Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Responding to Terrorism

How should we handle the impact of the Mumbai terror attacks on our global clients, employees and partners? We can have an effective mechanism to thwart terrorism, or at least contain the damage, only when all of us, as responsible citizens and corporations, plan for and demand a coherent response from the various security forces.

Bottom-Up Approach
In our internal discussions it came out that as a company we had no systematic process to deal with a terrorist attack. It became clear that we need a larger plan to cover the Business Parks that we operate in. At our SEEPZ facility, therefore, we called a meeting of all the companies operating from there along with the Commissioner. We were glad to note that the Commissioner had already received a directive from the Ministry of Commerce to beef up security within the zone.

However, we realized that this was important but inadequate. We require a Level 1 plan that involves not just the SEEPZ security personnel but also the security officers of each company. The plan would have to address various possible attack scenarios and how each company would be alerted, what response measures they would need to take and so on.

Further, we need to work out a Level 2 plan with the local police station, fire brigade, ambulance services etc. to handle situations that escalate beyond the ability of the SEEPZ security forces. Similarly, we need higher levels of escalation to the appropriate forces. We are planning to involve these agencies in our future meetings.

We are looking for NASSCOM and other industry groups to contribute to this process, even involving specialists from India and abroad who can advise us. It is important that every company, industrial park or zone, or residential colony gets together to formulate its own plan of response.

Top-Down Approach

The events in Mumbai have clearly brought out a lack of preparedness in responding to terror in a systematic fashion. It would be pragmatic to have systematic approaches to responding to these attacks.

I envisage that a systematic response plan will involve the following:
- Classification of locations / building based on potential risk – high-risk buildings to low-risk buildings
- Prescribing different levels of security preparedness based on the nature of risk
- Coherent response strategies for different risk scenarios
- Close coordination with the security personnel in the location as well as proximate security forces
- Clear definitions of escalation levels, response times and processes, and handing over charge to forces of higher caliber at appropriate junctures

It will definitely be worthwhile to collaborate with the security agencies of other countries to learn and share best practices. It’s only with sustained, concerted efforts between governments and the public that humanity will discover the means not just to thwart terrorism but to eliminate it from the face of the earth.

Looking forward to other ideas from all of you.

No comments: