Facing up to the changing terrorist threat

7th May 2019

Businesses caught up in a terrorist or active shooter event must recognise the importance of demonstrating command and control, clear and effective communication, and the need to empathise with victims and victims’ families during a crisis event involving mass casualties, according to Rick DesLauriers, former FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Division.

Strong partnership with law enforcement

Speaking at Hiscox London Market’s “Leading the way in emerging risks” event at the RIMS conference in Boston on 30 April, DesLauriers – who led the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers – also added that businesses need to make sure that they already have strong law enforcement partnerships in place prior to the onset of a crisis.

“Having strong relationships in place with the key people you will need to deal with in a crisis situation, under a ton of pressure, is so important in effectively dealing with and mitigating the situation,” Rick DesLauriers, former FBI Special Agent

Addressing over 120 brokers and risk managers, DesLauriers took delegates through the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing investigation, delivering an inspiring account of what took place as he led the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers – the terrorists responsible for the bombing.

Following his presentation, DesLauriers joined panellists Richard Halstead (Line Underwriter for War, Terrorism and Political Violence, Hiscox), Wendy Peters (EVP, Global Head of Terrorism and Political Violence, Willis Towers Watson) and Shawn VanSlyke (Principal, Control Risks) to discuss the changing nature of terrorism and the challenge of dealing with active shooter incidents carried out by home grown violent extremists.

Home grown extremists

“When we think about active shooters”, said Shawn VanSlyke, “we think about the spectrum of motivations which may include terrorism or some sort of ideology. But when it comes to lethal violence, especially in a corporate environment or workplace, we think it’s important to consider the broader spectrum of potential motivations.”

“For many of the active shooters – in the last three years there have been over 70 active shooter attacks in the U.S., with 800 casualties including 300 people killed – a mix of motivations are involved,” added VanSlyke. “The primary grievance may or may not involve some kind of ideology, or extremist view. We now know that active shooters displayed multiple concerning behaviors over the weeks leading up to the attack that were observable to others around the shooter. The most frequently occurring concerning behaviors were related to the active shooter’s mental health, problematic interpersonal interactions, and leakage of violent intent. But the biggest difference for us is in terms of prevention is when someone is becoming self-radicalised; those around them do notice but it’s usually family members and close friends who are hesitant to go to authorities.”

DesLauriers reinforced the importance of communication and joined up law enforcement and thought it was likely that errors in this area led to the failure to stop the recent bombings in Sri Lanka.

No grey areas for insurance

The panel also discussed the importance of the insurance industry evolving with the risk and leaving no grey areas of coverage for clients. “You don’t have to be the target to be the victim,” Richard Halstead explained. “With different events taking place in different parts of the world, the impact on businesses leads to significant disruption on people and revenue. The insurance market has to make sure we are leaving no grey areas on what’s covered for our clients.”

Dealing with the aftermath

As well as financial protection, insurers have a key role to play in helping clients mitigate the risk, manage the crisis and support clients through the post-event aftermath. “We have been experiencing with some of our clients what the aftermath of a crisis is like and what happens when stakeholders come back to them challenging what they had done from a prevention perspective to stop this type of event from happening. Most of our clients, at least historically, have not had that kind of security plan in place. This is something that is now critical and an important part of every business’s risk management platform,” said Wendy Peters.

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