News & views

Media  •  04/07/2024  •  5-min read

The next disaster won’t wait for Martyn’s Law to be passed. Neither should we.

In this article, first published in Green Street News, MAPP’s Head of Facilities Management, Mike Lewis, outlines the importance of implementing comprehensive disaster response plans ahead of Martyn’s Law legislation.

Passing any piece of legislation, let alone one as complex as Martyn’s Law, is often a years-long process, and, as folk wisdom says, a week is a long time in politics. On 21st May, the passage of Martyn’s Law seemed just weeks away, but now, the impending election has thrown its progress into uncertainty.

While both the Conservatives and Labour have pledged to prioritise the legislation, the winds of politics shift constantly. The onus should be on our industry to forge ahead and implement a comprehensive rethink of emergency preparedness rather than react to the next disaster.

History sadly reminds us of the importance of these preparations. Last month marked the seventh anniversary of the London Bridge terror attacks, where eight people were killed just days after the Manchester Arena bombing, which resulted in 22 fatalities, including Martyn Hett, the legislation’s namesake. In contrast to the Manchester tragedy, where a cascading series of emergency-response failures led to many avoidable deaths, the quick response of well-trained staff at surrounding venues at London Bridge saved dozens of lives. 

Now is the time to take action

While we can’t prevent terror attacks and other disasters, we can do everything in our power to prepare, respond and mitigate as much harm as we can. With many in the industry already taking the initiative to implement 21st-century emergency response plans throughout their properties, now is the time for a universal push across the property sector to get ahead of the legislation and take action.

Until the final passage of Martyn’s Law, we cannot be certain of its exact stipulations, and, whatever the final law, we should go above and beyond to keep staff, occupiers and visitors safe. We do know that the law will require those responsible for most publicly accessible locations to consider the threat from terrorism and implement proportionate mitigation measures

The Government has indicated that venues with a capacity over 100 people will need to undertake simple activities to improve protective security and preparedness. These will include completing free training, raising awareness and cascading information to staff, as well as completing a preparedness plan

The first step for landlords and owners is identifying and reviewing all properties in their portfolio included in the scope of the bill and which are deemed at the higher end of the security risk, particularly large ‘enhanced tier’ venues.

‘Enhanced tier’ venues with a capacity of over 800 will also be required to produce a risk assessment and security plan, considered to a ‘reasonably practicable’ standard. Full assessments for larger venues include security audits and terrorism risk assessments, which will uncover threats and vulnerabilities.

These audits are more involved processes, so it’s important to be clear about their value with landlords who may be concerned about cost. Completing them will place venues in a much stronger position to respond to adverse incidents, and we can encourage owners of larger venues to get ahead of this process by reviewing their existing emergency response plans, updating their crisis communication chains and designating secure zones within venues.

For properties of any size, wholesale buy-in from all parties involved is key, and it is the case that effective emergency preparedness interventions are often not as expensive as many think. Building close relationships with authorities and engaging them for mock incident exercises can help identify lapses in existing plans. For occupiers and visitors, making safety information more accessible (both on-site and online) and clearly signposting exit routes cost very little, but can have a crucial impact in a crisis, where every second matters.

Ultimately, the goal is creating a culture of safety in people’s day-to-day experience, stressing vigilance and processes, not paranoia and panic. All plans should be designed with people at their heart, proactively engaging occupiers, staff and visitors so everyone feels safe, informed and prepared.

As the saying goes, the only certainty is uncertainty, so there is no need to wait for Martyn’s Law to pass. Campaigners like Figen Murray, Martyn Hett’s mother, are keeping up the pressure on legislators – the industry should honour their dedication and get on with the job.

Written by

Mike Lewis MAPP team member

Mike Lewis

Senior Executive Director - Head of Facilities Management (Birmingham)