The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill has just moved a step closer to becoming law, with inclusion in the King’s Speech (November 2023).
The government’s intention is clear; it wants ‘Martyn’s Law’ to be enacted as part of its upcoming 2023-24 legislative programme.
This means that, within the next 12 months, universities and hospitals could find themselves subject to new security and safety requirements. They’ll have to comply with whatever inspection and enforcement regime is introduced after the law is passed. That may not happen immediately, but it is now looking much more likely, so preparing early is advisable.
It’s also not hard and will deliver immediate benefits.
What universities and hospitals need to do
We know that any site with an occupancy capacity of 800 people or more is likely to fall under the legislation’s enhanced tier requirements.
This means they will have to conduct full risk assessments, rather than more basic evaluations. They will be required to define, in detail, their vulnerabilities to different forms of terrorist attack. And they will have to put measures in place to reduce those risks as much as reasonably possible.
This is not just a paper exercise. The need for security against terrorism is real, including protection from bombings, from attackers using vehicles as weapons, and marauders with knives or guns. The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill has been developed as a result of heartfelt advocacy, not least by the families of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, including the mother of Martyn Hett, who lost his life.
The legislation seeks to plug common, some say predictable, security loopholes that were highlighted during the enquiry into that tragedy, and to learn the lessons of other terrorist attacks that have followed.
It aims to ensure that all public spaces are better protected.
Key capabilities that all organisations will need
While lots of organisations have reasonably well thought out security measures, few have really effective mass communications and targeted communications capabilities – ie. a way to keep directly in touch with all their people – either as a whole group, as sub-groups, or individually.
During a terrorist incident, likely responses will include evacuation, invacuation, and lockdown (procedures) with people being advised to shelter where they are or in a nearby safe internal area. When this happens, it is vital to be able to maintain two-way communications with these people, as groups and individuals, and to be able to see exactly where they are in order to coordinate emergency service responses.
So arguably the three most important areas for organizations to address now are: ensuring easy, rapid communications to all staff and/or students; making sure that they have reliable real-time visibility of events; and making sure they can coordinate responses so that they do not become overwhelmed by fast-moving emergencies.
Easy reforms that can reduce pressure
NHS Trusts and universities facing resource pressures from many different directions may feel that yet another compliance requirement is both unwelcome and unnecessary. But compliance in this case can be the catalyst to reforms, and relatively easy ones, that reduce some significant pressures rather than increase them.
For example, in healthcare work settings violence and aggression has a clear impact on staff stress, on retention, and recruitment. It’s now possible to reduce this problem with technology that enhances communications for all staff, including those who are lone working and remote working. The same technology supports coordinated responses to emergency incidents that are faster and more effective. It has already been adopted by over half of UK universities, and a growing number of NHS Trusts are seeing its value in making staff safer and making them feel safer.
The steps that they are taking to improve working conditions, reducing day-to-day vulnerabilities, and demonstrating duty of care towards their people, will also now take them a long way to ensuring compliance with the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) legislation.
So universities and NHS Trusts realising the benefits of using this technology now will also be well prepared for the new compliance and enforcement requirements when they are implemented.