Horrific attacks in Manchester and London this summer shocked the nation. With BrewDog announcing terror training for all its pub staff, we ask how can you prepare for such a nightmare scenario?
It is the worst possible thing you can imagine happening on a night out.
Thankfully a terrorist attack or a major incident of any kind is not something that many people or publicans will ever have to deal with.
But for the unlucky few it became a reality this summer. Terrorists struck in Manchester and London within days of each other.
A single bomber killed himself and 22 victims — primarily women and children — at the Manchester Arena on May 22.
Then, under two weeks later on June 3, three attackers went on the rampage in London's Borough area. The terrorists ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge before dumping their van outside the Barrowboy & Banker pub.
From there they indiscriminately attacked people simply enjoying a night out at the area's pubs and restaurants. They claimed the lives of eight and injured many more before being gunned down by police.
In a show of incredible defiance, the same pubs that had faced unimaginable scenes were open again and serving drinks to the public within days.
Speaking shortly after the attack, Patrick Dardis, chief executive of London pubco Young's, praised the way his staff at pubs in the area responded.
He said: "I am immensely proud of the team who were on duty at The Wheatsheaf and Bunch of Grapes for the way they dealt with what was an extremely frightening situation. I am in no doubt their swift and brave actions saved lives and I cannot thank them enough."
Many other pubs were affected, directly or indirectly. For pubs such as freehouse The Gladstone, the response was based on simple human instinct.
The pub had only been open for a few days under the ownership of trade newcomers Megha Khanna, Abhinav Saxena and Gaurav Khanna (below).
Megha explained how the pub provided sanctuary for terrified people fleeing the attacks, which had taken place less than a mile down the road.
She told Inapub: "When the London Bridge attacks happened, we had two priorities: make sure that we controlled any panic — we did things such as playing relaxing music — and ensuring that the pub remained open until our guests and staff had a found a way to get home, as all the roads were blocked."
Ultimately the pub remained open all night as place where people could take shelter.
"We also offered crisps, juice and water to everyone that came into the pub, as well as a phone charging facility so guests could call their families and friends to tell them that they were safe. We closed the pub once everyone managed to get home, around 6am," added Megha.
It was an instinctive and compassionate response, but what else can you do? It is a question many pub companies and individuals will have been contemplating for the last couple of months.
Confronting the threat
Scottish brewer and operator BrewDog recently announced that the 290 staff at its UK venues — primarily located in metropolitan areas — would be given major incident training to help them deal with the threat of a terror attack.
The training, run by specialist Abrras, covers CPR, how to follow the "chain of survival" for the best chance of saving someone who suffers a cardiac arrest, and what to do during a terrorist incident to keep safe.
David McDowall, managing director of BrewDog bars, said: "As a result of the training, our bar staff will be able to assess casualties, administer CPR, and provide emergency first aid.
"We will also train our crew in safety procedures during a terrorist incident to keep people safe. The new training will ensure our people feel prepared for anything that's thrown at them."
Fuller's, owner of the Barrowboy & Banker, also run what they call emergency preparedness training sessions for pub staff.
Georgina Wald, corporate communications manager at Fuller's, said: "You can never be totally prepared for such an atrocity, but we do what we can to give our teams the skills and advice they need.
"In the aftermath of any incident, we offer access to counselling for our teams.
"It's important to keep this door open for quite a while — often people think they are fine and dealing with things, but it can catch up with them later. Our people are our most precious resource, so we strive to protect, train and support them."
Up in Manchester, even though pubs were not directly affected, companies tried to ensure staff were prepared for any future incidents.
William Lees Jones, managing director at JW Lees, says: "After the Manchester attack we issued the British Beer & Pub Association guidance notes to all pubs so that people were properly briefed on what to do in a crisis as well as what to look out for day to day."
And those notes are a good starting point for any pub.
Freely available on the BBPA website www.beerandpub.com, they include tips on:
- How to respond to a telephone bomb threat
- What to do if you discover a suspicious item or event
- Evacuation plans and securing your premises
- Your business continuity plan.
Another area to consider is taking out insurance, which can now cover both terrorism and cyber attacks.
Jamie Jenkinson, managing director of industry specialist Sector Associates, says: "Being honest about risk is the best approach — if you are in a metropolitan area you should consider the risk from other areas — not just fire, flood or building damage. If an attack was to take place at or nearby could you sustain the loss of revenue for any period of time?"
The chances of being involved in such an incident are minimal. Between 2000 and 2015 90 people were killed in terrorist attacks in the UK, compared with 1,094 in the 15 years before that.
However, it is always worth being prepared for the worst-case scenario.