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What impact will Protect Duty legislation have on the urban regeneration of public spaces?

Oct 21, 2022

by Frank Crouwel

The origins of Martyn’s Law, officially known as Protect Duty Bill today, has its origins in the Manchester Arena bombing attack on 22nd May 2017. It was also informed by the vehicle ramming-led attack on London Bridge on 3rd June 2017 and other terrorist incidents including the second London Bridge attack on 29th November 2019.

Essentially, Protect Duty is about formulating more robust operational procedures and using better training and equipment to enable effective detection of hostile reconnaissance, earlier identification and reporting of suspicious behaviour, and more rapid and effective response to terrorist attacks even before the blue light services are on the scene.

For example, one of the major causes of death following the Manchester Arena was that victims of shrapnel wounds were not treated rapidly enough. Applying first aid and using tourniquets to stem bleeding more quickly at the scene may well have saved lives.

The legislation specifically focuses its attention on what it calls Publicly Accessible Locations (PALs). PALs cited in the Bill include:

  1. Public venues (e.g., entertainment and sports venues, tourist attractions, shopping centres with a capacity of 100 persons or more)
  2. Large organisations (e.g., retail or entertainment chains employing 250 staff or more that operate at publicly accessible locations)
  3. Public spaces (e.g., public parks, beaches, thoroughfares, bridges, town/city squares and pedestrianised areas). This includes event organisers using these spaces.

According to the Home Office, Protect Duty’s requirements could affect up to 650,000 UK businesses operating across multiple sectors. Some well-placed security specialists suggest that the 100 person capacity threshold may be loosened to perhaps 250 or more people.

However, even with this change well over 300,000 businesses will be affected from those owning and managing major venues to local authorities and private firms managing public spaces. We should get final rules within the next six months. The Protect Duty Bill is due to become law as early as May 2023.

Although as yet we do not know whether the government will bring a new regulator into being to enforce Protect Duty responsibilities, we do know that the body responsible for upholding it will need to provide both physical security and Counter Terrorism expertise. That body is likely to have powers to issue fines and the directors of businesses responsible could face imprisonment if found to be failing to protect the public under Protect Duty legislation, especially where life-changing injuries or deaths have occurred following a terrorist attack.

What does the Protect Duty mean for people designing new urban spaces and public venues?

All authorities and firms designing new public spaces, as part of urban regeneration projects for example, will need to be considering Protect Duty requirements to mitigate against terrorist threats, and ensure rapid and effective reaction should one happen.

Protect Duty preparations are perhaps best captured not with the old security incident mantra of ‘Run, Hide and Tell’ but by a new one: ‘Guide, Shelter & Communicate’.

In other words, teams of security people responsible for protecting busy and potentially crowded places, both inside and outside, will need to be trained better in several areas.  Key areas of focus for improvement are likely to include:

Better situational awareness – particularly associated with looking for patterns of behaviour and being able to spot anomalous behaviour fast. This includes training for spotting hostile reconnaissance for example.

Better support following an incident – this included being able to administer lifesaving first aid to stop bleeding in the case of shrapnel wounds in the ‘care gap’ before the blue light services are on the scene. People running venues and corporate buildings are likely to need to upgrade their first aid kits to include bleed control kits. Additional training in this area is also likely to be needed.

Designated Shelters – venue owners and managers may need to establish mustering points inside buildings as well as outside. Sheltering places inside will need to be protected by load bearing walls and blast resistant lockable doors. They will ideally need to offer landline facilities so if networks are jammed emergency responders can still get through to these groups and lines of communication to organisers stay open. They should also hold food and water in case incidents last a long time. Lockdown procedures will need to be established and drills practised just as fire drills are practised in commercial office blocks today.

What role can smart camera technologies play in supporting these new duties?

Smart video analytics can support security teams in spotting anomalous behaviours in public places, whether that be someone loitering in unusual locations for longer than you would expect or behaving unusually and/or looking suspicious.

The use of intelligent video analytics increasingly makes it possible to flag anomalies automatically. Instant video footage can then be reviewed by security officers before investigating further. One of the things we have learnt from the study of terrorist incidents is that early warning signs and even reports by citizens were often not acted on in a timely manner to prevent attacks. Analytics in camera systems can help with monitoring areas for unusual or suspicious behaviour.

As we outlined in our last article on creating smart places in urban areas, it is clear that there are already many positive reasons for deploying smart cameras interconnected with sensors and audio systems to make this new breed of indoor and outdoor gathering places safer and more ‘liveable’ – supporting community building and local retailers for example.

That same smart infrastructure can also be deployed to discharge the new Protect Duty requirements, both in helping security teams to spot and prevent terrorist threats and, if the worst happens, provide incident response teams with better tools and higher quality information with which to make better decisions faster, thereby limiting the impact of a terrorist attack and saving lives.

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