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Marauding Terrorist Attacks

Marauding terrorist attacks are fast-moving, violent incidents where assailants move through a location aiming to find and kill or injure as many people as possible

Last Updated 21 January 2022


Marauding terrorist attacks (MTA) are fast-moving, violent incidents where assailants move through a location aiming to find and kill or injure as many people as possible. Most deaths occur within the first few minutes of the attack, before police are able to respond.

MTAs can take many forms and include a combination of the following:

  • A lone attacker, multiple attackers or multiple groups of attackers
  • Arrival at a location on foot, in a vehicle or an attack perpetrated by insiders
  • Entering without using force or forcing entry using an explosive device, a vehicle, coercion of someone with access or a combination thereof
  • Attackers armed with bladed weapons, firearms, pipe bombs, petrol bombs suicide vests or multiple weapons

Bladed weapon attacks progress less rapidly than those involving firearms since attackers must be within striking distance of their victims and expend more energy on each person.

It is more important than ever that your organisation is aware of the heightened risks and adequately prepared for any potential attack.

New and detailed guidance is now available providing information as to the range of measure that can be taken to minimise the impact of an attack and help save lives. These measures range from implementing simple changes to security processes and technical systems to introducing new and sophisticated security systems.


Marauding Terrorist Attacks: Making your organisation ready discusses how your organisation can recognise an attack, take immediate action and facilitate the police. It is most relevant to office buildings, including multiple tenancy buildings. However, the principles of the advice can be usefully applied to all types of locations including cinemas, hotels, hospitals, schools, shopping areas, shopping centres, stadiums, theatres, temporary event venues and transport hubs.

Basis of the guidance

The guidance has been written and based on:

  • Extensive analysis of previous MTAs in the UK and elsewhere around the world
  • Live simulations of marauding attacks involving hundreds of people to understand where responses can fail and test the effectiveness of training, procedures and security systems.
  • Reviews and discussions with businesses that have highlighted common issues.

Introducing the MTA Guidance

CPNI and NaCTSO have developed a series of guides to help your organisation assess the risk and implement a range of protective security mitigations. These guides are based on analysis and learning from MTAs that have taken place, live simulations of attacks and exercises and feedback undertaken with businesses.

The 10 guidance pieces are:

  • MTA: A Busy Reader’s Guide to Making Your Organisation Ready, which provides a high level summary of the key issues for senior managers.
  • MTA: Making your organisation ready, which is the principal guidance document setting out all of the protective security mitigations and considerations
  • MTA: Technical supplements, providing further information of specific topics that are important to effective defences.

This guidance also contains checklists contained in the documents, to help you establish next steps.

Marauding Terrorist Attack Standard (MTAS)

MTAS has been developed to reflect the range of forced entry threats faced by UK government, national infrastructure and crowded places. It provides a means for determining the delay (resistance time) of a physical barrier (product) against either: 

  • the use of bladed weapons to attack the physical barrier in order to achieve access through it; 
  • the use of firearms to attack the physical barrier followed immediately by a forced entry attempt using manually operated tools; or 
  • detonation of a small explosive device (improvised or plastic explosive) in contact with the physical barrier, or a person borne improvised explosive device (PBIED) in close proximity to the physical barrier, followed immediately by a forced entry attempt using manually operated tools. 

Guidance document Introduction to the Marauding Terrorist Attack Standard (MTAS) explains how the standard classifies the delay a product provides to such entry attempts by attributing one or more performance levels to a product.  The sophistication levels are BASIC, LOW, MODERATE, HIGH and EXPERT.

Products that achieved MTAS resistance classifications are listed in the following chapter’s within CPNI’s Catalogue of Security Equipment (CSE)

  • Doors, Tubestiles, Turnstiles (Note locking hardware on its own will not achieve MTAS.  Locking hardware has to be part of door etc)
  • Roller shutters
  • Walls and Enclosures
  • Window Protection

The CSE also contains a number of generic designs which are based on CPNI’s SME knowledge and research.

Short Film - Café Lockdown Drama

CPNI have also produced a short film which introduces the quick actions a member of staff within a retail outlet can take to lockdown their premise during a terrorist incident.  The principles of which can be applied across many types of locations and ultimately acting fast can save lives.


This film is part of a series of terrorist incident films. It focuses on lockdown of your premises, hiding and alerting others. Lockdown should only be implemented if that is the best course of action

[background chattering]

Shopping centers, retail parks, venues and other public areas can be a target for terrorists and other hostiles.

[background chattering and instrumental music)

If you work in places like these, it is important that you maintain good lines of communications with your neighbours, that you are vigilant and alert to the potential risk of any attack and that you know what you should do in the event of an attack.

[phone pings to alert user of message]

[music and background chattering stops]

Warn your neighbours.

Join a local network group. Her you can warn each other what is happening at your site.

Warn your staff and warn your customers.

[faint scream]

Assess the situation and establish if an attack is in fact happening. 

[people running past window]

Come away from the windows. 

What's happening. 

I don't know, get to the back. 


[screaming and shouting]

Get inside, go on, get inside

Alert and inform everyone in. your premises to hide.

What's going on out there?

There's been an attack. Get to the back and hide.

Lock all doors by any means possible.

Turn off the lights and keep people out of sight and instruct them to stay quiet.

Are you locking us in? 

He's outside. You've got to hide. Go on, get down and hide. Go on, get down and hide!

[taps numbers on her phone]

Tell the emergency services. Know the address and location of your premises.

Describe the attackers appearance and give numbers of attackers and victims if you have them.

Which service is required? 

There's been an attack at Hamilton Shopping Center.  

Can you confirm the address of the emergency? What's happening right now? 

[people running, screaming]

I don't know. I saw a man with a knife, people are running. 

We have had reports of an incident in the area. 

[mumbles] oh no

So there has been an attack? 

I'm going to need you to listen to me. You need to keep yourself and your customers safe. Run if you can, hide if you can't. 

He was right outside. 

Lock your door, turn your lights off, stay hidden. 

I've done that. We're hiding at the back. 

Police are on their way. Just keep as much distance between you and them as possible. You're doing well. Stay on the line. 

You must stay hidden until you are informed by the police that you no longer need to be.

[heavy breathing]

[attacker shakes handle of café doors]

What's happening now? Can you still see the attacker? 

He's at the door. 

He can't get in. 

Stay hidden, police are on their way. 

[door handles are shaken]

Ensure people remain hidden. Do given attackers an opportunity to spot you.

[attacker shakes door handle]

We need to run. 

[attacker shakes door handle]

Tell everyone to stay hidden. Run only if it's safe to do so. Police are on their way. Stay on the line. 

[attacker continue to shakes door handle]

[heavy breathing]

He's gone. 

Stay inside, stay hidden. Police are on their way. 

[background music]

It is imperative that you are prepared and ready to act in the event of an attack.

Warn you neighbours.

Assess the situation and establish if an attack is happening.

Alert and inform everyone to hide. 

Lock all doors and turn off all lights.

Tell the emergency services.

Ensure people remain hidden until the police inform you not to be. 

Acting fast will save lives. 

Subtitled version

Further advice

For further information please contact your CPNI adviser, your local police force Counter Terrorism Security Adviser or a CPNI recognised security professional.

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