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Why effective crisis communication is critical for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary

Why effective crisis communication is critical for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary

Case StudiesEnterprise SecurityGovernmentMobileTop StoriesUnited Kingdom

Reliable communication is essential for an organisation like the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. We hear from the company’s Resilience Officer, Joseph Shearer-Rust, who tells us why it chose to work with Blackberry to improve its communication abilities and some of the key benefits of the solution.

Sites that house nuclear materials must be treated with the greatest care and secured with the utmost scrutiny. While security for military nuclear sites is managed primarily by the Ministry of Defence, protecting the majority of nuclear facilities in the UK falls to the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC). As a public safety agency, its officers are sometimes leveraged for additional police operations throughout the country.

“Our job is to provide physical security for the storage, transportation and usage of nuclear material,” said Joseph Shearer-Rust, Resilience Officer at CNC. “To that end, we deploy many highly trained firearms officers across nuclear sites throughout the UK. We also support local police forces from minor incidents up to national emergencies.”

Serve. Protect. Secure.

In recent years, the UK has had repeated issues with terrorist threats. In light of this, the government has instituted a number of different operational responses and processes to both mitigate damage and minimise loss of life during these incidents, known as Marauding Terrorist Attacks. The largest of these, Operation Temperer, leverages agencies across the entire country.

To date, it has only been put into effect twice. First following the March 2017 bombing of Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena, and a second time following the September 2017 Parsons Green Bombing. The CNC was among the responding agencies in both cases, dedicating a large portion of its personnel to each operation.

Outside of larger-scale operations like Operation Temperer, the CNC also responds to smaller threats and events. The challenge, notes Shearer-Rust, is balancing these responses with its primary duty. It cannot afford to neglect the sites it has been assigned to guard and is required by regulators to keep a certain number of active officers at each site.

Navigating the challenges of staffing shortfalls

To coordinate its staffing efforts, the CNC initially made use of phone trees and pagers. Several officers at each site had a list of individuals they were required to contact in the event of a staff shortfall. This process was time-consuming and eventually grew obsolete.

The CNC needed a more efficient, effective solution – a means of quickly enabling two-way communication with a large number of people. With this in mind, it began evaluating crisis communication platforms.

Eventually, the CNC’s search led it to BlackBerry’s AtHoc Alert solution. A powerful two-way emergency alerting solution, AtHoc Alert is able to send messages through a wide range of different channels including text, email, phone, desktop and radio. It also allows recipients to reply with a variety of preconfigured responses.

A better brand of emergency alerting

“We did a very detailed product assessment around lifetime cost, user friendliness and functionality, comparing BlackBerry AtHoc against its leading competitors,” Shearer-Rust said. “BlackBerry AtHoc ultimately won. We also found BlackBerry quite helpful in building out our ideas and our usage of its platform.”

As part of BlackBerry AtHoc’s initial deployment process, Shearer-Rust configured a template for each unit in the CNC and gave small groups of users at each site limited access to the platform. This allowed each unit to manage its own response to incidents and shortfalls, while still providing head office oversight into their usage. In addition to unit-specific templates, the CNC has also integrated BlackBerry AtHoc into its overtime management.

Keeping in touch, no matter what

Since deploying BlackBerry AtHoc, the CNC has reduced its average response time for major incidents from several hours to approximately 15 minutes – and further reduced response time for smaller scale urgent mobilisations. When additional staff are required, a unit no longer needs to send personnel to the office to man the phones. Instead, it’s as simple as pressing a button, sending tailored alerts and waiting for a response.

BlackBerry AtHoc also makes it quicker and easier to bring in people for overtime, saving an estimated £50,000-£60,000 a year, according to Shearer-Rust. The CNC has also used BlackBerry AtHoc to rid itself of pagers, saving an additional £30,000. A planned expansion will see this increase to an estimated £60,000.

Eventually, the CNC also intends to look into AtHoc Connect for inter-agency communication and AtHoc Collect for better communication with field personnel. For now, however, it is more than satisfied with AtHoc Alert, which it uses on a daily basis. According to Shearer-Rust, the organisation has sent two and a half thousand alerts over the past two years.

“Historically, when an event would happen, we’d often pre-emptively prepare to deploy ‘just in case’ even if it wasn’t guaranteed that our help would be needed,” said Shearer-Rust. “Because of BlackBerry AtHoc, we can deploy with much shorter notice. This means our officers are able to return to work that much faster and we don’t need to worry about setting aside resources until it’s strictly necessary.”

Joseph Shearer-Rust, Resilience Officer at CNC, revealed some further insight into the BlackBerry AtHoc, along with its benefits.

Please provide an overview of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and how it operates?

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary is responsible for protecting civil nuclear facilities and nuclear material used for civilian purposes when it is in transit. We work with a range of partners, including; local emergency response teams, regulators, industry and government. Counter-terrorism is a major part of our role. Outside of our core role we also provide support to national armed policing operations and local police forces when requested.

We employ around 1,500 armed police officers and support staff across the UK.

How do you ensure the organisation can function with a robust cybersecurity posture?

We employ cybersecurity experts, as well as working with leading industry experts and government agencies to ensure that our systems are secure. We also have a rigorous testing programme. 

How essential is a reliable communicative platform for an organisation such as yours and how did the solution help to improve this?

Being able to communicate with all of our officers and staff to understand who is available is important. Adopting AtHoc allowed us to reduce this information gathering stage from several hours down to a matter of minutes.

Why did you choose to work with BlackBerry?

We did a very detailed product assessment around lifetime cost, user friendliness and functionality, comparing BlackBerry AtHoc against its leading competitors. BlackBerry AtHoc ultimately won. We have unique challenges as a customer, particularly regarding security, and we found BlackBerry was willing to make a genuine commitment to investing in its product to make it fit our needs. 

Having established a relationship with BlackBerry, we have found it to be helpful in developing its product to better suit our needs. 

What were the key benefits of using the solution?

On a day-to-day basis, it allows us to manage overtime more efficiently and is extremely easy for everyone to use. We are frequently finding new uses for it outside of the scope of the original project. 

How have these provided advantages to the end-user?

At a basic level, text messages and app alerts are much less intrusive and disruptive than a phone call. Managers can now send out a quick alert and then get on with their day. 

How far has the solution future-proofed operations for the CNC?

Engaging with this product allows us to shape the future of technology-abled resilience. We continue to find innovate ways to improve our operation using the platform. The way in which BlackBerry operates as a partner in developing solutions is encouraging.

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