Scotland Yard has just carried out the biggest anti-terrorism exercise in London’s history, deploying more than 1,000 officers to combat a simulated ‘marauding attack’ on the city. The simulation, code-named “Strong Tower” comes just days after a trio of deadly attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia, where 30 British tourists were killed. The current exercise was planned six months ago, in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and a siege at a Sydney cafe.
These live exercises do take considerable organisation, as I know from my recent time with Sussex Police, where I was involved in helping to run a similar exercise involving 400 members of the emergency services last year. The day included police officers running around the Sussex countryside with real guns and a mock up explosion at a disused Army barracks in Brighton. The police take these exercises very seriously, because they know that one day it will happen for real.
The Met have also just revealed that over the last 12 months, terror arrests have been running at almost one per day. The biggest threat is now thought to come from Britons who have been trained and radicalised abroad during time spent with Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq. Over 700 British citizens are thought to have travelled overseas for this purpose and half of these are now thought to be back in the UK.
Of course, we have already experienced the unthinkable once before on the streets on the capital, with the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 attacks just around the corner. When it happens again, as it almost certainly will, then emergency communications will be absolutely vital, not only to the 999 response but also to the response of private companies either involved directly or located close by. An event such as a marauding gunman would close down whole sections of whichever city was the location of the attack for hours and even days afterwards.
The ability to instantly reach all of your staff, customers and other stakeholders, via e-mail, SMS, push notification or automated phone call would be a priceless asset in such a situation. You would be able to warn them of what was happening, perhaps even helping to put them out of harm’s way, and also alert them to the disruptive impact of the event for as long as it continues. Using the Crises Control app you could even track where your key personnel are via the GPS tracking function, again a potentially priceless asset in such a situation.
Please think about these things now, don’t wait until something dreadful has happened to you or someone else before you decide to implement an emergency mass notification system that would be priceless during a deadly attack, but also a very valuable asset during day-to-day business disruption events.
Tim has many years of crisis communications experience, gained during his time as a communicator with the Met Police, Surrey and Sussex Police.