HOTEL ATTACKS ARE TRENDING
The security trend this summer has been the same across the globe. Terrorists and/or lone attackers are increasingly choosing to attack leisure seekers wherever they gather. They know it causes mass casualties and garners international attention. Top Western and European tourist choice countries such as the U.S, France, and Germany have been dealing with attacks on innocent civilians in various unassuming locations: night clubs, restaurants, outdoor parades, music concerts and so on.
When terrorism and suicide bombings were spreading across other parts of the world, Nigerians looked at the situation, shook their heads at the absurdity of it all and commented about how such a phenomenon could never occur in this country. Boko Haram helped prove otherwise. The trend has changed once again.
In Africa, expensive and high profile hotels are being attacked. It would be fool hardy of this country to think that such attacks cannot be replicated here in Nigeria. One of the reasons why the trend of hotel attacks is particularly a threat to Nigeria, is because radical fanatics or disgruntled individuals may see the success of these attacks outside the country and decide to employ the same here.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM SOMALIA HOTEL ATTACKS
The hotel attacks in Somalia showed just how easily gates, fences and guards can be rendered absolutely useless! The Al-Shabaab attackers of Ambassador Hotel in downtown Mogadishu utilized what is known as a “double tap” tactic whereby a suicide bomber first drove a Vehicle-Borne IED (VBIED) through the gate. The VBIED detonated, destroyed the gates, brought down the fences and killed the security guards. Once the outer security perimeter was “neutralized”, the group of three armed attackers entered the compound, into the hotel and began killing innocent civilians they came across.
PREVENTING HOTEL ATTACKS
High profile hotel attacks are usually well thought out and coordinated. The attackers have to source for various IED making components and this should raise a red flag in a society with strong government security and intelligence agencies. The attackers more than likely will discuss their plans over various communication channels and if the nation’s intelligence agencies can intercept such communications and coordination, the attacks can be stopped before it happens.
Now, assuming this one slips past the Nigerian Intelligence agencies, and history shows us it tends to, the next thing hotels can do is to beef up outer perimeter barriers. The use of Explosive Vapor Detectors, and under-vehicle screening devices on vehicles approaching the gate is highly recommended. Newer structures going up should have parking areas located away from the main facility along with spikes, anti-ram barriers, permanent motor barricades and perimeter bollards.
Attackers also tend to survey and carry out recce on their intended target ahead of time. Hotel security guards need to be trained on the importance of looking outside the walls for idle individuals observing the facility’s entry and exit security procedures. In order to stay unpredictable, the guards can carry out random searches at the gate at random times. Gate guards also need to be taught how to spot jittery looking drivers and passengers and know what steps to take.
If all these fail and the attackers have succeeded in blasting through the gates, fences and guards and are now on their way into the hotel, the hotel staff should be well rehearsed on shut down procedures. Staff should identify rooms where as many civilians in the lobby can hide. If there is an emergency PA system, the hotel staff need to advise all guests to find the nearest open room, lock the doors, remain quiet, hide behind barricades, switch off the lights, and silence phones, until security personnel arrive and neutralize the threat.
TRAINING TRAINING TRAINING
Consider inviting the local police, fire services department or private security firms knowledgeable about safety, first aid and protection services to visit your facility to give in-depth training to staff members. This will help ensure staff remain observant and prepared in case of an emergency. Having such routine training visits will also strengthen collaborative relationships between state security, private security and the hotel security staff.
Hotel staff can also learn preventative measures such as knowing when to report suspicious activities such as unusual odors in rooms or along the corridors which may indicate the presence of illicit explosive components within the facility.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT
If you ask what the chances are that such an attack tactic can be replicated in Nigeria, I would say very high. Niger Delta militants for instance, are disgruntled and radical. They have access to bombs and small arms, and may look to attack other parts of Nigeria if the military cracks down on their pipeline activities, or if the Federal government refuses their calls to secede from Nigeria. Already we’re seeing cases of militants from that region carrying out raping, shootings, kidnapping and armed robbery in parts of Lagos and other parts of Nigeria.
The biggest mistake we can make is to believe that we will not become victims of such hotel attacks. But the best thing we can do is to deploy a security mindset by planning ahead for such contingencies.
DON’T BE CAUGHT BY SURPRISE
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