We bet five years ago that soft-target attacks would become the favored tactic of terrorists, particularly if ISIS began to lose ground on the battlefield. Unfortunately, we were right.
Many stadium and arena operators no longer allow visitors to bring backpacks or other bags into their venues. Policies like these were instituted to ensure that the venue can balance the need for effective screening with the need to avoid miserably long security lines.
But there’s no getting around it: for anyone wanting to pack an extra sweater, a snack for the baby or raincoat just in case, this is a big deal–a serious degradation of the customer experience. Unfortunately, such are the compromises security professionals have had to make in this post-ISIS era. Soft-target attacks–everything from sophisticated assaults on iconic arenas to lethal “lone wolf” attacks on unsuspecting neighborhood nightclubs—are on the rise, forcing operators of public venues of all sizes to rethink their security strategies. All too often, venues have had to resort to the oldest, bluntest response: hire more security guards and request more police support and do more thorough physical searches.
We all know that’s not a sustainable response. Throwing labor at the problem is costly in the short-term and economically unsustainable in the long-term. It’s not sure to dissuade a determined terrorist, but may impact your brand. After all, your business is to provide a carefree, entertaining experience for your customer—not to turn a night out into what feels like a visit to a hardened military installation. And when customers complain, we all know who will bear the brunt of the pressure. You will.
Therefore, here are six ways that screening technology can protect soft targets from terrorist attacks:
1: Create an Enhanced Visitor Experience – Deliver security at the pace of life. Visitors are not asked to “pause and pose”. Because it uses high-speed millimeter imaging, the system can screen people at walking speed. Since we need to search for mass casualty weapons, there’s no need to empty one’s pockets and purses into “dog bowls”.
2: Don’t Treat All Threats Equal – Our industry responded impressively after 911, with powerful systems designed to find anything a highly trained terrorist could use to attempt a repeat of that infamous day. The unsophisticated lone wolves who carried out most of the more recent soft-target attacks needed powerful weapons and explosives to cause mass casualties. We’ll look for those—not screwdrivers, razor blades, or other everyday objects with minimal potential for terror.
3: Don’t Deploy Security That is All or Nothing. It’s Complicated. – In the past, the main question for many organizations was whether to deploy screening technology. Like it or not, ISIS has changed that calculation. Now, almost any place where crowds gather can be a target. Look into technology that improves your defenses at all your facilities – whether it is adding another layer of protection to a sports stadium or introducing one to a previously unprotected nightclub or corporate office.
4: Know that Flow Matters – Living in a free society means accepting some risks. Security cannot come at the cost of freedom of movement, freedom from intrusive searches and freedom from inconvenience.
5: Understand that Customer Experience Matters – Minimizing the unpleasantness of screening is not a secondary consideration—not for your customers and visitors, and not for your boss. Our working assumption is that if our technology hurts your ability to retain and attract business, you won’t use it for long. You need to protect your customers and help your business.
6: Consider Future-Proofing Through Software – Powerful software platforms help you easily adjust as new threats emerge. This is crucial to keep you prepared for today’s sophisticated terrorist networks, who use social networks and other tools to quickly share instructions for building more lethal bombs or executing new types of attacks.
It’s time the security industry stepped up with solutions for the reality of today’s world. Our technology is specifically designed to expose the threats behind mass casualty attacks that have become all too common to help your front-line personnel take quick action without inconveniencing your customers.
To learn more, read the three questions security directors need to ask before the next soft target event here.