Protests and demonstrations: keeping your colleagues safe

Published: Friday, 22 November 2019 10:27

Protests and demonstrations have never been far from the headlines during 2019. In response, have you provided employees with guidance on what they should do if they get caught up in a protest that has turned violent? Steve Dance offers some pointers…

Protests and demonstrations always have a possibility of turning ‘ugly’ and while the majority of business continuity/ incident management / resilience professionals will have considered the impacts of such incidents on their business premises, I've seen little guidance in the form of advice that could be given to staff and colleagues if they find themselves caught up in a demonstration that is, or is showing signs of, turning violent. So, I was glad I bought Chris Ryan's book ‘Safe’. The main focus of the book is personal safety in a number of potentially threatening situations. However, much of this information can be used to provide useful guidance to our colleagues as part of our corporate preparations for continuity and resilience. The distilled essence of ‘stay safe’ advice during demonstrations and protests is given below:

Being prepared

Advance notification of a major demonstration is likely to come from local media sources when demonstrations or activist gatherings will occur. Use your preferred mainstream and social media sources as an early warning system. When a large demonstration or protest is expected, be prepared – even peaceful protests can turn violent. Have your plans in readiness and issue advice.

When a protest or demonstration is confirmed as taking place near you:

 Mitigation when outside and close to an affected area

If you find yourself in the midst of a civil disturbance adopt one of these strategies, listed in order of least to most risky:

Stay away from ‘no man’s land’ (this is the area between the police/security forces line and the protesters line). If you are there, get to the sides of it; try to find shelter away from glass.

As I mentioned above - I have distilled a chapter of Chris Ryan’s advice into a number of bullet points. Given his obvious skill in keeping alive in hostile circumstances, it's probably well worth taking note of his advice.

It’s worth mentioning that technologies are now available that can offer considerable support to incident managers when staff may be, or about to be, caught up in a demonstration or civil disturbance. Incident management software which supports location based services (the capability to geo-locate mobile devices, such as smart phones) - can be used to warn people when they may be about to enter a dangerous area and direct them to safety. 

The short video below provides an example of this in action.

Many thanks to John Davison at F24 for the assistance and support in producing the content contained in the video.

The author

Steve Dance is the Managing Partner of RiskCentric.