Recognising the terrorist threat: UK Government Guidance

I’m interrupting the series on gardening to run a few posts about terrorism and our reaction to it, for obvious reasons.


This is the link to the download page for the advice published by the UK government very soon after the Paris attacks. According to the BBC earlier this week, it was meant to be published next week, to coincide with a planned security awareness week. They could have done a little bit more work on it, to be honest with you, but the most important thing is to get the information out in public.

This particular document is aimed at businesses – it includes advice on storing fertiliser safely, for example, and on how to secure your buildings against hostile vehicles and cyber threats. But it’s a great summary for all of us, letting us know some of what may be going on behind the scenes, and possibly giving us ideas about how we can further help ourselves.

It was reported by many news organisations around the world, of course including Sky News and The Telegraph but the BBC has come up trumps: their article here is a million miles away from the tripe they’ve been publishing recently about preparedness. It’s thoughtful, wide-ranging, informative, well-sourced and deals with the psychology of the situation, as well as the options. It’s written by Camila Ruz, who I see is a freelance science journalist. All power to her laptop.

Please download the government document to which I’ve linked, read it through, then check out what I’ve written below – I’m commenting below on it, one section at a time. Your own comments are welcome at any time.

The anti-terrorism hotlines to contact the Metropolitan Police and MI5 are at the bottom of this article.

Section One: Threat Levels

Useful to know, but not immediate: the threat level has been at “severe” for the UK, level 4 of 5, for a long time now.

Section Two: STAY SAFE: Terrorist Firearms and Weapons Attacks

This is the one I think most people will find most helpful. Run if you can, hide if you can’t, tell the security services what you can about the attackers when it’s safe to do so. And remember that the security services on the spot don’t know you, they don’t know whether or not you’re one of the attackers. For everyone’s sake, they have to make sure. Do as they tell you.

However, the points about planning are spectacularly uninformative:

  • What are your plans if there were an incident?
  • What are the local plans? e.g. personal emergency evacuation plan.

And thats it! Obviously, I’ll be covering planning to safeguard yourself in a post really soon, I’ve already spent some time drafting it.

Section Three: Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED)

This is about how organisations can fight against the effects of car bombs, which have sadly been deployed in the UK already. I don’t think there’s anything here that’s useful on an individual basis, except that maybe you can learn to recognise “hostile vehicle mitigation measures” when you see them at public venues.

Section Four: Suicide attacks

As Londoners and others will remember, these too have been used against us. Looking at the advice given to businesses here, I’d say there are a few relevant pieces of advice:

  • vehicle access control points can be extremely dangerous – potential suicide bombers might realise that they’re about to be apprehended, for example, and set off their devices early. An exchange of gunfire is also a possibility. It’s safer for you, and less constraining for the guards concerned, if you don’t dawdle around such places. Once you’re through, carry on, and leave the area.
  • as for any other occasion, stay aware, and let someone know if you see something suspicious.

Section Five: chemical, biological and radioactive threats

I’ve actually covered radiological threats already in a previous post (which you can see here) but the important bit as far as this document today is concerned is this: “The impact of a CBR attack would depend heavily on the success of the chosen method and the weather conditions at the time of the attack. The first indicators of a CBR attack may be the sudden appearance of powders, liquids or strange smells within the building, with or without an immediate effect on people.” That’s useful information, that we all could bear in mind.

I’ll cover the other threats in due course.

Section Six: Insider Threat

In this country, this is currently unlikely to be violent on a mass scale, but things change all the time in this arena … perhaps the most helpful thing any outsider can do, as mentioned previously, is to report any suspicious activity. That culture of “reporting difference” leads to its own problems, which is a discussion preppers and civilised human beings need to have.

Section Seven: Cyber Threat

We are the customers whose details are stolen if any company we use has their client list stolen – so it makes sense to be as careful as you can with things like passwords, clicking links and maintaining your privacy about your details as much as you can. You might also usefully check what the policy is of any company with which you have strong links. Books are written about this subject – I have a fair few draft posts about it myself, but there’s nothing in this document that’s particularly relevant to individuals in the here and now.

Section Eight: Further Information

The links here are all meant for businesses, but if you live, work or visit in an area that’s particularly vulnerable, you might want to cast your eye over some more information.


So, that’s it for now. The events in Paris signalled the start of a terrible week for decent human beings all over the world.  By spreading information about how to keep ourselves that bit safer, I hope I’m helping just a tiny bit in the fightback.  You can spread it too.

Anti-Terrorist Hotline, Metropolitan Police 0800 789 321

Anti-Terrorist Hotline, MI5 0800 111 4645

2 thoughts on “Recognising the terrorist threat: UK Government Guidance

  1. Vehicle bombs are not only the concern of business but all of us. Any vehicle left in an unusual place, unlikely time, unlikely occupants , or with wires visible, or unusual contents should be reported to the polis asap. Do not ignore it report it.

    1. Absolutely, you’re right. I’ve acted on the “don’t ignore it, report it” myself in relation to abandoned luggage. Those are good points you make about what might be unusual about vehicles terrorists are attempting to use as a car bomb, thanks for adding them.

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