What risk management strategies should be undertaken by organisations to minimise the risks surrounding terrorist activities?
In November 1963 the world was rocked to its core with the murder of President John F Kennedy.
The tragic events of that day are some of the most chronicled in history so it was with great surprise many years on, when I was in Dallas and retracing the steps of the fateful hour, that I read the following in the foyer of the Parkland Memorial Hospital.
It was written on November 27, 1963 — five days after President Kennedy’s death — by the then Administrator of the Parkland Memorial Hospital.
It was a memo sent to all employees and it read:
At 12:38 pm, Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally were brought to the Emergency Room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being struck down by the bullets of an assassin.
At 1:07 pm, Sunday, November 24, 1963, Lee H Oswald, accused assassin of the late president, died in an operating room of Parkland Memorial Hospital after being shot by a bystander in the basement of Dallas City Hall. In the intervening 48 hours and 31 minutes Parkland Memorial Hospital had:
- Become the temporary seat of the government of the United States.
- Become the temporary seat of the government of the State of Texas.
- Become the site of the death of the 35th President.
- Become the site of the ascendency of the 36th President.
- Become the site of the death of President Kennedy's accused assassin.
- Twice become the center of the attention of the world.
- Continued to function at close to normal pace as a large charity hospital.
What is it that enables an institution to take in its stride such a series of history-jolting events?
Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness?
Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people.
People whose education and training is sound.
People whose judgement is calm and perceptive.
People whose actions are deliberate and definitive.
Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.
C J Price
Whether one would consider President Kennedy’s assassination a terrorist strike in the parlance of today is a debate for other minds.
It is, however, a great example of the key risk management strategies that can be undertaken by organisations to minimise the risks surrounding terrorist activities.
And that is training.
Training to be alert to what it is that is happening.
Training to be alert as to how to handle the immediate crisis.
Training to be alert as to how to remain ‘calm and perceptive … deliberate and definitive’.
We are fortunate that terrorism has rarely visited our shores.
That being the case, it is then more likely than not that if the vile evil of terrorism is to cast a shadow it may be in a foreign country.
This poses a challenge for those that are tasked with executing their employment duties to oversee and how they should protect themselves.
This dilemma can be answered quite easily in two words — risk assessment.
Organisations should develop a framework where they dispassionately, and before the travel takes place, consider the relevant risks that might occur.
If the pendulum is on the side of proceeding, you do so in knowledge and accepting of the risks involved.
Without strong training and a robust risk assessment, what ends up happening is that you place your future wellbeing and that of your colleagues in the fickle hands of guesswork, rumour and half-truths.