The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Uprising - Stretched Services Can't Cope

13 May 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

Wednesday’s announcement that the threat level on the UK mainland from Northern Ireland related terrorism has been raised from ‘moderate’ to ‘substantial’ may have come as a surprise to some observers. The escalation further complicates an already multifaceted and omni-directional security equation, writes SERIFM's Jeff Little (pictured)

In the past, Irish Republican extremists have targeted a wide variety of both soft and hard targets with tactics ranging from an improvised mortar attack on Downing Street to large vehicle borne IEDs in city centres such as Manchester. Thus the range and scope of possible incidents with which the police and security services may now have to plan for and deal with is further broadened. This is particularly unwelcome at a time when resources are already stretched by the risk from international extremists being held at ‘severe’ for a protracted period. There is little likelihood of that level being reduced in the short to medium term.



During their campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s, IRA terrorist cells tended to give a degree of warning of an attack by using a code word system to provide a limited, often short notice announcement of the intended target and time of initiation. Whilst this gave a small time window for the immediate area to be evacuated, there was always the lethal danger of misunderstandings or confusion as to the exact location of the device. Such mistakes leave the potential for a mass casualty result and heavy casualties amongst first responders and security personnel attempting to clear the area.


NI attacks

Those who have observed activity in Northern Ireland itself over recent months have noted an increasing number of attacks on prison and police officers, many attributed to the so called ‘New IRA’. Over a hundred dissident related incidents were recorded last year and the threat level in the province has remained at ‘severe’ - meaning an attack is highly likely.

Clearly supplies of weapons, explosives and detonators are still available and the expertise to build such explosive devices remains active. Should this announcement be the pre-cursor to a renewed campaign of violence aimed at the UK mainland, then proposed reductions in the size of police officer numbers will clearly have to be re-visited by the Home Office.


Private/public co-operation

Security service resources are finite and already fully employed observing the 600 or so extremists who have seen active service in the Syrian conflict or in Iraq with Daesh. The recent decision by the courts not to expel 10 particular high risk dissidents back to Algeria will not help matters. It is now time to revisit the use of enhanced technology to observe and monitor the activities of such individuals who seek to threaten the lives and safety of the UK and its citizens.

The UK already has the largest visual surveillance system per head of population of any western democracy. Some of its cameras are certainly in need of renewal or upgrading but its potential to monitor the ever growing number of high threat individuals is significant. To succeed here will require a much closer working relationship between state and the private security industry based on trust, respect and a common aim.

Smart software and the deployment of rapidly maturing facial recognition capabilities, underpinned with more conventional ANPR cameras, can add a significant and powerful tool to combat the threat if all parties are prepared to share and exchange intelligence data and information – an aim which all parties readily agree is essential but seemingly difficult to achieve in practice. This is the contemporary face of 21st Century conflict amongst the people. It is a fight for freedom and human rights which will only be won in the cyber space domain using technology and data fusion to defeat an ever more sophisticated and media aware enemy.

It is better to act now in a controlled and balanced manner than suffer the knee jerk tightening of state powers inevitable after the attack, whenever and wherever this occurs. The only inevitability is that one day, it will occur.


Threat levels

There are 5 levels of threat:

  • low - an attack is unlikely

  • moderate - an attack is possible but not likely

  • substantial - an attack is a strong possibility

  • severe - an attack is highly likely

  • critical - an attack is expected imminently

The level is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre of the Security Service (MI5).



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 | Published 13 May 2016


Related Articles

The End of Innocence

The attack in the French city of Nice has brought a new dimension to Euro-terrorism. There are three characteristics of this contemptible deed which are worthy of...

 Read Full Article
The Impact of Time - a Back to Basics Approiach

Security is a function of time. It is about detecting, recognising, identifying and causing time delay to an adversary to such an extent that something can be done to...

 Read Full Article
The Magic of Resilience

Since the BREXIT option was selected democratically by a majority of the UK population, the word ‘resilience’ has been used widely and frequently by both...

 Read Full Article
Istanbul Attacks - Another Lesson to be Learned

In light of the dreadful attack on Instanbul's Ataturk airport, SERIFM's Jeff Little says we need to stop with the referendum blues and party squabbling and start...

 Read Full Article
A Lack of Situational Awareness in the Information Age?

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...

 Read Full Article
Cyber Security Awareness Training a MUST for All

Each and every security magazine or website I read further lowers my morale with regard to the risks associated with cyber crime. Every single employee or manager who...

 Read Full Article
Stormy Weather Ahead for UK Resilience Resources?

There can be few who can continue to deny the existence of climate change. Higher sea levels, regular flooding, the frequency of extreme weather events and sea...

 Read Full Article
Armed Officers - First of 600 Arrive in Week of Tradegy

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan have announced the start of Operation Hercules in which 600 additional...

 Read Full Article
Safer Cities - a Complex, Global Issue

This article explores many of the challenges facing the global society and focuses on some of the many solutions that government, public and private sectors and the...

 Read Full Article
Soft Targets Need Hard Approach

With terrorists looking to attack the places where people come together to socialise to attract the  biggest headlines and sense of fear - all at the lowest cost -...

 Read Full Article