Packages containing explosives were delivered to London’s Heathrow Airport, London City Airport, and Waterloo Station last week. Fortunately, there were no injuries and the packages were successfully removed, but it’s a sombre reminder that vigilance and preparedness are still essential when we travel – even within our own borders.
MI5 currently lists the threat level from international terrorism as ‘severe’ and from Northern Ireland (within Great Britain) as ‘moderate’, and reports of terrorism-related arrests can be found almost weekly in our newspapers.
While the three packages all had Republic of Ireland stamps, the BBC notes that counter-terrorism officers “cannot confirm” links to Irish dissidents, and a full investigation is underway.
Scary as news of the packages may be, it’s reassuring to know that they were dealt with before any harm was caused, and that there are a number of counter-terrorism initiatives in the pipeline.
Public Safety App
A new app was announced on 1 March, which will help keep people safe in crowded places such as festivals, markets and popular tourist attractions.
The app, created thanks to an investment of almost £250,000 from the Home Office, will be called KrowdSafe and is the first of its kind to be launched following the 2017 attacks.
The app has been created by Devon-based KrowdThink after a competition called for innovations that help the public to spot and report security threats. With this app, people at events will be able to report suspicious items or activity to security teams directly from their mobile phones, and even send photos.
A venue-mapping feature will enable security staff to see exactly where the perceived threat is and send teams to help immediately. It will also mean people at the venues can receive direct messages in case of a threat, directing them to safety.
The app is due to launch soon, so we’ll update you when we hear more.
Information Sharing Platform
Security Minister, Ben Wallace, announced the development of a multi-million-pound information sharing platform, set to be, “A ground breaking interactive online platform,” that will help keep the public safe, “By enhancing collaboration between business, industry and the public sector.”
According to a press release issued by government on 6 March, the initiative is led by Counter Terrorism Policing in partnership with the Home Office’s Joint Security and Resilience Centre, and is being funded by Pool Re, a government reinsurer.
The new platform will, “Allow businesses to access credible information 24/7, connect users to experts, provide accredited online training and send direct messages in the event of an attack – strengthening our frontline against the unprecedented threat.”
Pool Re’s most recent terrorism report (released in January 2019) notes that despite counter-terrorism (CT) efforts minimising UK attacks in 2018, there are still 700 live CT investigations, 3,000 “subjects of specific interest” being monitored, and 20,000 “subjects of former interest” being monitored.
“From 2014 onwards, it became apparent that a terrorism insurance gap had emerged. Attacks increasingly caused little or no property damage but still resulted in significant (business) losses,” said a Pool Re representative. Following the Borough Market attack, for example, ten days of police presence meant that153 stalls at the market were prevented from accessing their premises, resulting in an estimated loss of £1.4 million.
While this relates to businesses rather than individuals, it’s quite a similar realisation to the one that led us to launch Safe Journey terrorism travel insurance in 2016 – where travellers may have previously been covered for death and disability, and sometimes emergency medical care, it became clear that many other losses needed cover. An act of terrorism can lead to cancellations, curtailments, delays, loss of personal possessions, or even withdrawal of services – often limited or excluded on standard policies – and can cost a lot of money without the appropriate cover.
We’re excited to see the enhanced collaboration that these new innovations promise to bring, and hope they will assist in making us all more prepared, not scared.