Counter Terrorism Police are calling on places of worship to take part in an innovative new training scheme that is proving a hit with major shopping and entertainment venues.

The package – free to use and developed in partnership with retail giant Marks & Spencer – aims to equip workers in crowded places with knowledge to help prevent terror attacks. 

Fifteen hundred companies nationwide have already signed up.

Called ACT Awareness e-Learning, the training covers how to spot the signs of suspicious behaviour and what to do if a major incident should take place. Free to use, the package can be divided into short sections to suit business or service needs. However, it takes just three quarters of an hour to complete – 45 vital minutes that could save lives.

Last year 36 people were killed and many more were injured in five separate incidents in London and Manchester. One of the attacks involved a group of worshipers outside a mosque. One man lost his life and many others were injured.

Police are now asking leaders of all faith institutions – especially those who host large congregations – to encourage staff and volunteers to take part.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi, national lead for Protective Security, says: “There is no specific intelligence to say that places of worship are particularly at risk but sadly we have seen that attacks can take place anywhere at any time. All locations that attract large numbers of people should take steps to help protect their staff and visitors.”

Manchester suffered the largest loss of life in last year’s attacks, when 22 people died in an explosion at a pop concert. The city’s cathedral was one of the first organisations across the UK to sign up to the scheme.

The Dean of Manchester, the Very Reverend Rogers Govender, says: “The online training shows staff in simple terms what to look out for and what to do if the worst should happen.

“It’s basic and free advice that could save lives. I would encourage others across all faiths to ask their employees and volunteer workers to take part. We all need to play our part in helping to keep our communities safe.”

Organisations wanting more information, or to apply for registration, should visit the National Counter Terrorism Security Office website.