The Risks to UK Security: Exclusive Research from Jacksons Fencing

The security landscape in the UK is complex and problematic. A mixture of high and low-level issues dominate the media agenda and we are often reminded of how vulnerable our society and systems are to malicious, potentially life-threatening attacks. Tragedies of recent years – from the London Bridge vehicle attack to the Manchester Arena bombing– have been grim indications of the cracks in the foundations of our nation’s security.

Following every tragedy, government and businesses promptly act to prevent a similar event happening again. Sometimes, the public and private sector do get it right, but we also see examples of inadequate preparation and the dangers they pose to public safety.

Given this nationwide situation, Jacksons Fencing wanted to understand the most pressing physical security concerns and how best to prepare for these. A report was commissioned based on original research among industry professionals to grasp the risks to UK security today and into the future: ‘Setting the Standard for Security’.

Seven experts from the security sector were brought together in a round-table event to share their insights, which drew on their specialist knowledge and skills. To further investigate the key topics of the round table, Jacksons Fencing commissioned further research with 800 architects and decision-makers on physical security. These are the people responsible for identifying and managing risks and establishing long-term, sustainable solutions.

The initial round-table discussion revealed that security professionals today are increasingly confronted with faceless threats and complex challenges; it will require more creative approaches to protect people and places. Furthermore, there was a strong belief that political-economic uncertainty could disrupt international efforts to co-ordinate and counter concerns such as terrorism, human trafficking and violent crime.

Physical security needs to be smarter than ever before and integrate with technology to protect both people and places; it needs to become proactive, driven by informed risk management and fully understood by all those responsible. However, it was revealed that only 15% of architects say they have a thorough knowledge of physical security design; while 48% of architects admitted to having ‘limited’ or ‘poor’ knowledge of designing for physical security.

Moving on to national threats, it was explained that terrorism and organised crime had become decentralised. Advances in accessible technology have meant that what used to require considerable planning by a group of people is now much easier for individuals to carry out at any time. For example, in 2018, Gatwick Airport experienced major disruption resulting in hundreds of flights being cancelled following reports of drone sightings. Modern-day criminal offences like these demand a more intelligence based and proactive security strategy.

Social issues have far-reaching repercussions on security. The social impact of youth-centre closures cannot be underestimated: the closing of London’s youth clubs appears to coincide with a significant rise in youth crime. Another social issue, large-scale migration, also has the potential to put a strain on the UK’s security infrastructure. The unprecedented spike, which has been driven in part by climate change, has highlighted just how potentially vulnerable our international borders are. The government will need to plan how to handle increasing pressure on borders and infrastructure.

In addition to this, budget constraints have resulted in poorly maintained buildings and systems; as a result, much of our critical national infrastructure is vulnerable to security threats. Worryingly, almost half of the security experts surveyed said their employers were
either ‘passive’, ‘indifferent’ or even ‘ignorant’ in their approach to security. It seems like a high proportion of organisations in the UK don’t appreciate risks and will only reluctantly spend money on protection.

Relating to this is the failure in security decision-making. The research found that the majority of architectural practices do not consistently take a systematic approach to security design. Nor do they regularly employ security consultants or undertake risk assessments during the design process. As security is widely seen as a ‘dark art’ by businesses, snap decisions are often made based on price, which compromise effectiveness, sustainability and quality. It’s easy to pass the blame but, the truth is, everyone within a business has a responsibility for maintaining the safety and security of a site.

‘Setting the Standard for Security’ is an eye-opening report, full of alarming findings. The research reveals the consequences of potential security breaches are, for many companies, severe, but too many have a passive or indifferent approach to risk management. It’s not all pessimistic reading though: many of the security experts paint a hopeful picture of a nation with strong assets, robust defence, and top minds successfully tackling very complex challenges.

What is clear from this report, however, is that the government and businesses need to take a risk-management-driven approach, rather than just reacting to events. Find out more insights and recommendations in this report so we can all achieve the common goal: keeping people safe.

To download the state-of-the-nation report from Jacksons Fencing for free, click here.