With the Tories in full flow at Birmingham’s International Conference Centre, we’re finally nearing the end of the political party conference season. It has meant three hectic weeks for us at Zaun as we’ve provided perimeter protection around the three sites – in Brighton, Manchester and Birmingham.
I’ve written a lot in my blog already about international terrorism and the battle to counter it. We are increasingly finding ourselves at the heart of this, heavily involved in the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics – and now in the party conferences.
Whether it’s affairs of state or sporting spectacles, sadly, they provide a focus for that intent on drawing attention to their cause through high-profile mayhem and destruction.
The older ones among us will remember the Munich Games of 1972 and the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton at the Conservative Party Conference of 1984.
Even though it was 28 years ago, that came flooding back to me in the small hours of Thursday night as we were installing our Rapid Deployable System (RDS) to protect the Tory delegates and MPs this week.
The memory of Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher’s impromptu interview with the BBC’s John Cole as she emerged from the wreckage of the hotel and the news that five had died in the bombing still lives with me today as it happened only yesterday.
It’s a compelling reminder of the importance of the job we do.
Conferences were always going to be high-security affairs from that point on. However, as vehicles increasingly came to be used as ramrods for robberies and terrorism, the authorities have looked to what is known as hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) to protect against such attacks.
And where this used to mean just protecting the entrances to conferences with HVM, the police now expect the fencing around venues to be part of that overall HVM solution.
That’s why we’ve developed our RDS with a minimal ground footprint compared to other temporary PAS 68 solutions. This makes it suitable for hard ground standings and easy to deploy and remove, speeding up the process and mitigating on-site disruption. We can also incorporate CCTV, PIDs, vehicle and pedestrian access.
In a really far-sighted move that is about improving security while reducing the cost on the public purse of policing these conferences, the Home Office has bought, and the three constabularies of Sussex, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands have collaborated with Zaun to design the fence that has been used at the party conferences, which have been transported from the south coast to the north-west and the Midlands in double-quick time.
Not only are they much more secure than previous solutions, but they are also more robust, ensuring a more effective policing solution for these events, helping keep budgets in check in these austere times.
I hope Maggie will be proud!