The risk of terrorist attacks is something that every employer—at a minimum—should consider and, if necessary, prepare for in its emergency response planning.
The recent attacks at the soccer stadium and concert hall in Paris, France, while shocking in their brutality, were not inconceivable, given that public venues where large groups gather are logical targets. But the attacks at the restaurants were especially frightening, which I suppose is the point. The underlying message: You’re not safe, anywhere.
Today, workers need to prepare for all possible emergencies, including terrorism. Terrorism is the use of force intended to influence or bring about a course of action that furthers a political or social objective. Acts of terrorism, as the word implies, are designed to create terror and panic, disrupt security and communication systems, destroy property and kill or injure innocent civilians.
Terrorists often target high-traffic areas such as airports or shopping malls in large cities, where they can quickly disappear into a crowd. They use a range of weapons and tactics, including bombings, arson, hijacking and kidnapping. Your workplace may have several of the risk factors mentioned above, or it may have none. However, because a terrorist attack can happen anywhere at any time, your workers need to be prepared and know what to do and how to maximize their chances for survival.
Some employers—such as government organizations, utilities, high-profile international corporations or companies engaged in potentially controversial work—may be at greater risk of attack by terrorists, but even if your specific workplace isn’t vulnerable, consider who your neighbors are.
For example, if you’re located next to a large power plant, any attack on that plant will likely impact your workplace.
As the Paris attacks show, we shouldn’t assume we understand the “logic” or thinking of terrorist organizations or individuals.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Workers
Being prepared for a terrorist attack boils down to being aware of the warning signs and being cautious and alert.
Workers at all levels need to have received training on:
- Emergency evacuation procedures.
- How to respond to bomb threats and other threats, including who to call.
- What to do if they spot suspicious vehicles or people on work property.
- The need to be aware of their surroundings at all times, particularly in high-target areas.
- Two or more ways out of a building to increase their chances of getting to safety.
- The locations of emergency exits and stairways. (Note: never use elevators in an emergency).
If after conducting a risk assessment, you believe your workplace could directly or indirectly be impacted by terrorism, you must include possible terrorist attacks in your emergency planning and ensure that you train your workers accordingly.
(click on the link to find out how to create such procedures; click here for a Model EAP that you can adapt)
Also, learn about how to create your own emergency action plan that includes evacuation procedures in case of fires and other emergencies.