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Terrorism and Firearms Attacks

In Northern Ireland the current threat level in relation to Northern Irish related terrorism sits at SEVERE, this means an “attack is highly likely”. We have always said ‘Communities defeat terrorism’. The UK wide Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) campaign urges the public to report suspicious activity (including online content), primarily to keep themselves safe, but also to help police bring dangerous offenders to justice and prevent terror attacks in Northern Ireland.

‘Be Alert, Not Alarmed’

We want the public to ‘Be Alert, Not Alarmed’. If we can spot and report suspicious behaviour and items, we may be able to prevent an attack from even happening.

Suspicious Behaviour

Hostile reconnaissance is the information gathering phase of attack planning and is vital to the process. It is carried out prior to almost every attack. Being able to identify behaviour which is unusual or out of the ordinary (suspicious) may save lives. Such activity MUST be challenged or reported immediately. If the activity observed will result in imminent danger call 999 and ask for Police.

Use the mnemonic SALUTE:

S  Situation: who or what was picked up on

A  Activity: what was happening, what was the person or vehicle doing

L  Location: where was the activity taking place

U  Unit: who made the observation

T  Time: when did the activity take place

E  Equipment: any equipment that can assist in the evaluation of the incident. For example: CCTV location.

Examples of suspicious activity/hostile reconnaissance:

  • Someone in or attempting to enter a restricted area without proper permission/accreditation
  • Someone taking photographs where not expected
  • Someone deliberately concealing their identity
  • Vehicles parked where they shouldn’t be
  • Behaviour that is not what would be expected in the environment
  • Download the Recognising Hostile Reconnaissance Guide (PDF 418KB)

If you see suspicious behaviour/activity, you must not ignore it. Trust your instincts - your call could save lives.

Suspicious Items - Guidance for the public

  • Do not touch
  • Try and identify an owner in the immediate area
  • If you still think it is suspicious, do not feel embarrassed about reporting it or think that someone else will or should report it
  • If you are in a business or at an event, report it to a member of staff or security. If they are not available or you are in any other environment call the Police on 999 if you believe there is a risk to life. If there is no immediate risk you must still report what you have seen – call 101 or the confidential number 0800 555 111
  • Be ready to tell the police: who you are, what it is you have seen, where it is, why you think it is suspicious
  • Move away to a safe distance 
Action Counter Terrorism Graphic

Suspicious Items - Guidance for the staff

When dealing with suspicious items apply the Four ‘C’s Protocol:

Confirm whether the item is suspicious

  • Use the ‘HOT’ principles
  • For more information about how to identify suspicious items, view the HOT Protocol Poster (PDF) created by The National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Clear the immediate area

  • Do not touch it
  • Check with others in the area
  • Use CCTV to examine who, how, and when the item was left
  • Take charge and move people away to a safe distance (see minimum cordon distances below)
  • Keep yourself and others out of line of sight of the item.  It’s a broad rule, but generally if your far enough away not to see the item then you are better protected
  • Think about what you can hide behind. Pick something substantial and keep away from glass such as windows and skylights
  • Cordon off the area

Communicate - call 999

  • Inform your control room/supervisor
  • Communicate internally
  • Do not use radios or mobile phones within 15m

Control access to the cordoned area

  • Members of the public should not be able to approach the area until it is deemed safe
  • Try to keep eyewitnesses on hand to tell the police what they have seen

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure provides advice to businesses around how to protect themselves from all kinds of terrorist or other style of attack Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure | CPNI.


Our Safety - it's Your Business leaflet provides further information about how you can keep your business safe. 

Stay Safe

GOV.UK provides further advice for the public on the steps they can take to keep themselves safe in the rare event of a firearms or weapons attack.

ACT for Youth is a new safety campaign for 11-16 year olds teaching them how to act in the unlikely event they are caught in a gun or knife attack’. Its in three parts and the first part has been released.

Crowded Places Counter Terrorism Advice

This section covers advice on the keys elements of protective security: physical, personnel, cyber and personal, and gives guidance on how different sectors can help make their business, institution or organisation safer.

Cyber Crime - Around 80% of Cyber attacks could be prevented if businesses put simple security controls in place. The National Cyber Security Centre offers further advice on how to stay secure online.

Recognising the Terrorist Threat - GOV.UK provides advice on how to recognise the terrorist threat.

For further advice or information you can email our Security Advisors at [email protected]