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City of London Police are working with the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police to draw up specific advice for businesses and residents in the City on how to deal with the threat of suicide bombings, following the revelation that last week’s devasting attacks were the work of suicide bombers.
A senior police source said: “We are working together to get a consensus on advice on how to identify suicide bombers and how to manage issues around suicide bombings. Things have changed since [last] Thursday.”
The source said that this would include reviewing security arrangements for businesses such as physical barriers, and assessing “stand-off” distances, which measure how close a car can come to the main entrance of a building.
The move has not been made in response to a specific threat to the City, but, the source said, it was a matter of “planning ahead”.
Paul Eskriett, principal security advisor to the Corporation of London, which advises businesses in the City, said “a number of things” regarding business security were going on, but would not specify specific measures.
Kevin Rosser, senior analyst at Control Risks Group, said: “The effect of 7/7 will probably be to accelerate a process already underway of companies reviewing their security measures and procedures and enhancing them where they find gaps.”
The risk of a suicide attack was already a plausible contingency that business had to plan for, given that many of the recent terrorist attacks, including September 11, were of that nature, Mr Rosser added.
Dominic Armstrong, director of research and intelligence at Aegis Defence Services, said that one of the biggest changes, in companies where it had not already occurred, would be from the movement of security from a back office function to a board level priority. “Board members will need to be responsible for answering questions about security,” he said.
In addition, said Mr Armstrong, “It’s not about one issue, but about getting a thousand little things right”.
SunGard, one of the largest independent providers of software and disaster recovery services in Europe and the US and whose clients include financial services companies in the City, said that after the blast it had received 28 calls from companies requesting access to back-up systems and facilities where they could move staff to in order continue business operations. It had calls from 84 companies saying might need access to these facilities.
High profile companies such as Shell and HSBC either raised or maintained their security levels, however they refused to comment on whether they were increasing expenditure on security in the wake of the bombings.
Issues to address could include everything from equipping the building with shatter-proof glass to vetting temporary staff more carefully. Mr Rosser said that many new buildings in London were already incorporating designs, such as including more space between the building and the road as a “matter of course”.
Older, existing buildings for which including space or erecting bollards was not an option, could institute other measures to protect themselves if they were at high-risk, he said.
TPS, the UK security and counter-terrorism consultancy, say that the owners of buildings abutting transport routes could consider the enhancement of their frontages to minimise the effects of an adjacent explosion and consequent debris. This could range from the use laminated glass windows to the application of anti-shatter film to existing glazing.
There was a limit, however, to what measures companies could institute to protect against a major car bomb attack in the city, said Mr Rosser. “The first line of defence is the security service. These other types of measures are hopefully the last line of defence,” he said.
Mr Eskriett agreed. “Business doesn’t work in isolation, itt works with the police.” He pointed to the “ring of steel” around the City, which includes entry points where vehicles can be checked by police, and CCTV cameras which record car licence plate numbers which are fed automatically through a database.
However, the risk of being directly targeted by terrorists to individual companies was low compared to other routine risks they may face, such as intellectual property theft or crime, said Mr Rosser.
They are less at risk, said Mr Armstrong, than the primary soft targets open to the general public, such as the transport system, restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas, schools, and churches. However, certain sectors such as transport and oil and gas, as well as iconic Western companies such as multinational banks or leisure brands could be more at risk.
John Pierce, chief executive of the Quoted Companies Alliance, which represents smaller UK companies, said that as animal rights activists targeted only specific companies, so did terrorists.
Just as important as understanding where risk was, was to understand where it was not, Mr Amstrong added. “Companies who understand risk won’t be cowed and will have more opportunities.”