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Why did Underground 7/7 Bombs shut down London?
The recent London bombings highlighted how prepared the business sector is for terrorist events. Although the bombs were detonated underground they had a devastating effect on business at ground level despite being confined explosions.

Was there an over reaction to something which wasn’t expected or was outdated contingency planning the cause?

The majority of businesses have no plan at all and those that have generally follow the BCI guidelines, which have been designed, from experience dealing with disasters and historic terror events such as those perpetrated by the IRA.

This should have meant that those with a plan would have been better of than those without one. The significant question is were they? The BCI undertook a post bombing survey completed by their members and companies generally affected and located in London.

The balanced survey set out to identify what did and didn’t work well, but significantly, in my opinion, outlined the failure of planners to move from the established reaction planning to defensive and resilience planning required today.

The survey identified failures in communication, information receipt, dissemination, panic invocation of DR hot sites, and reliance on third party suppliers who could not supply. Routes home and to hot sites were closed or disrupted due to limited transport and cordons. There was difficulty in accounting for and directing employees to safety, answering relative’s calls and switchboards were jammed.

The reality is that London’s Business and economy came to a standstill from 4 bombs detonated underground and most significantly not one business or building was directly affected. (Due respect to the casualties)

The streets were full of fleeing frightened people, how many productive hours were lost, what was the absenteeism rate the next day, or indeed the following weeks, what was the true cost to business and the economy and could these issues have been reduced or eliminated?

Considering the bombers may have not reached their intended detonation point and that future events may include secondary devices and even CBR chemical-biological-radiological agents, should we be better prepared?

The government have warned that CBR agents may be used; they have spent millions of pounds on equipping the emergency responders with CBR protective equipment and have even set up the GDS (Government Decontamination Service) specifically to decontaminate buildings and the environment following a terrorist CBR event.

Significantly following the detonation of the underground bombs the emergency services did not rush in; in fact they stood off and waited for tests to confirm that CBR agents were not present.

We are today faced with new risks, hazards and breed of terrorist that are committed to destroying our way of life and country; we need to review our predisposition of planning to react and respond with defence and resilience planning.

There is a need to prevent or mitigate these risks by training and forethought.

Planning to defend buildings and protect the occupants. Resilience and education are keywords, and acceptance that the business and work environment must be seen to be safe if employers expect to keep employees productive and avoid absenteeism.

Safety or defence against this new breed of terrorist and their potential armoury requires a new approach to hazard assessment. To rely on replacement and market availability may be seen as closing the door after the horse has bolted. The Government have published extremely good generic advice on planning for such events. Unfortunately generic advice although free may be seen to be costly if your business or building isn’t generic or average and BIA (business impact analysis) should be used to identify the extent of profit or business loss from a unconventional terrorist event.

Unconventional may be a key word in preparing to defend and protect business continuity. The reliance on conventional plans against today’s terrorist act may increasingly be seen as redundant. Terrorists know where your hot sites are; they know where your rendezvous points are, how to get chemicals into your building. How difficult to jump the barrier in the average building reception, overpower the two static guards with ammonia spray in the eyes and detonate a device? How many low paid cleaners with terrorist loyalties freely walk around your building every night have access to your IT systems records and air distribution systems?

Bottom line is, if terrorists detonated a CBR device two miles away or in the next building, would you know what to do? Most think there is nothing that they could do, but the reality is that with a little planning and forethought your building could become a safe citadel. Capable of protecting the occupants, preventing contamination entering and this can often be achieved by using currently installed controls. Where ignorance exists panic or absenteeism will follow. Remote events should not have direct effects on business, the underground as a target was easily foreseen, and so are other threats but what plans have most got in place?

Defence & Resilience plans should accompany disaster recovery & business continuity plans. The government continue to warn of the “Not if but when terrorist event” but how many have had the courage or forethought to tackle the unpalatable likelihood of possible events?


About the author

Jeff Charlton is a consultant in BC & DR and specialises in counter terrorism with a view on employee protection and building defence. His web site is http://www.disasteradvice.org/Home/tabid/310/Default.aspx     08700 789 999
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