40 minute warning - academic blows the lid on terrorist tedium

1st October 2003

40 minute warning -
academic blows the lid on terrorist tedium

THE UK GOVERNMENT is shelling out over �2 million for its security operation to protect Tony Blair and the Cabinet at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth this week due, no doubt in part, by the planned appearance of Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Post-September 11, it seems, the world is on constant and heightened alert. Since America's worst terrorist attacks the UK's security services are reported to have thwarted an undisclosed number of planned strikes against the capital and the anti-terrorist branch has seen its workload spiral.

Yet, according to a Birmingham academic, much of the vigilance and expenditure spent on security work may be misplaced if any one of the security staff simply gets bored.

'Failure to select, properly train and support every member of the team has the potential to cost lives,' said Aston Business School's Patrick Tissington. 'This includes the person responsible for checking through the contents of bags, be they at airports or government conferences,' he continued.

Dr Tissington believes employees carrying out routine jobs have crucial roles to play in preventing terrorist outrages. 'Team success is very much dependent on the way people commit to one another,' said the former Royal Artillery bombardier. 'In a conflict situation, people do not really fight for their country, they fight for their friends, the people the have built a relationship with.'

Dr Tissington, an occupational psychologist, appreciates life cannot be risk-free but can be made less risky by recruiting and properly supporting those with what might be described as routine jobs. 'If security staff do not feel that they are supported as an integral member of the team then this may affect their vigilance levels,' he said. 'Those who do feel they are part of the team are more likely to do a more effective job.'

'People are not machines,' said Dr Tissington, 'they tend to be able to maintain high concentrate levels for around 40 minutes before switching off.' It would only take one switched off baggage checker at a high profile conference to equal potentially tragic consequences.

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For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Note for editors:

Patrick Tissington is available for interview. Please contact Lucas North in the first instance. Background information including his research interests, CV and a list of his publications can be found on his website: www.wandop.abs.aston.ac.uk/

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