Article by Mark Lowe

The two explosions that killed one person and injured fourteen others this morning in Jerusalem highlight the constant risk of terrorism.

Today’s blasts targeted public transport, two busy bus stops were targeted in one of the most significant attacks of their kind in years.

While the risk in some countries is greater than in others, very few cities are immune to the threat of indiscriminate acts of violence, indeed buses and trains in London, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo, and dozens of other cities have been the targets of terrorist attacks in recent years.

All of these attacks prompted calls for increased efforts to make public transit systems safe from terrorists. These calls for action are often based on the assumption that public transit systems, or transportation and infrastructure systems in general, are the focus of the problem and thus should be the focus for policymaking and action.

While the transit security sector has devised and implemented a whole series of important measures over the past years, the core problem remains that of securing infrastructure that by definition has to be easily accessible.

To identify risk mitigation strategies and the advice for our travelling populations we need first to understand the problem itself and to this end we need to divide the risk into blocks.

Public transport is of interest to terrorists in three principal ways:

  1. When public transportation is the means by which a terrorist attack is executed. For example the use of buses or trains to convey explosive devices;

  2. When public transportation is the specific target of a terrorist attack. For example the objective of exacting economic costs or attracting attention by targeting railways, tunnels or bridges; and

  3. When the crowds that public transportation generates are the focus of a terrorist attack.

In the first two cases there is little that can be done to mitigate the risk other than to prohibit the use of public transport – something extremely difficult to do as both railway stations and airports are used on a daily basis by the travelling population.

While the threat of being involved in a terrorist attack cannot be eliminated, in the third case we can implement measures to reduce the risk.

As a number of suicide bomb attacks have highlited, crowds are the target and it is exactly here that we should begin to work on devising mitigation protocols.

Airports and railway stations are locations in which large numbers of people congregate in often small or enclosed spaces – the ideal target for a terrorist attack.

Have we trained our people in regards to how to navigate airports or railway stations? Do our travellers have a firm understanding of why in one case they should arrive well in advance and in the other avoid arriving too early?

Have we approved as a Travel Risk Management procedure the use of ‘fast tracks’ and, above all, do we run refresher courses and do we implement measures focused on reducing the risk of complacency?

In the case of a terrorist attack do we know where our people are and how to communicate with them?  (Learn more here)

These are only a select few of the considerations that Travel Risk Managers should be making. The world is not getting any safer and our travel requirements are increasing, monitoring risk scenarios is fundamental but training and updating our travellers equally so.

If you would like to know more about how we can support your organisation, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.