What is the Power of Hello and how can security teams use it to keep the public safe?

Russ Phillips, Counter Terrorism and Risk Director at Crowdguard, disusses the Power of Hello, a simple yet effective public safety tool that can be an effective way to identify those who would do us harm and engage those at risk of harm.

Local authorities, venue owners and event organisers face a whole raft of challenges when it comes to keeping their people, property and the general public safe. At Crowdguard, these challenges are our specialism. We help our clients identify their threat, vulnerability and risk, and specify physical protection systems that are proportionate to their needs. We’re not here to sell an off-the-shelf solution, but to help our clients keep people safer.

We feel strongly about protecting in partnership and supporting knowledge sharing across our industry and with clients, which includes things like signposting people to Protect UK ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) training with our #ACTnow campaign. As we enter a period of public celebration with the festive season approaching, now seems like a great time to build on that holistic approach with a discussion on the ‘Power of Hello’ – a free and simple technique that could have a huge effect in protecting people from harm.

What is the Power of Hello?

So, what is the Power of Hello? In policing terms, it falls within the realm of what we call behavioural detection. Put simply, it’s about looking for behaviour that is out of the ordinary.

Let’s take Pride events as an example. At this type of event, you would expect to see people having a good time and enjoying themselves, because they don’t tend to go to Pride alone; they’re usually in groups or pairs. If you’re a steward at an event like this and you see someone alone, who very clearly isn’t having a good time, the Power of Hello encourages you to act on this observation by approaching them, saying ‘hello’ and asking if you can help them with something.

When this approach is made by someone marked out as being in a position of authority – if they’re wearing a high-vis jacket, for example – it may elicit a behaviour change. The person approached may not engage at all, or they may be grateful for your assistance. Alternatively, if they are up to no good, they will know they have been spotted and may try to avoid any awkward questions. The example I tend to give is universal: you’re driving, and you see a police car in your rear-view mirror. For most of us, we almost instinctively slow down (even if we were sticking to the limit) and may even feel a little bit nervous or self-conscious. When we look at incidents of hostile reconnaissance, when someone is scoping out an area in preparation for an attack, the would-be attacker would be noticeably anxious and behave in a way that isn’t considered ‘ordinary’. In this scenario, an approach from someone asking a direct question, could elicit a tell-tale response.

Engaging with someone directly can be a powerful deterrent in and of itself – and this goes beyond counter terrorism. The person acting ‘abnormally’ could be a missing person or someone in crisis who needs emotional support. But, whatever the situation, acting on a gut feeling that someone’s behaviour isn’t quite right and approaching them with a simple ‘hello’ can prevent something bad from happening.

A toolkit for de-risking

Protecting people from terrorism risk is multi-faceted. It requires a joined-up approach that includes an understanding of the threats facing the event, along with an integrated plan, using safety, security measures and service provision, working together to underpin event security. Powerful tools, such as the ‘Power of Hello’ can be used for free and to great effect. I would also urge any organisation involved in public events to engage with See, Check and Notify (SCaN), a free training programme from the National Protective Security Authority designed to help people correctly identify suspicious activity and take appropriate action when they do. It is also a good idea to take a look at the Protect UK Winter Vigilance Toolkit too, which reminds people to stay alert and report anything they think may be suspicious.

The more we share knowledge and best-practice, the better equipped we are as an industry to protect people, which is ultimately what drives us all. That’s why Crowdguard is planning a knowledge sharing event at Elland Road Stadium in Leeds on 8th February 2024, which aims to develop understanding of risk and risk mitigation for those responsible for security at events, venues and public spaces. Save the date for that!

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