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Article | Managing Risk

Identifying and disrupting terror threats in the UK leisure and hospitality sectors

Creating protective cultures in the age of the lone assailant

November 23, 2021

Protect and Prevent officers from the City of London Police provide insights on how leisure and hospitality organisations can disrupt terrorists and shield their businesses from changing terror threats.
Risk Management Consulting

Our October 2021 webinar considered what businesses can do to disrupt terrorist information-gathering and how they can build protective security cultures using existing resources.

The changing threat: rise of the lone assailant

Assailants need the freedom, space and time to make plans and prepare for their attacks. Denying them this room to act can be the key to keeping your organisation safe.

The threat of terrorism a constant of modern life, with the nature of this threat is constantly changing. Where once, almost all attacks were planned and executed by organised groups with central chains of command, today self-initiated attacks by assailants acting alone or in very small groups are more common.

This creates a challenge as these assailants are often not known to the security services and can be more difficult to detect and monitor. However, their isolation also means they are less sophisticated and more likely to make mistakes.

Terrorists typically need to gather a lot of information to plan their attacks. Unlike an organisation, they only have one chance to stage their attack and may have very high stakes in play – either their desire to maximise deaths or to seemingly meet their specific ideological aims through terror. This can put them under a lot of pressure that may mean they appear nervous, anxious or paranoid should they encounter your employees. This vulnerability creates an opportunity for organisations to stop attacks before they happen. By knowing what characteristics to look for, you can disrupt terrorists’ plans.

Disrupting terror plans: See, Check and Notify

If an assailant is planning an attack at your location, they will likely need to visit your building first. This could be your chance to detect and disrupt them before they act.

Your people are your greatest advantage here.

Your people are your greatest advantage here. If they know how to identify and challenge suspicious behaviour, they can potentially prevent an assailant from getting the information they need to launch their attack. Even saying hello and questioning someone politely about why they are in your building can be enough to convince a potential attacker your business is no soft target.

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) offers training to help staff learn how to spot suspicious behaviour and how to report and act on it. Called See, Check and Notify (SCaN), it is free of charge to all businesses and organisations in the UK and aims to help maximise security within existing resources.

SCaN offers tailored sessions for different types of roles, such as customer-facing staff, CCTV operators and communications staff.

SCaN empowers staff to….

See – recognise what’s normal and what isn’t and be vigilant about suspicious activity.

Check – use the power of ‘hello’ and friendly conversation to find out if activity is suspicious or not.

Notify – know how and when to report suspicious activity and what to do if it’s reported to them by someone else.

Learnings from recent terror events

Recent terror events, such as the Manchester Arena bombing and the London Bridge attack, have provided many useful learnings that could help prevent attacks and save lives, particularly around how businesses communicate, coordinate their response and cooperate with other organisations.


The handling of previous terror attacks has demonstrated how sharing information and breaking down siloes can save lives and prevent similar incidents happening again. Lessons learnt from recent terror attacks include the importance of:

  • Reporting quickly – if there is any information suggesting a terror threat, report it immediately to counter terrorism contacts or the police.
  • Assessing your vulnerabilities – understand the weak points around your site and make people aware of them.
  • Briefing regularly – keep people informed across the organisation, so those on the ground are empowered to intervene around suspicious behaviour.

Findings from historical attacks also show organisations have been more vulnerable where they did not have a coordinated response strategy. This means when designing a businesses’ anti-terror plans it’s important to:

  • Involve everyone – it’s not enough to simply practice your response with senior leaders. To have a deterrent effect, the strategy needs to be rolled out at all levels with everyone understanding their role within it. This can enable your people to make quick decisions if an incident happens without going up the chain of command.
  • Record the rationale – be clear about the reasons for decisions about how you respond to incidents and document the links in your chain of communication.
  • Train your people and document it – know who has done what training and refresher courses and keep this record updated.

Cooperating with other companies sharing your building or public space can narrow the areas in where assailants feel comfortable. Businesses would be well-advised to:

  • Think beyond your organisation – the terrorist will be looking at your building as one entity not individual floors or companies.
  • Dominate the grey space – understand the in-between areas that could be weak points for assailants and own them so hostile actors won’t feel comfortable there.
  • Build partnerships – get to know and work with your neighbours and consider measures such as joint patrols and joint CCTV to make life more difficult for hostile individuals.

Need help implementing the right leisure and hospitality risk management and insurance strategy for your business? Get in touch.


Leisure and Hospitality Practice Leader – London WTW

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