May 21, 2019 Last Updated 8:31 AM, Apr 10, 2019

Planners seek to run rings round vehicle attackers

Published in Product Innovation
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Terror atrocities using vehicles are now rife across the world as the vehicle as a weapon (VAW) becomes sadly the latest deadly terrorist attack method of choice. The chilling trend serves to reinforce the time-honoured ‘onion skin’ approach to effective security, argues Steve Bailes, Business Development Manager at the Zaun Group.


Almost 150 people have died – and more than 750 injured – in 18 months of terrorist mayhem on the streets of cities on four continents. VAW atrocities have afflicted Barcelona to Westminster; Jerusalem to Manhattan and Melbourne.

After the Stockholm attack, former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, tweeted: “Steal a lorry or a car and then drive it into a crowd. That seems to be the latest terrorist method.”

Indeed, both so-called Islamic State and Al Qaeda have called on their followers to use trucks as weapons. An Al Qaeda magazine published an article in 2010 entitled ‘The Ultimate Mowing Machine’. The article called for using a pickup as a “mowing machine, not to mow grass; but mow down the enemies of Allah”.

London, the location of three of the attacks highlighted, had already adapted its cityscape with hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) measures in the wake of 9/11 and 7/7.

‘Rings of steel’ appeared in financial districts of the city and at the heart of Government with bollards, checkpoints at strategic locations and CCTV surveillance.

Zaun has been involved in this on UK shores and beyond – at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, and the NATO Conference at Newport and Cardiff.

Our fencing is included in the National Barrier Asset managed by Sussex Police on behalf of all UK police forces under the auspices of The Home Office to provide rapidly-deployable security measures to prevent hostile vehicle and mob attacks at major political and state events.

Now the fear of vehicle attacks has prompted a visible ‘hardening’ of HVM measures in places where ‘ordinary’ people gather all over the world. Street humps, ad-hoc concrete blocks and metal barriers have sprung up from Birmingham to Brisbane and York to New York as Government, security services and retail and venue operators react to the VAW threat.

Many cities are looking at bollard-style street furniture and more discrete HVM seating and planters as planners try to avoid creating an ‘architecture of paranoia’, as the Resilient Cities Lab at the University of Warwick dubbed it recently.

Even the UK car and van rental industry is seeking to reduce the risk, with drivers potentially facing harsh airline-style identity checks before being allowed to hire a vehicle. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association has published a report in association with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation setting out how the Government and the rental sector can work together to deal with the threat of vehicle terrorism. But all of the lessons on how these sorts of attacks might be mitigated in the future point to reinforcing the time-honoured ‘onion skin’ approach to effective security.

Successive ‘rings of security’ – including physical protection, such as fences, HVM products, CCTV and electronic sensors – should seek to deter, detect, deny, delay and defend perimeters of vulnerable or strategically important sites.

It also requires a holistic approach incorporating intelligence, policing and other security forces. They should all work together to protect correct access to a site’s assets, giving security forces the time and intelligence to respond effectively, as has been the case at sites of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) for many years.

The challenge is at a ‘second tier’ level in busy public spaces and venues, now that the terrorist groups have resolved that the general public are ‘legitimate targets’. Critically, today, therefore, effective security also demands public vigilance and information. Increasingly, robust barriers are being created to comply with the latest international IWA 14 crash-rated standards. Equally critical is that experienced installers of high-security products are used – this is as important as the product in ensuring that they provide the protection they have been tested to. The Perimeter Security Suppliers Association (PSSA) has just launched a new online source of help and information on HVM – the HVMHub – in conjunction with the Home Office’s Joint Security and Resilience Centre. Chairman, Simon Towers, said the PSSA has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of calls from people trying to assess their VAW risk and seeking help in addressing any problems.

The PSSA advises considering whether the HVM measure covers a temporary or permanent need – suggesting surface-mounted as opposed to foundation-based solutions respectively. It also advises considering unintentional knock-on effects, such as queueing traffic, impeded access and aesthetics. Rising bollards, for example, can be made to have a more sympathetic aesthetic quality when compared to road blockers, which give a more empathic message on access restriction. Understanding the message the equipment will send can lead to a more socially acceptable solution, says the PSSA.

So street furniture that doesn’t obviously appear to be an HVM product is desirable, breaking up ‘raceways’ and providing ‘safe areas’ to which the public can flee for sanctuary. After all, the 19-tonne truck used in the attack on crowds watching fireworks at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice travelled for more than a mile along the Promenade des Anglais at speeds of up to 60mph.

Developments in electronics are being made, with higher resolution video recording, facial recognition, sensors and radars, all integrated into real-time and able to assist the police on the ground for rapid response.

And venue operators such as Old Trafford and Wembley are increasingly staging counter-terrorism awareness and preparatory events, following the Stade de France, Bataclan and Manchester Arena attacks.


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