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A Lack of Situational Awareness in the Information Age?

17 June 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

We live in the so called information age. Numerous communication means are now open to us. And yet still, when things do go horribly wrong, organisations are utterly useless at telling their customers and their stakeholders what the problem is, why it has occurred and what they can do about it.

In reality we live in an information vacuum age as I found at Waterloo Station last Friday afternoon as I tried to get home. ‘All trains cancelled’ to my destination was the message ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause’ – and that was it, thanks a million. Nothing useful was offered such as ‘Passengers should catch the 17.05 to X, change at Y and go to Z’. Or even, to get some understanding why the problem had occurred ‘The police are dealing with a difficult ongoing security incident which has necessitated the closure of all lines and the turning off of the power on the rails to ensure the safety of the emergency services.’ Job done. Not happy, but more understanding. Simples. 


Jo Cox

This lack of information provision was graphically brought home to me yesterday when the tragic and despicable attack on Labour Member of Parliament Jo Cox resulted in her being fatally wounded in her constituency in Yorkshire. Coincidentally, that afternoon I had a meeting with another MP in his constituency area just 2 hours after Jo Cox had died. Ironically the meeting was to discuss security and resilience. I greeted my MP with regrets and sorrow for what had occurred. He looked at me in shock and asked me what I was talking about. He knew nothing at all of the attack on Jo and had received no alerts, warnings or information on any of his communication means.

I was frankly shocked. Just suppose for one moment that this dreadful incident in Yorkshire had been the start of a more widespread and concerted attack on Members of Parliament by a terrorist inspired group. Surely, at the very heart of our political system there should be a warning and alerting system to raise awareness of what has happened and to advise MPs to immediately consider their personal safety and security in the aftermath of such an event? A simple group text message is all that is required – not at all difficult to set up in this day and age. If we cannot get this right for our political leaders, then what chance do the rest of us have?


Business continuity plan

This again raises the importance of having a well practiced emergency or business continuity plan, based on a thorough risk and threat assessment. Clearly this advice is not being heeded and this attitude needs to change as we now carry more risk and uncertainty forward into an increasingly unstable future.

How many commercial and public sector organisations have an information plan to flash a message to their senior management colleagues in the event of a threat to their safety? I suspect not many. I suspect, in reality, that quite a few organisations still do not even have a business continuity plan. I know that the majority of organisations who do have a plan have never exercised that plan at any level. Senior management needs to wake up the reality of life today and give resilience a more robust priority at Board level. Now.




SERIFM is spearheaded by TWinFM in conjunction with TriTectus Strategic Resilience Limited. SERIFM aims to create more resilient organisations and assist the FM community to share threat data and exploit new technology. It is the intention of SERIFM to help enable this sharing. Security and Resilience In Facilities Management will provide the ideal platform to help create a highly informed customer, to demand the highest quality imagery from visual surveillance systems, to inform the supply chain of the need for resilience and to highlight new technologies, procedures and tactics as they are deployed and as experience is gained from their use. SERIFM is a not-for-profit group dedicated to leading the fight back against crime and strengthening resilience at a time of reduced national resources.

SERIFM’S inaugural conference will set the UK’s strategic resilience picture as seen through the eyes of the Metropolitan Police, the Cabinet Office, academia and the security services.  The date and location to be advised.

Article written by Jeff Little, OBE | Published 17 June 2016


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