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October 2017



The principle of a ‘consequences not causes’ approach, as outlined in the core guidance, means that many aspects of a response to a terrorist incident will be the same or very similar to that of a more ‘mainstream’ emergency. Nevertheless, some aspects of such an incident will require additional measures.

  • Further guidance on terrorism matters can also be found in the Home Office National Counter-Terrorism Contingency Planning Guidance. It should be noted that this document contains sensitive information and is the subject of security controls.
  • Further advice can also be gained from the appropriate Police Scotland representative or the Scottish Government Security and Counter Terrorism Unit.

The response to a terrorist incident will be similar to that for any other incident. For example, there will be a requirement potentially for public communications activity, casualty and fatality handling, care for people, and efforts to support wider consequence management. This will be against the potential backdrop of an ongoing manhunt and a police investigation. It will also require significant interface with the UK Government as elements of the response may be reserved. Some specific considerations exist:

Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Threat

An IED/bomb threat or similar type of incident may have a warning stage when police cordons will be established. The scale of these cordons will initially be pre- determined according to the type of device. However other factors may require cordons to be enlarged from these pre-determined limits. Specialist police or military advice will generally inform such decisions.

The stages associated with such a threat are usually:

  • confirmation of an IED incident (based on intelligence or the actual find of a suspect device)
  • cordon and evacuation
  • rendering the device safe
  • gathering of forensic evidence and investigation
  • recovery and re-occupation.

For known or suspected terrorist incidents, all personnel should be aware of the possibility of secondary devices. Police will be responsible for checking RVPs, marshalling areas and cordon points for suspicious objects.

Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA)

Owing to its complexity, an MTFA incident requires specific multi-agency procedures to be in place. In this type of incident the threat may be mobile, the weaponry used may require responders to be appropriately equipped, treatment of casualties may be challenging and the need to issue clear guidance to those in the vicinity will be an imperative. A planned multi-agency response has been developed in this area and further specialist tactical advice is available to responders from the appropriate Police Scotland department.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN)

A CBRN incident poses unique challenges in respect of the need to detect and identify the CBRN risk, equip responders to attend the scene safely and initiate appropriate decontamination procedures for the public and responders. The decision to decontaminate will be made after the appropriate scientific advice. If required, mass decontamination will involve members of the public being directed to the appropriate area for decontamination. This will also apply to all responding personnel who have entered the contaminated area. Guidance on this will be given by the emergency services, generally, through the tactical or operational commanders, and where appropriate in conjunction with STAC.

A non-malicious hazardous material (hazmat) incident will share a number of characteristics of a CBRN attack. Further specialist tactical advice is available to responders from the appropriate departments of all three ‘blue light’ agencies.

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