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The news this week has been dominated by the horrific events that unfolded at the Nairobi Westgate Shopping Centre in Kenya.

At least 72 people died, including many innocent civilians, as a result of a four-day siege by Islamist Militants. The building is now nothing but rubble after three of its floors collapsed following a blaze. Government forces finally brought an end to the tense stand-off after days of battling Al-Shabab fighters. Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda and claimed responsibility for the attack, has threatened to attack Nairobi on a number of occasions because of the presence of Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia. Across Kenya, flags flew at half mast, and funerals were held, for what was a deeply tragic incident. What happened in Nairobi also raises questions, from a business continuity point of view, of how best to manage these kinds of situations. We can hopefully learn lessons about security strategy for the future.

You must have a clear plan in place for the impact of a terror attacks, which are now an unfortunate part of modern life, as demonstrated by the 7/7 bombings in London.
As a result of the attacks a number of important institutions were affected. For example, staff at the London Metal Exchange were unable to reach their offices after the police sealed off the area. The exchange was forced to abandon trading on its open out-cry trading floor and had to fall back on electronic and telephone trading. More than anything, the incident showed that although many people would not consider terrorism as a key part of their business continuity planning, – it can happen right here on our doorstep and it can bring chaos to the surrounding businesses and organisations.

So, although you may think the chances of a terrorist attack affecting your business are small, it is possible.

You should be bearing the following in mind:

1.    How would your firm fare if employees couldn’t make it to work? Can you set up a procedure which identifies which staff members are most likely to be affected by this event – for example, those who come by public transport.
2.    Ensure that people are safe and can work from an alternative location such as their home or from remote locations.
3.    Ensure you have a number of channels through which you can communicate with your staff. Mobile phone networks may get overloaded if a number of people are trying to get through at once, which is bound to happen following a terrorist attack.
4.    Have a clear strategy in place. Establish who will make decisions and train people accordingly. Remember, it is always better to invoke a plan and then scale it back, rather than having a ‘wait and see’ attitude.

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