The Evolving Threat of Vehicle Attacks

Debbie Heald, MBE – Managing Director of hostile vehicle mitigation specialist Heald Ltd.

During 2017, news of vehicle attacks rarely left the news headlines. Throughout the year, cities across the world including London, Nice, Barcelona, Melbourne and New York have seen vehicles used for terrorist attacks.

It’s not just terrorism though, vehicles being used by crime gangs to enable them to commit theft has seen a dramatic increase, which has been evidenced with multiple ram-raids at a luxury retailer, Louis Vuitton in the Yorkshire city of Leeds and the theft of cash points from various locations throughout the UK.

Already in 2018, we have seen many vehicle-related incidents which have resulted in theft, injuries and death. These have included the deaths of four teenagers in two separate incidents at bus stops in England where a vehicle has mounted the pavement, and the use of a Land Rover to smash its way into an Aldi store to steal its cash machine.

Whereas in Shanghai, a vehicle packed with gas canisters drove onto a pavement, into pedestrians and smashed its way into a Starbucks outlet after the driver ignited the canisters with a cigarette, and while thought to be accidental has resulted in at least 18 injuries.

Why is more not being done to protect from vehicle attacks?

Historically, securing a perimeter has been a significant undertaking. Sites have required extensive excavation and in some cases, require power supplying to them to operate, resulting in substantial expense and time to complete the project.

For short-term events such as music festivals and Christmas markets effectively securing a perimeter can be perceived as being out of reach but as vehicle-borne threats continue to increase it is important that this is factored into planning at an early stage.

There might also be the concern that protecting the perimeter may be unsightly and not fit in with historic, listed or even modern surroundings. Alongside this, property owners, town planners and even the community to do not want to feel as though they are surrounded by a ring of steel which could affect their flow in and out of the perimeter.

Innovating Security

To counteract these restrictions, manufacturers are coming up with a range of innovations which minimise or even eradicate the need to excavate a site. Added to this there are now many hostile vehicle mitigation products requiring just a matter of hours to be installed, often the perfect choice for short-term or one-off events.

This certainly does not mean that these products are any less effective at protecting the perimeter with many now on the market having been crash tested to withstand significant speeds.

Addressing Access

Ensuring access to service and emergency response vehicles is one of the main factors to be considered when planning the best way to secure a perimeter. Historically, bollards which retract have required significant excavation and power input to operate.

With advances in surface mounted and sliding bollard technology which requires little or no excavation, these concerns are a thing of the past and certainly make such levels of perimeter security well within reach.

Added to which, for those sites with little or no power supply, advanced technology means that minimal power input or even battery operation will enable the perimeter protection technology to work to its full potential increasing the options available to secure a perimeter.

Securing the future

With a recent YouGov survey identifying that 41% of parents in the UK with children aged 5-18 saying their children are anxious about possible terrorist attacks, it is vital that we effectively secure our leisure, retail and work destination to ensure we continue to enjoy our way of life.

With a rise in injuries and deaths from vehicle/pedestrian-related accidents and the continued use of vehicles for terrorism or organised crime, it is crucial to understand that while these threats will never be eradicated, we can minimise the impact such incidents have.


Originally posted in Risk UK.

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