All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

Any premises that is open to the public can be the target of a terrorist attack or threat. Some terrorist groups work on an international basis, whereas others fight for domestic issues. Certain terrorist organisations target just one particular company for a specific reason, while others may be more indiscriminate in their targeting.

The nature of threats change frequently, so regular risk assessment is important. As well as the better known terrorist organisations with Irish or Middle Eastern connections, we now also have several animal-rights groups and sections of eco-activists who pose real threats to trading premises.

As pubs and clubs try to attract members of the public to use their premises as places of entertainment, they need to ensure their customers’ safety by having effective security plans to help minimise the threat from terrorist attack. All licensed premises now also need to take counter-terrorist precautions on an individual basis. This section has been included so that door supervisors can be aware of the threat, can take precautions against the threat of attack and so that they can respond effectively if they become involved in a terrorist attack on licensed premises when they are on duty.

Certain terrorist organisations are willing to carry out indiscriminate attacks on premises despite the large numbers of people that regularly use them. It is important, therefore, that managers of these types of premises assess the potential risk to the safety of all members of staff and customers on the premises, as they are now legally obliged to do so under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1992.

When assessing the potential risk to the premises certain factors need to be considered :-

  1. general knowledge about what is currently happening around the world;
  2. any recent terrorist attacks or threats in the area;
  3. the location of the premises in relation to other possible targets nearby;
  4. whether the premises is important or famous in itself;
  5. the vulnerability of the premises.

It may seem obvious, but the greater the potential risk to the premises from a terrorist attack or threat, the better the security measures employed at those premises will need to be.

Attacks or threats to the premises may come from :-

  • Political groups
  • Religious groups
  • Mentally disturbed people
  • The competition
  • Angry ex-employees
  • Disgruntled neighbours
  • Dissatisfied or recently-ejected customers
  • Criminals with extortion motives
  • Hoax calls for a variety of reasons

As door supervisors patrol licensed premises as a normal part of their duties they must remain vigilant for any suspicious or ‘out-of-place’ objects, and for anyone displaying unusual behaviour. Anyone who loiters with no apparent purpose, or who appears to be watching members of staff or the CCTV system more than usual should be challenged. Hallways, corridors and toilet areas need to be patrolled regularly by the doorstaff, as do all areas both inside and outside the premises. Door supervisors must report anything suspicious to the management of the premises as soon as possible, so that the police can be called to investigate.

Areas of the premises not open to the public such as store rooms, kitchens and staff areas should be securely locked at all times when not in use, restricting access to unauthorised people.

Good housekeeping both inside and outside of the premises will help to prevent a terrorist from planting an explosive device undetected. If all rooms, stairways, corridors and communal areas are kept tidy and free from rubbish it makes it more difficult for a terrorist to find somewhere to hide a device. Toilets and reception areas should also be regularly checked and cleared of unnecessary clutter or rubbish.

Searching customers as a condition of entry will also act as a deterrent to anyone considering bringing an explosive device into the premises. As the threat increases as the result of the political climate or more local issues, more regular and thorough searches should be made at the point of entry. Door supervisors must recognise the need to search customers and the premises itself properly, and to recognise items which might be bombs. They must, for everyone’s safety, remain vigilant to the terrorist threat at all times.

In an effort to reduce the chances of any type of bomb being smuggled into and planted on the premises, the door team must :-

  • challenge anyone found in areas where they should not be
  • carry out efficient searches at the point of entry
  • be vigilant for suspicious persons or behaviour
  • look out for suspicious articles as they patrol the premises
  • search the premises at the end of the evening for any abandoned articles
  • report anything suspicious to the management so that the police can be called to investigate.

The majority of the timed explosive devices will not look like bombs. Terrorists will attempt to disguise them in order to reduce the chances of their being found before they can be activated. In the pub or nightclub environment door supervisors should be on the look out for any apparently abandoned bags or packages, or for any other articles which look out of place or have no reason to be there. A suspicious object is any item which may contain a bomb, which is out of place and which cannot be accounted for. For this reason any suspicious package or bag found must be treated with extreme caution and the police should be called immediately.

Some terrorist groups are known to place bombs in or under vehicles which are then parked outside the target building. While door supervisors have little control over how and where people park their vehicles, if they become suspicious of any particular vehicle they should not hesitate to contact the police for advice and assistance. Regular patrols of the outside of the premises, observing vehicles that park near the venue and external CCTV cameras all go to help prevent an attack of this type.

Parcel or letter bombs may also be sent to premises, although this will usually be during the day when most door supervisors are not there. Licensed premises do need to be aware, however, of the action that needs to be taken should they receive such a suspect package. The package should be isolated in a locked room if possible. It should not be touched, poked, prodded or bent by way of inspection, nor should it be placed in water or have anything placed on top of it. The immediate area will need to be evacuated, usually by using the fire alarm system, and the police should be called.

Incendiary devices are small in size and are usually disguised to look like everyday items which do not look out of place in the areas they are to be left, such as cigarette packets. They are designed to ignite and cause fire on the premises, sometimes whilst the premises are open to the public, but often after the place is closed. The risk of an outbreak of fire in a pub or club when it is open to the public is obvious, but an incendiary device set to go off when the premises has closed has less chance of the fire being detected, therefore causing maximum damage before the alarm is raised. On licensed premises small devices may be left or hidden in bins, on shelves, in bar areas, behind curtains or in sanitary-towel holders in the toilets.

Because of their size and the ways in which they can be disguised, incendiary devices are relatively easy for terrorists to smuggle into licensed premises. Some are undetectable by the metal-detectors that some security teams use for searching customers at the point of entry, and some cannot even be detected by x-ray machines. It is important to note here that it is not unknown for high-explosive bombs to be disguised as incendiary devices.

If door supervisors find a suspected incendiary device on the premises they must NOT handle it, firstly because doing so may destroy any forensic evidence, but more importantly some of these devices are unstable and so unnecessary handling may cause them to ignite in your hands. Such devices can kill or maim. The management of the premises will need to be informed immediately, the area should be cleared in a calm and efficient manner and if possible footage should be taken on a body camera, then both the police and the fire brigade will need to be called.

If an incendiary device ignites on the premises whilst it is open the fire alarm should be raised immediately, and only if it is safe to do so should the door supervisors make one brief attempt to put out the fire. The premises must be evacuated as soon as possible. Supervisors need to be aware, however, that other devices (ie explosives) may have been planted in the same area, so they should not remain there for any longer than is necessary.

High explosive devices are made to cause serious damage to both people and property. When they explode they can cause major structural damage to the building and can cause death and injury from the blast and from flying glass and debris travelling at high speeds through the air.

Packages containing explosives may also be disguised to make them look like everyday objects so that they are not spotted before they go off. They are often found in the form of bags, briefcases, lunchboxes, flasks, books, boxes or other types of package.

Most high explosive devices consist of the following elements :-

The explosive.
Commercial or military explosive is a dense putty-like material that may come in blocks, lumps or sticks. It may be in its original wrappers, wrapped in cellophane or concealed in a container. In some devices the explosive may be home-made, and may be in the form of a powder or granules. This is as dangerous as military or commercial explosive.

The detonator.
This is a copper or silver tube with coloured wires attached and imparts the shock which is required to detonate the explosive. It will normally be inserted into the mass of explosive. In the case of home-made explosives, however, the detonator is often taped to an intermediary, resembling coloured washing line, which then runs into the explosive.

The timer.
This may either be a mechanical clockwork timer or an electronic timer, mounted on a printed circuit board. Often the timer will be housed in a small plywood box and one or a number of coloured LEDs may also be visible. The timer acts as a switch to close the firing circuit at a predetermined time, which may be a number of hours or a matter of seconds. This is why once it has been decided that a package is suspicious, no-one should return to it to take a better look. This should be left to the police or the bomb disposal experts.

The power source.
This will normally be one or more batteries and is often housed in the same plywood box as the timer. The electric current is required to power an electric timer (if present), and to fire the detonator.

The wiring.
Wires of various colours are used to link the components, with the junctions being covered with coloured plastic adhesive tape. You should never attempt to cut or disconnect any wires as this may activate the detonator.

The container.
This can take absolutely any form and will be used to transport and disguise the components above. Containers made of plastic or other non-conductive materials are most common. The package or container itself should not be moved as it may trigger an anti-tamper mechanism within it.

Door supervisors obviously need to be observant for suspicious persons or objects as they patrol the pub or club they are working at during the normal course of their duties, but they may also be required to search the premises in response to a specific threat if asked to do so by either the management or the police.

The police do not usually search the premises for suspect devices for you, as they will not necessarily know the layout of the premises, and certainly not as well as the regular members of staff. Also they will not know what items should and should not be there, making it more difficult for them to recognise anything suspicious.

It is important, therefore, that door supervisors and other members of staff have a set procedure for searching the premises as quickly and as effectively as possible. A search-plan should be devised by the management which divides the premises into separate sectors, with members of staff having responsibility for particular areas. Each and every part of the building will need to be searched, both inside and out.

As mentioned earlier, bombs can be disguised in many ways, so when searching any premises for suspect packages you should be on the lookout for :-

  • Anything that cannot be accounted for
  • Anything that should not be there
  • Anything that looks out of place

A safe, swift but efficient system needs to be devised so that the whole building is searched in a logical and thorough manner.

This is usually best done by the person searching a room or area standing at the entrance initially and looking around the whole room. A brief but careful inspection should show any obviously out of place objects, and will also indicate any areas which will need particular attention. Any unusual lights (LEDs) or noises (timers) should be immediately reported to the management who may decide to evacuate at this stage. If nothing suspicious is found, however, then the full and careful search of that area should begin.

This full search should be conducted in a methodical way, working clockwise around the room or area, in three separate stages.

Stage one is to search the edges of the area, inspecting the walls from top to bottom and the floor area directly beneath the wall. Any alcoves should be searched, behind curtains and pelmets, behind, on and under furniture, and anywhere else around the edges of the area. You should work clockwise around the area, finishing up at the entrance where you began.

Stage two should include all of the furniture and the floor area in the middle of the room, although this should be done without actually moving the furniture about.

Stage three concentrates on the ceiling, including any light fittings or items suspended from the ceiling by way of decoration.

Searchers may find it useful to use torches to search particularly dark areas. They should not, however, use radio equipment to relate information to other parties once a suspicious package has been found, as although it is unlikely there is a slight possibility that transmission may accidentally activate a device which uses radio waves to detonate it. Door supervisors in these circumstances should move away from the device (police recommend at least 25 metres) before using their radios to pass information about their discovery.

If anything suspicious is found during the search then the management should be informed immediately. If nothing is found then the person in charge of the premises still needs to be told so that he can mark that particular area off as ‘clear’.

The decision as to whether to evacuate the premises is a matter for the management, after consultation with the police. This decision will be made taking into account the obvious dangers of injuries to staff and members of the public should a device explode, and the risks of exposing a large number of people to the blast when the location of the bomb is unknown. Whenever people are moved about in groups, particularly under the threat of a bomb exploding on the premises, the result can be mass panic which may cause injuries in itself. In some situations a total evacuation may serve only to expose the greatest number of people to injury or death. It may, therefore, be decided to evacuate the whole premises, or only specific areas which are considered to be under threat.

Although the question of evacuation is for the management of the premises to decide upon, if the police receive specific information about a threat or attack they may overrule any such decision. There are four main actions that can be taken in these circumstances :-

1) To do nothing – this decision will normally only be made if those deciding the issue are sure that the threat is a hoax or a prank.

2) To search and then to evacuate if necessary – this action gives the management the opportunity to search the premises for any suspect packages before making the decision as to whether to evacuate or not. The disadvantage with this action is that staff and customers are allowed to remain in the building during the search, which obviously puts them at danger if there is a suspect package present. The advantage is that if something suspicious is found then the public can be evacuated away from the danger.

3) To search and partially evacuate – a decision just to evacuate the immediate area where the suspect package is supposed to be will not necessarily create panic, but will give the door team enough space to search that particular area properly before allowing customers to re-enter it. If a device is found, then the remainder of the building may then be evacuated.

4) Full immediate evacuation – this decision will usually be made if there is a real threat of an imminent explosion on the premises, evacuating the whole building as safely and as efficiently as possible, even before any search is made. If it is decided, once the premises is empty, to then conduct a proper search of the premises, this can be done far more easily when the building is empty.

When any licensed premises needs to be evacuated if a fire breaks out, the procedure is fairly straight forward. The fire alarm goes off and the customers leave the premises via the nearest fire exit. In situations where a suspect package has been found, however, there are often added factors to be considered.

It is not, for example, always the best idea just to sound the fire alarm and let the people make their own way out. If the suspect device is in a particular part of the premises you will want to direct the people away from it. Many venues use the DJs public address system to give instructions to the public in bomb situations. They can be told which exit to leave by, to take all of their belongings with them (making any subsequent searches easier), and to walk, not run. The way that these instructions are given can reduce the chances of creating unnecessary panic or distress.

During controlled evacuations the door supervisors play an important role. The idea is to evacuate the whole premises quickly and safely. Supervisors can assist in this by directing customers to the safest exit, keeping the crowd calm and by rendering help to anyone who needs it. To prevent people from panicking the main lights should all be switched on and the music should be turned off.

Once people have passed through the exit doors they tend to hang around outside them, either to get back in once the emergency is over or because they do not know where to go. This is a dangerous situation as too many people standing directly outside the exits may prevent others from getting out. Door supervisors need to move those people away from the exits and away from the building.

All members of staff from the premises, including the door supervisors, will need to meet at a pre-arranged assembly point once the building has been evacuated. For safety reasons this should be at least 400 metres away from the building, preferably behind the cover of another building for example, but away from glazed areas.

Only when the building has been properly searched and any suspect devices made safe will the management, again after consultation with the police, decide that the premises is safe enough to re-occupy. The door team will then need to assist with a safe, controlled re-entry to the premises.

Once it has been decided that a package or object is suspicious, then the following instructions must be followed.

  1. Attempt to trace the owner (it may have been left accidentally)
  2. Do NOT open it, touch it or otherwise try to examine it
  3. Do NOT move it
  4. Do NOT put it into water to try to diffuse it
  5. Do NOT put anything on top of it
  6. Do NOT attempt to cut or disconnect any visible wires
  7. Do NOT use radios within 25 metres of the device (it could activate the device)
  8. Leave a distinctive marker near to (but not touching) the device
  9. Clear the area of people, taking details of any witnesses who saw the device being planted
  10. Inform the management of the premises
  11. Call the police
  12. Evacuate the premises
  13. The lights in the room where the device is should be left on
  14. Doors and windows in the vicinity of the device should be left open to reduce flying debris
  15. Draw a route or plan to the package for the police and bomb-disposal experts
  16. Whoever found the device will need to remain to be interviewed by the police
  17. All door supervisors should standby to assist the police as required.

If the police decide to call for the bomb-disposal unit to attend the scene, then they will require the following information for the team when they arrive :-

  1. The exact location of the device and details of any obstacles in the area such as doors, stairs, furniture etc
  2. A full description of the device from the person who found it
  3. They may want to speak to any other witnesses who can provide useful information about the device, particularly if they saw it being placed
  4. Whether the area surrounding the device has been searched for secondary devices or any other items of particular interest
  5. Details of any secondary hazards in the area such as gas tanks, electricity sub-stations, chemicals or flammable materials
  6. Any plans or maps of the venue which may help them to decide on the appropriate course of action.

Anyone involved in a terrorist incident, whether there is a actual explosion or not, could suffer certain after-effects. Post-traumatic shock can effect anyone. Door supervisors are advised to keep an eye on their colleagues in the weeks following any serious bomb incident, so that they can identify anyone who appears to be suffering from shock. There are now several professional welfare and counselling agencies that can help anyone suffering from the long-term psychological effects that these types of incidents can bring about.