Should Caribbean Businesses be Concerned about terrorism

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-By Brian Ramsey , Amalgamated Security Services Limited

There is a tendency in the Caribbean to view terrorism as something that happens in other countries away from this region. Yet, if one examines regional history one can clearly see that the Caribbean has not been immune to terrorist activity. A quick examination of the last 50 years reveals that there has been terrorist activity with some of these being:

  1. 1968, Bahamas, Assassination of Haitian Consul
  2. 1976, Barbados, Bombing of Cubana Airplane and Bombing of BWIA office
  3. 1976, Trinidad, Bombing of Guyana Consulate-General
  4. 1976, Bahamas, Attack on Soviet Ship
  5. 1980, Guadeloupe, Bombing at airport
  6. 1985, Guadeloupe, Bombing of Ford dealership
  7. 1987 Dominican Republic, Bombing of Peace Corp office
  8. 1988, Dominican Republic, Bombing of U.S. Centre
  9. 1989, Dominican Republic, Bombing of G.T.E subsidiary
  10. 1990, Suriname, Bombing of Alcoa subsidiary
  11. 2006, Trinidad, Bombings in the streets
  12. 2007, Trinidad, Guyana, JFK bomb plot

Apart from these direct on-island terrorist activities, there have been Cyber attacks by persons linked to ISIS on the government computers of Jamaica and St Vincent & the Grenadines.
In addition, there are clear indications that persons from Trinidad have gone to the Middle East to fight with ISIS and the production of a recruitment video aimed directly at attracting persons from this region to join ISIS.
One of the aspects of terrorist group operations and particularly noticeable with ISIS is the propensity to expand their affiliations and so join with groups in other territories.
Further, with ISIS fighters being drawn from many countries around the world, there is need to be concerned about ISIS fighters returning to their home countries and terrorist cells beginning operations in new countries.
The impact of Terrorism in the Caribbean is therefore a valid concern and one which Caribbean businesses should be addressing.
Terrorism has direct multi-layered implications for Caribbean businesses which include:

  1. Direct implications for companies as a potential target
  2. Direct implications for personnel employed in companies
  3. Collateral damage implications as a business may be located near to a terrorist target

Companies may become a target because of their name e.g. British American Tobacco or British American Insurance. Companies may become a target because of a perceived link to a terrorist enemy.
Companies may also become a target if they are seen as symbols e.g. McDonalds, Citibank, Royal Bank of Canada etc. It is interesting to note that one of the suicide bombers chose the McDonalds restaurant outside the Stade de France in which to detonate his vest and it is believed that he picked this restaurant because it is a symbol of America.
Given that Caribbean companies need to be concerned about terrorism, the issue becomes what should businesses do independent of what actions the State should take for dealing with terrorism.
One of the first actions that every business should undertake is to conduct a security assessment that should specifically incorporate a terrorism assessment. That assessment should particularly look at the risk profile of the company both in terms of being a direct target and also the possibility of collateral damage implications because of the company’s location. The assessment should identify the level of risk and how robust are the company’s arrangements to assist in preventing a terrorist attack. While it is important to do an initial assessment, it is equally important that the assessments are regularly reviewed, at least every three years and also after any major incident.
In seeking to reduce the possibility of a terrorist incident affecting your business, a critical aspect is staff awareness. Companies must make security awareness part of their organization’s culture.
Employees are the eyes and ears of a company; they know who is a regular customer and who is not, they know when something is out of place in their environment and so can quickly identify when action needs to be taken. It is also important that when hiring staff or contractors that thorough background checks are conducted on the individuals.
The control of access in a business is also another vital part of any company’s terrorism prevention actions. This is of course complicated by the nature of the business and the extent to which the business caters directly to the public. It is certainly easier for an organization involved in warehousing and distribution to strictly control access when compared to a restaurant or a hotel.
Nevertheless regardless of the nature of the business, public areas should be clearly defined and all other areas restricted to staff or authorized visitors only. Such actions help reduce the risk to specific clearly demarcated areas. In restricting access, the days of simply placing a sign saying no access or authorized persons only as the method of access control are over, especially if the concern is terrorism as terrorists will not be deterred by just signs.
Businesses must invest in automatically closing doors and electronic access control systems whether card or biometric access control.
As a supplement to the protective measures a CCTV system that enables facial recognition should be considered. There must however be proactive use of the system. In the fight against terrorism one cannot simply have a CCTV system so that if a terrorist incident occurs you can possibly identify who committed the act. The objective for every business must be to prevent any terrorism incident occurring on their property. As such the business should aim to regularly review the footage of activities in and around their property, particularly if a staff reports that a strange individual was seen either within or in the vicinity of the business. The system must be such that it is easy to provide Government authorities with copies of the video so that they can investigate the individuals and possibly prevent an incident from occurring.
Apart from the overall good public image and hence enhanced revenues that may arise, maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance also has an anti-terrorism benefit. Companies should ensure good basic housekeeping throughout their premises. They should keep public areas tidy and well-lit, remove unnecessary furniture and keep garden areas clear. Where possible, they should not allow unauthorized vehicles close to their building. Each of these actions makes it easier to see if something is out of place and so requiring immediate action.
The steps outlined above are some of the actions that businesses can take as part of a pro-active terrorism prevention strategy. It is however vital that there is constant monitoring of the various strategies implemented by the company. There is the tendency in the Caribbean to hurriedly implement measures but then not follow up to ensure that the measures are consistently applied and become part of a consistent ongoing operational methodology.
Terrorists do not hurriedly plan their actions but spend time carefully examining a company for weaknesses and so implementing with no consistent follow up provides them with the weaknesses that they can exploit.

About the Author
Brian Ramsey has a B.A. in Accounting and Management, along with an M.B.A. in Finance and over 29 years in the Caribbean security field. He is the Regional Development Director for Amalgamated Security Services Limited which operates in Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. He can be contacted at bramsey@assl.com.

[Feature Image – Relatives of the victims of 1976 bombing of cuban airline (Photo Courtesy of Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba)]

Article Categories:
Columns · Issue 21 · Publication · Security

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