The Public & Private Face of Dealing with New Threats – Philip Ingram discusses in City Security Magazine how security officers supported police in the response following the first use of Novichok anywhere, and whether further training may now be required.
Salisbury and its surrounding villages have been in the news for not just the first use of a deadly nerve agent on British soil, but the first use of a Novichok agent anywhere.
Luckily this deadly, virtually undetectable substance wasn't used in the crowded metropolis of London or one of our other major cities.
Responding to CBR Incidents
The current guidance for incidents in which multiple people have collapsed together, with no immediate explanation or cause, is to consider the possibility of a CBRN incident.
Indeed the exact nature of the incident may not be immediately obvious.
For example there may be multiple casualties for no apparent reason, in which case as well as your own knowledge and experience of your working environment and it's people, STEPS 123 can be used as a recognition tool:
One person in close proximity incapacitated with no obvious reason.
Approach using existing security procedures.
Two people in close proximity incapacitated with no obvious reason.
Approach with caution using existing security procedures.
Three or more people in close proximity, incapacitated with no obvious reason.
Use caution, plus advise ambulatory casualties to follow the REMOVE, REMOVE, REMOVE protocol.
In this scenario, it is critical to not approach the area. Security can then liaise with police and emergency services and escalate as per their specific site process.
'REMOVE, REMOVE, REMOVE' Protocol
If you suspect someone has been exposed to a hazardous substance it is vital that the REMOVE, REMOVE, REMOVE protocol is followed.
Policing the cordons
More than 1,200 police officers from across the country assisted with the cordons in Salisbury as they were needed to secure the areas suspected of contamination. In June, almost four months after the initial attack, a decision was made to replace many of the police officers with security staff.
A Defra spokesperson said to a local Salisbury newspaper: "As of 4 June, security guards will start to replace the police officers deployed at some of the cordoned sites around Salisbury, where clean-up work is taking place. This is to allow local police officers and those who have volunteered from around the country to return to their normal duties."
Partnership working well
Visiting Salisbury, I found that the police, private security partnership was working very well and the professionalism of everyone was reflected in the engagement and respect shown by the local people. This could be the start of a model for greater public private cooperation.
However, one common worrying thread existed with both police and security staff awareness; briefings on what Novichok was, how nerve agents worked, was scarce.
"We have to rely on our ex-military training," was one comment.
Briefing for new threats
However, if we look at where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed from the effects of Novichok, or where they could have collapsed, it could easily have been an SIA-licensed security guard who was first on the scene.
Now that we have security guards protecting sites, potentially contaminated with deadly nerve agents, the question has to be asked: is it now time for more novel threats to be briefed to all licensed staff, and should this be part of a continuous training regime?
"A clear and concise overview of how to identify the effects of a nerve agent at the earliest opportunity would be warmly welcomed.
"Couple this with what to do in such an event to help protect oneself and others and I think we would have a very useful training resource.
"It's important not to 'scaremonger' and this may well be an isolated incident, but we will be increasing our staff's awareness just to be on the safe side."
With the disruption in Salisbury and nine miles away in Amesbury contained to relatively small areas, the policing and security bill is enormous; were something similar to happen in any of our major cities, the impact could be huge.
The International Security Expo at Olympia in November this year will be examining emerging threats across our cities, our Critical National Infrastructure, impacting the economy and much more.
I am bringing some of the conferences together and am confident they will allow training, public private partnerships and novel threats all to be debated in context.
With the terror attacks of last year, a nerve agent attack this year, numerous terror attacks disrupted, Counter Terror police closely monitoring 600+ threats, and Brexit scaremongering, the need for even greater public private cooperation seems an absolute must.
All of these will be key elements in and around the November event.
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