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At any large gathering there is the potential for a minority of people to use the event as an excuse to cause trouble. Occasionally, peaceful protests can escalate into violent and dangerous situations. Businesses may face increased risks during periods of public protests and social unrest, which can threaten employees, disrupt operations, and damage property.

Read the advice below to help you better protect your employees and your business during public events.

Two officers walking in Belfast

Prioritise Employee Protection

On the days leading up to the event, or when civil unrest, volatile demonstrations and public disorder are likely, ensure all staff are fully briefed. Share your concerns with your staff, emphasise the importance of situational awareness, and provide guidance to ensure employee and customer safety.

  • Urge employees to avoid city centres and areas where protests may occur. Promote virtual meetings where possible, to avoid travel to these areas.
  • Anticipate travel disruptions, check local government, news websites and social media for official information regarding road and rail closures.
  • Consider allowing casual dress for those having to attend work. Discourage staff from wearing clothing bearing your company name or logo, particularly if your business is associated with industry sectors targeted by demonstrators, such as finance or ecommerce.
  • Ensure all employees are familiar with the companies emergency, security, evacuation and invacuation procedures.
  • Ask employees to update their contact information, so they can be easily reached.
  • Your business premises should have a strong, visible management presence, who should identify themselves to the police in the event of any trespassing or criminal behaviour.
  • All staff should be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to security or the police.

Protect Your Business Premises

The vast majority of events, demonstrations and protests are peaceful and without incident. Property in areas with unrest faces the threat of damage, looting and arson. The following steps can help protect your business premises.

  • During large events where disorder is not anticipated, if you have decided to remain open, minimise the number of entry/exit points. This limits the number of people that are able to enter, and staff/security can make the decision to close the doors in the event that tensions rise.
  • Some events will attract a criminal element, intent on causing civil unrest, in order to be able to steal from retail premises. Wherever possible remove valuable or desirable items from window displays.
  • Some events will attract a criminal element, intent on causing civil unrest, in order to be able to steal from retail premises. Wherever possible remove valuable or desirable items from window displays.
  • Review existing Business Continuity and/or Incident Management Plans and update them as necessary prior to events. If you do not have a plan in place, consider developing one. There are resources online from open source public websites, to professional consulting firms.
  • Follow social media accounts of local police, government and reliable media outlets to ensure you and your business has the most up-to-date information available.
  • Test fire and burglar alarm systems, and review notification procedures with alarm companies. 
  • If you have security staff, brief them on the possibility of disruptions and plan their response, where possible they should be highly visible.
  • Consider conducting site specific assessment for buildings that are likely to be exposed to protest activity, and means for reducing risks that arise.
  • Ensure that the outside areas are free of debris, dustbins, tools etc. Removing these types of items, reduces the opportunity that those wishing to cause disorder have to use them as weapons or missiles. Remove combustible items that protestors may try to set light to.
  • Assess windows, doors and other points of entry; provide additional protection such as boarding up if necessary.
  • Check your staff are first aid trained and that all first aid kits, are fully stocked if the need should arise to use them. Ensure staff radios are working and there are sufficient batteries.
  • Ensure your CCTV is operational, can provide the highest resolution possible and that you have staff trained to download or send to police where required.
  • Inform security, if your building has scaffolding erected, or in close proximity.
Vacant office
Vacant office

Secure Vacant Premises

Vacant buildings are particularly vulnerable to attack during periods of civil disorder.

For more information on vacant premises security, read the crime prevention guidance provided by the National Business Crime Centre (NBCC).

NBCC Crime Prevention Guidance
Police officers on patrol in The Boulevard, Banbridge

Protests Impacting Your Business

If a protest impacts your area, please consider the following:

  • The effect or impact protests are having on your business or organisation (considerations – footfall, loss of business).
  • In the event of a protester incursion, do not close the business, as this denies police the opportunity to arrest for Aggravated Trespass (Outdoors Only) as the protesters are no longer impeding business activity (because none it taking place), thereby removing the key evidential component for the offence. Police will also consider the offences Breach of the Peace and Disorderly Behaviour subject to the behaviours of protesters.
  • Estimated costs, either financially or otherwise of this impact (considerations – financial impact compared with a typical business day, environmental e.g. refuse collection, traffic congestion).
  • The effect or impact on your staff, customers and other stakeholders (considerations – work/life balance, staff travel, reliance on transport links, delivery issues).

Further Information

If you would like more information or guidance about preventing crime and staying safe a work, employers and employees can email [email protected].

National Business Crime Centre (NBCC) Guidance

Hate crime and large scale protests can directly impact employees and businesses across the country. The National Business Crime Centre (NBCC) have compiled a range of open source advice and guidance on safety and security for businesses including terrorism awareness training, a guide to personal security and advice on personal safety at work. This includes:

The free ACT e-Learning counter terrorism awareness course is available for employers and employees to complete. It is an e-learning course about the best practices to help counter terrorism and increase security awareness.

The Blue Book: A Guide to Personal Security | ProtectUK aims to provide a suite of advice options when implementing a personal security plan. This booklet will also signpost to other valuable sources of information and guidance.

Resources | ProtectUK - ProtectUK provides business and the public with counter terrorism support and guidance to effectively protect and prepare.

Reporting Crime

When a business has been the victim of a crime, or suspect they have been a victim of crime, it is essential that this is reported to police. This allows police to capture the data and understand the full scale of the crime, which in turn informs their resources and tactics to tackle it.

You can also report to us on 101 or alternatively, you can report online.

When a crime is taking place, dial 999 in an emergency.

Report online