Bombs, vehicles, lone wolves and coordinated attacks. Terror, blood and chaos. The threat of terrorism lies like a shadow over Europe and the rest of the world.
There has been an increase in global terrorism since the new millennium, both in the amount of attacks and the number of casualties. Yet despite the increased concern about terror attacks, the number of deaths they have caused in Europe has in fact decreased over the past 40 years. On the other hand, terror attacks are different nowadays and pose a more serious threat to the public.
Threat to the public
"There are fewer deadly terrorist attacks per year in Europe today than in the 70s and 80s when ETA and the IRA were most active. However, the difference between those attacks and the ones that happen today, according to terror expert Hans Brun, who works at the Swedish Defence University and as a researcher at King's College London, is that the attacks that took place in the 70s and 80s were easier to predict and were linked to specific places.
Those attacks were aimed primarily at the national security, police forces, the army and politicians, which meant there were few civilian casualties.
"Today, the threat of terror is less predictable and it is impossible to know where the next attack might unfold. They are also aimed at the public in a new way", according to Hans Brun.
The purpose of terror attacks is to spread chaos and fear to achieve certain political objectives. At the same time, the attacks – with or without purpose – cause damage to buildings and property, disruptions to business, bodily harm and result in insurance claims.
Protecting your business
Some sectors have a higher level of exposure to terror attacks, such as communications and transportation, infrastructure such as electricity, water and gas, as well as large, central public buildings.
How should one think and act in order to provide maximum protection to one’s business and employees? And where is the biggest threat?
In simplified terms, big cities, popular sightseeing destinations and places of interest with a direct connection to major motorways are at extra risk from attacks.
Obviously it is important to have security checks and controls in place to prevent attacks on buildings and property. However, it is becoming increasingly harder to prevent terrorists simply through such measures. Terrorists commonly pick targets where surveillance is difficult and there are a lot of people, such as marketplaces, universities, concert venues and airports.
"As a business owner, you can think about the physical characteristics and perimeter security of your buildings. Make sure that unauthorized persons cannot enter or get close to the buildings. Review your fire safety procedures. Assess plans for emergency evacuations", says Hans Brun.
He also stresses the importance of keeping evacuation procedures a secret. "Terrorists can use any information about emergency assembly places that is posted on companies' websites. It is therefore important to make sure that this information cannot be accessed. It is easier to start a fire alarm inside a building and then set off a bomb in an open area than to carry out an attack inside the building. My best advice is to think twice when it comes to security – how would a terrorist with really bad intentions think and act?"
The importance of crisis communication
You should also take into consideration where the employees live and the routes they take to get to the workplace. If a terrorist attack were to take place, what happens, where can employees stay to be kept safe, and how do you fly home employees who are on business trips?
“Information is another very important aspect that companies and authorities must take very seriously. How can you guarantee that information is communicated in a correct and reliable manner in a crisis? How do you make sure that family members can be reached and media can be informed?”
Hans Brun believes that the next major terror attack that will leave the world reeling will be done through computers and by using cyberspace.
Sofia Ström Bernad