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Panel On Defences

Security has got to be people plus technology – you can’t have one without the other, a panel agreed at the Building a Secure World conference.

Bill McKinnon, head of security at BNFL, which runs the nuclear power station at Sellafield, opened with the point that he uses cost-benefit analysis, to decide if to use the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (, manned guarding, or systems. It’s up to buyers to ask questions of guarding suppliers, suggested Mike Bluestone, head of training and development at the Central Academy of Security Excellence, set up by Initial Security, now part of MITIE. Every SIA-licensed officer has minimum training, he said; but at tender a buyer should ask about additional or sector-specific guard training. Do guard understand for instance the difference between physical and intellectual property? Do you want uniform to be paramilitary-type, or blazer and suit? Do you want officers to man car parks, or reception areas? What are companies doing so that guards can move up the ladder, to superviser, manager, director? He called on guard buyers to visit sites, talk to a guarding company’s officers and customers, to see what guard contractors were doing on the ground, and not to rely on a ‘fancy brochure or a presentation’.

Training difference

Bill McKinnon described a difference in length of training between the nuclear industry’s police (13 weeks, then two years) and the guardforce (the four-day SITO course, plus health and safety training. But one of the things he was very conscious of, when setting contracts, was that the private sector was very competitive: “From my experience, they [contract guard firms] will cut each other’s throats. You have to stipulate what you want and where you want it, otherwise you will get whatever you get, you won’t get what you want.”

White powder

Replying to a question from the floor about awareness of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threats, Andy Trotter, British Transport Police deputy chief constable and debate chairman, described the cost of kit, plus training and abstractions (taking officers off duty for training). The police were able to respond to reports of ‘white powder’ on the Underground without freezing the Tube system; but he contrasted this threat with the known one of conventional explosives carried by suicide bombers. Chuckling that the question for certain applied to him, Bill McKinnon spoke of how Sellafield had ‘an enormous nuclear inventory’: “But we would manage it in the sense of defence in depth. Mike Bluestone seconded that, pointing to his company’s sites where there was felt to be a threat to vehicle-borne improvised devices; hence the distancing of the threat from people, with the option of calling in the ‘cavalry’, that is, police and specialists. Prof Bernard Jones, whose fields include CCTV-computer integration, raised the issue of how to keep up the attention span of a CCTV operator. He poured cold water on facial recognition as a ‘myth’, except under ‘very controlled circumstances’. Andy Trotter spoke of the use of CCTV control room operators able to tell people on unstaffed train stations to stop messing around. That was helpful because operators felt they were doing something, he said. He praised staff of the Westminster control room in the Trocadero: ‘very fired up, very interested, very good relationship with the police’.


Mike Bluestone argued that it was incumbent on guarding companies to talk to customers, to ask if there were ways to reduce guard numbers, for example by using automatic number plate recognition, to reduce guards from perhaps three to one or two. Technology still required human intervention, he added. Summing up, Andy Trotter spoke of London looking after 9-11 at how it would respond to such an outrage; and businesses lapping up what he thought was common sense; having security briefings, procedures and practices. He argued that people at the top of an organiastion don’t spend enough time ‘walking the floor’. Put another way, if someone at the top pulls a lever, does it get through to those on the front line? Mike Bluestone said: “We have to demonstrate inthe security sector that we are there to enhance profitability. I am upbeat about the future, because licences have kicked in, things are changing, we are seeing a higher calibre of security officer, more and more graduates coming into the industry, more and more people getting additional qualifications.” He ended by suggesting that in two or three years, the first-line responders to intruder alarms will no longer be police, but private security patrols.


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