Although the police do all they can to investigate threats of terrorism and pre-empt attacks, they also need the public to be vigilant. If you suspect someone of terrorist activities:

  • remain calm
  • get somewhere safe
  • call the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789321

If you are caught up in a violent attack; stay safe:

  • RUN - leave your belongings and escape
  • if you can't run, HIDE - find cover, be aware of exits
  • TELL - call 999 with the
    location - where are the attackers
    direction - where did you last see them
    description - number of people, their features, clothing
  • STOP other people entering the building if it is safe to do so

Terrorist groups use violence and threats of violence to publicise their causes and as a means to achieve their goals. The UK faces a serious and sustained threat from terrorism, both international and relating to Northern Ireland. The Government uses terrorism threat levels to indicate to the public the likely chances, given the information they have, that there will be an imminent terrorist attack against the country. The threat levels are designed to keep people vigilant when there has not been an attack for a long period, and to raise awareness of the possible increased threat of terrorism should the level duly rise.

The threat levels

There are currently five different levels of threat:

  1. Critical
    This is the highest level of warning in regard to terrorist attacks and indicates that an attack is very likely to happen imminently. It will only be used in extreme cases when the public should consider whether their need to travel to highly populated places is necessary
  2. Severe
    This indicates an attack is highly likely. This level of terrorist threat indication has been fairly common in the UK ever since the attacks of 9/11 in the US and the subsequent bombings in London on 7th July 2005. Unfortunately the threat indication does not specify the likely target of an attack but merely urges that people report any suspicious activity immediately to the police
  3. Substantial
    An attack is a strong possibility. Again this level of threat has been fairly common since the attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001
  4. Moderate
    An attack is possible but not likely
  5. Low
    An attack is unlikely

The level of threat may vary from day to day and can therefore be adjusted accordingly. The threat level is set by MI5 and based on their intelligence about terrorist activity.

The UK government's updated counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST (2011), is an integrated approach based on 4 main workstreams, each with a clear objective to reduce the risk to the UK from international terrorism. The National Risk Assessment is focused on preparing for emergencies and mitigating the impact of terrorist attacks, but has links with all of these CONTEST workstreams:

  • pursue: stopping terrorist attacks
  • prevent: stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism
  • protect: strengthening our protection against a terrorist attack
  • prepare: where an attack cannot be stopped, mitigating its impact