Post-mosque attacks: a new security climate

New Zealand Security Magazine, June-July 2019

Embraer KC-390
Al Noor Mosque Christchurch
Al Noor Mosque, Christchurch.

Two months on from the Christchurch mosque attacks, NZSM gains insights from Phil Murphy, Sales Manager South Island for Gallagher, and Gary Morrison, NZSA CEO, in relation to the post-15/03 security context.

Security, at its most fundamental level, is a feeling. It’s a feeling – or a sense – of safety; an absence of fear. It is our individual sense of security that – when in sufficient measure – enables us to each go about our daily lives with a degree of confidence that our individual wellbeing faces no imminent threat.

Several weeks after the Christchurch mosque attacks, it is evident that people’s sense of safety – in Christchurch, in our Muslim community, and across New Zealand – has, to varying degrees, been dealt a blow. In this sense, New Zealand’s security climate has changed.

“No one thought the New Zealand Police would lock a major city down for four hours – this is not New Zealand and it’s certainly not the South Island way, but it’s happened and perhaps it shows just how easy it can be for anyone to be able to just wander into a site and cause such misery,” commented Gallagher’s Christchurch-based Sales Manager, Phil Murphy.

For many people of various faiths across the country, places of worship have become localities of fear.

“Following the tragic mosque attacks in Christchurch, there has been a high degree of anxiety and concern from faith leaders across the community,” the NZSA’s Gary Morrison told NZSM.

“Whilst the Police have provided a highly visible presence, there has been an awareness that the level of support cannot be maintained on an on-going basis and that over coming months police resources will need to be deployed into other areas.”

Spike in enquiries

Phil, like many throughout the security industry, has noted an increase in enquiries following the attacks. “Information is key; people want updates ASAP, they want immediate notification of an event, but most importantly they want to be able to walk onto a site or sit at school or in an office and feel safe – to know that someone can’t just roll in through the front gates at will and cause chaos.”

Far from being Christchurch-centric, enquiries have been coming in from other geographies and from a variety of organisations. “There have been reviews from all types of entities and all over the South Island”, Phil explained. “This is a major event that has prompted people to ask questions and look at their own systems and procedures.”

And the types of enquiries have been wide-ranging:

“What are our lock down procedures for this type of event? How does our system work ? Do we even have one? How are we controlling who should or should not be on our site? How do we manage visitors to the site? When did we last test our systems? We never thought about peoples access and movements on a site until now – How do we tell our staff there is an event? How do we alert key people or emergency services of an event? How do we account for staff being able to get off a site – or be in a safe zone?”

According to Phil, the volume of enquiries made to date may well be the tip of the iceberg. “As the ripple starts, it will run to a wave once the various reports are out on what happened that day,” he said.

Professional advice

On Sunday 12thMay, Auckland Emergency Management and Auckland Council jointly hosted a Safety, Security and Wellbeing Forum designed to provide faith leaders with access to support and information required to review their own security requirements, to build community resilience and to restore community confidence.

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The Forum attracted in excess of 50 faith leaders from the wider Auckland region to attend presentations from security practitioners, Council specialists on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and building approvals, and officials from the Department of Internal Affairs. Skype presentations from experts in the United States on the psychosocial consequences for a community after mass violence also featured.

The NZSA represented the security industry at the event, with Gary providing an overview of industry licensing and guidance on supplier selection. Additionally, NZSA members Fear Free (Anna Crane) and Risq NZ (Bruce Couper) presented on the topics of Security Risk Assessments and Situational Awareness.

Guidance on supplier selection focused on ensuring that suppliers are licensed and NZSA members; seeking multiple proposals rather than reliance on a single provider; looking for security in depth rather than reliance on a single solution; obtaining expert advice rather than friend of a friend who used to work in security; and contacting the NZSA if uncertain.

“Forum organisers received very positive feedback from the attendees and, without a doubt, achieved the goals of strengthening the capacity and capability of our religious communities and assisting faith leaders in making informed choices when developing their own practice and process for safety, security and wellbeing in their communities, “ said Gary.

Like Gary, Phil also points out the importance of seeking advice from suitably experienced security professionals.

“Audit and then review your site and procedures with someone who has experience in protection systems, document and practise a clear plan of access control, lock down and notification services, and educate people as to why these things are necessary. Consider self-sufficient secure zones within your site, have alternative communications available, and  make sure your maintenance agreements include full tests of the services you need.”

Phil also recommends sharing important information with the authorities. “After the earthquakes, lots of procedures changed and drills became the norm for anyone that lived in the city. Once again  there are no guarantees, but you can certainly mitigate risk and limit any loss.”

“To say ‘if it happens it happens’ is poor – it’s lazy and apathetic – and gives no reassurance to the young, old and weak who may not be as physically or mentally as tough as you. Every site has a legal obligation to the people on it that it has taken all practical  steps to ensure their safety and protection – including those less able to defend themselves.”

But importantly, Phil points out, keeping people on your site safe isn’t possible unless you know who is on your site. “On any given day many property owners/operators wouldn’t have a clue who was on their site, where they went, and when they left. It’s time to think about it.”


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