The terrorist attacks at the Manchester Arena and on London Bridge mean security is top of the agenda for many companies, and an incident in Manchester demonstrates why the forecourt sector needs to be vigilant. A Texaco petrol station in the city found itself on the front line in the fight against terrorism when armed police swooped on a customer and briefly closed down the site.
The incident occurred on Saturday June 3, an hour before three terrorists launched their murderous attack on London Bridge, and just 400m from the Manchester Arena, where a suicide bomber killed and injured scores of concert goers two weeks earlier.
Inayat Pirphai, a cashier at the Redbank Service Station on Cheetham Hill Road, witnessed the police action. He told the Manchester Evening News: "At 9.15pm I saw this man in a car pull up. Suddenly two unmarked Mercedes police cars came up and eight armed police officers wearing masks got out.
"They had these big guns. They asked the man to get out of his car. They then pushed him to the floor and put handcuffs on him. They led him into the corner of the petrol station forecourt and then took him across the road to a police van about 20 minutes later. Then they told us to get out of the shop, and the road was closed off as more police arrived. It was frightening. We were allowed back in at about 11pm."
The next day Greater Manchester Police confirmed the incident was connected with the investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing, and said in a statement: "Late yesterday evening, Saturday 3 June 2017, officers arrested a 20-year-old man on Cheetham Hill Road on suspicion of offences contrary to the Terrorism Act." They also revealed that later that evening officers had carried out a raid at a property on Princess Road in Moss Side that was connected with the earlier arrest in Cheetham Hill Road.
While this incident was exceptional, it demonstrates that forecourt owners and their staff need to be on their guard. Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said: "We have not been approached by the police about any specific threat to petrol filling stations, but staff should be vigilant. Petrol is a highly volatile liquid and can be used as a weapon, and staff should contact the police if they spot any suspicious activity on forecourts."
In the wake of the Manchester bombing, the PRA issued advice on the precautions forecourt owners should be taking. It said: "Brief staff on the increased threat level and ask them to remain vigilant. If you suspect immediate danger, call 999.
"Encourage staff to escalate suspicious activity on or near to your site immediately. Make sure they have contact information to enable them to reach the appropriate people, day or night.
"Make sure that staff know what action to take in the event of an incident.
"Verify the identity of all contractors/suppliers visiting your site before allowing access to non-public and hazardous areas."
Additional advice for businesses is available from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) website (Google ’counter terrorism’ and click on National Counter Terrorism Security Office). And for businesses that feel they may need additional support there are links to Counter Terrorism Security Advisers (CTSAs) in a company’s local police force area.
If one member of staff is saved from harm by enhanced security, or one incident is averted, then any extra effort will have been worth it.
If the worst happens..
In the event of an armed attack, it says:
Escape if you can.
Consider the safest options.
Is there a safe route?
Can you get there without exposing yourself to greater danger?
Insist others leave.
Leave belongings behind.
If you can’t run, hide.
Find cover from gunfire (eg substantial brickwork/heavy reinforced walls).
Cover from view does not mean you are safe bullets go through glass, brick, metal and wood.
If you can see the attacker, they may be able to see you.
Be aware of your exits.
Try not to get trapped.
Be quiet, silence your phone.
Lock/barricade yourself in. Move away from any doors.
Call 999 what do the police need to know?
Location: where are the suspects?
Direction where did you last see the suspects?
Descriptions describe the attacker, numbers, features, clothing, weapons, etc.
Further information casualties, type of injury, building information, entrances, exits, hostages, etc.
Escalate to SM/AM or line manager as soon as it is safe to do so.
Stop others from entering the building if it is safe to do so.
Euro Garages also reminded staff and colleagues of the procedures in place should a bomb threat take place. In the event of a bomb threat, it advises:
Stay calm. Don’t panic and don’t cause others to panic.
Carefully write down the exact words used, including any code words.
Try and ask the following: Where exactly is the bomb placed?
When is it due to go off? What does it look like?
What kind of bomb is it?
How did you get it into the building?
Dial 999 and ask for police/fire service.
Evacuate the premises to a Bomb Threat Assembly Point this must be at least 500 metres from the site five minutes brisk walk, ideally an open space and away from glass/buildings. Brief your team on where this is. Display the Bomb Threat Location with your Fire Assembly Point location.
Cone off access to site.
Inform your site manager and area manager as soon as you can, following the escalation process if required.
Prevent people entering site/shop/restaurant and do not allow customers to return to their vehicles until the incident is over.
Do not return to site/shop/restaurant until the all-clear is given by the police.
Report the incident to the Petroleum Licensing Authority by telephone as soon as possible if you are a PFS.