoy. If you are a local government, owner or operator of a crowded place, we would like to help you assess and mitigate your risks.