A British counter terrorism training course is being made available to the public for the first time and police are asking citizens to sign up to help protect the U.K.
Devised by counter terrorism officers and security experts, the ACT Awareness eLearning package was previously only available to staff working in crowded places like shopping centers and entertainment venues.
Now Counter Terrorism Policing has decided to open up the training to anyone who wants to become a “CT Citizen” so they can learn how to spot the signs of suspicious behavior and understand what to do in the event of a major incident. The focus is on crowded places such as transport hubs, shopping malls, and workplaces.
The program was originally devised in partnership with retailer Marks and Spencer – and participants needed to be signed up by their employers. Today the online learning is available free of charge to anyone who wants to take part.
The decision to offer the training to the public was not made in response to the recent attack in London. However, the tragic events on London Bridge at the end of November were a stark reminder of the ongoing threat and the need for vigilance.
“ACT Awareness eLearning is especially useful for anyone working in or regularly visiting crowded places,” says Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi, Senior National Coordinator for Protective Security.
“We developed each stage alongside industry experts and to date over one and a half million modules have been completed.
“The course has been so popular, with nine out of 10 users saying they would recommend it, we want to open it up to as many people as possible.
“The threat level remains at Substantial – meaning an attack is likely – so giving everyone the chance to be extra eyes and ears for police and local security teams help to keep all communities safe.
“The festive period is obviously a very busy one – so this is a good time to join up and become a CT Citizen.”
Hosted by online training specialists Highfield, ACT Awareness is made up of modules that take a few minutes each to complete. Multiple choice questions need to be answered correctly at the end of each module before progressing. Users can pause and re-join at any time. In total it takes approximately 45 minutes.
The training includes news footage of attacks including shootings, stabbings, and explosions. It covers recognizing suspicious behavior, dealing with suspicious items, identifying vulnerabilities, and responding to bomb threats, as well as providing general advice on how to act in the event of an attack.
In the Identifying Vulnerabilities module, video scenarios are provided that show an unauthorized person in a building. Users need to click the screen when they notice a vulnerability, such as unattended work uniforms.
The Suspicious Behavior module teaches users to differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior. CCTV footage shows a member of a terrorist cell planning an attack and Users must click the screen when they see something suspicious such as taking photos or video from a slow moving vehicle, a person leaving a bag behind, or a customer paying more attention to staff areas than the items in the store.
IEDs are covered in the Suspicious Items module, which begins with a video about unattended bags and asks citizens to remember the HOT acronym when using their judgement to determine if an item is suspicious: Is the item Hidden, Obviously suspicious (for example, are wires or batteries visible?), or Typical (such as a large rucksack at an outdoor festival which would be out of place at a cinema). The training guidance instructs users to ask if the item belongs to anyone and if they still have concerns, to calmly and politely move people at least 100 meters away from the area. They should then communicate to the authorities, remembering to avoid using a mobile phone close to the item in case the phone triggers a device.
The next module covers bomb threats. Users are asked to respond to a telephone bomb threat by selecting the correct actions and remembering details about the calls.
Finally, the training looks at the Run, Hide, Tell response to terrorist incidents. This module consists of a video providing guidance on evacuation, finding a safe hiding place, and dealing with police. There is also an account from an eyewitness of the 2015 beach shooting, describing how they used the Run, Hide, Tell response to stay safe.
The training also includes supporting materials such as printable information posters. Users can access the package from outside the U.K. but should be aware that counter terrorism tactics and advice may vary nationally and therefore the content of the training may not always represent best practice for a user’s home nationality.