AUSTRALIA ON ALERT: Government Orders Review Of Airport Security And 'Active Shooter' Response Plans

A security guard on station at a plane at Sydney airport. Photo: Patrick Riviere/Getty.

The effects of Australia’s heightened terror alert level are starting to flow through to facilities around the country, with the government ordering security policy reviews at transport hubs, including “active shooter” response plans to attacks by gunmen in public places.

The Office of Transport Security, part of the Department of Infrastructure, has called on major airports to review their procedures and raise awareness among the travelling public of the new security requirements.

A spokesperson for the Department said screening was already at a very high level at the airport and any big changes, to begin with, would be around security education and messaging to the public.

But in an emailed statement, the department also told Business Insider airports and other “industry participants” had been asked to:

  • Take steps to reinvigorate security awareness around their facilities;
  • Increase vigilance around unattended and suspicious items;
  • Review active shooter plans and emergency management programmes;
  • Increase security signage and communications in the airport;
  • Review security measures around unrestricted public areas of the airport; and
  • Increase the frequency of face-to-photo identification checks for staff working in secure areas.

The department spokesman said aviation industry already had robust security measures in place and the government wasn’t asking airports to implement additional security measures, but it has asked them to “review their current security measures to ensure they remain relevant for both generic and specific threat and alert level”.

The Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, which includes representatives from Australia’s federal and state governments as well as representatives from New Zealand, last year issued updated guidelines (here, PDF)for dealing with active shooter incidents.

The Australian Federal Police was also increasing patrols at major airports, the spokesman said.

When announcing the decision to lift the terror alert level from “medium” to “high” last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned the change would mean increased security at airports.

The increase in the alert level – for the first time in history – means authorities there is an increased likelihood of a terrorist attack occurring. It’s one step away from the highest alert level in which an attack is believed to be “imminent”.

It is understood a range of other public facilities including shopping centres, transport interchanges and sporting grounds have been asked to update their contact details and review their public communications plans.

Sydney Airport is reviewing how it communicates security procedures to the public. Part of that will be campaigns around “if you see something, say something” as well as increased signage, announcements and a more visible security presence.

Management at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium told Business Insider it has been “well briefed by authorities and will continue to work closely with NSW Police leading in to all events”.

Westfield Australia’s parent company Scentre Group sent a memo to retailers and tenants at its Knox centre in Victoria on September 12 explaining changes to its security process including posting security guards at its loading docs to closely monitor movements and that all contractors requiring access will need to be booked in through security.

In Brisbane, which will host the G20 summit in November, bins at train stations have been welded shut on some platforms. Queensland Rail said transparent rubbish bins would be installed in some locations as well as extra signage, security personnel and announcements.

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