Yesterday at least 28 people were killed and dozens injured in the latest al-Shabab attack on the Dayah Hotel, Mogadishu whereby the use of an explosives packed vehicle was rammed into the main gate followed by a secondary vehicle bomb whilst emergency services were in the height of their response.
Unfortunately, the use of vehicles as a means of attack by terrorist groups is not a new occurrence. These methods of attack have been on the increase for some time. Other recent incidents include the horrific vehicle ramming of crowded spaces in Nice & Berlin, whereby the perpetrator has maneuvered vehicles at speed into dense crowds of people with the intent to cause maximum casualties. There have been several other vehicle bombings in various locations across the world, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. The question remains thus – what can be done to mitigate these risks and can we prevent vehicle attacks entirely?
Outlined below are the 4 key activities that should be carried out in order to prevent vehicle attacks on hotels, the wider built environment, and spaces in which large crowds congregate:
1. Founded in an Assessment of Risk
Identification of the threat of a vehicle borne attack can be difficult. The main types of vehicle borne threat typically fall into the following five categories:
- Parked vehicle detonation – whereby a parked vehicle adjacent to a building / public space packed with explosives is detonated.
- Hostile vehicle encroachment – a hostile vehicle may breach a partial barrier without the need to ‘ram’.
- Penetrative ‘ramming’ attack – commonly seen as the perpetrator intentionally strikes through a barrier / public space using either the vehicle as a means of attack or as a method of IED delivery.
- Trojan vehicle technique – deception of security as the seemingly legitimate vehicle is used for hostile intent.
- Vehicle entry by duress – legitimate vehicles are overcome by a perpetrator and legitimate entry is gained to a premises / crowded space by means of coercion.
A detailed assessment of the threat, the likelihood of attack and the consequences if an attack were to occur can identify vulnerabilities within the built environment and public space. This provides a risk foundation for the design process and enables organisations / property owners to align their protection objectives to include the treatment of mitigation of a hostile vehicle attack, by whatever means the threat has been identified.
2. Early Design Intervention
Ideally, the first method of reducing the likelihood of a vehicle attack is to intercept early in the design stages of both buildings and spaces. A detailed examination of spatial layout, building placement and design, road traffic management and vehicle exclusion zones can harden spaces without the need for costly retrospective design overlay.
There are several methods that can be implemented at an early stage of planning and design to significantly reduce the risk of a vehicle attack, including:
- Ensuring maximum stand-off distances from areas where vehicles will be parked
- Implementing no vehicle zones into a design in vulnerable areas
- Removing underground parking for high value buildings
- The placement of ‘natural’ vehicle mitigation measures
- The provision of building placement on gradient topography
- Designing roads / routes of entry in a secure manner
3. Appropriate Design Solutions
There are of course some attacks that cannot be designed out at the early stages of planning. In the real world, some vehicles will always require entry to buildings and public space to enable businesses to operate effectively. No design will mitigate against a vehicle attack by way of a Trojan vehicle or a driver under duress in these circumstances. Spaces also change over time. The initial design, once implemented, could be altered by a change in the threat profile or a change in the intended use of the space or the surrounding areas. Regular auditing can help to ensure your security efforts are in line with the current threat profile.
Implementing the correct hostile vehicle mitigation system that can work within the overall design to complement initial design features, is the key to a successful, integrated and holistic approach. An integrated and appropriate barrier system, supported by other technical, physical and operational security measures will provide the best form of defence from an attack. This includes ensuring the correct hostile vehicle mitigation ratings are implemented for your physical denial measures, supporting the design with personnel & vehicle checks, appropriate searching & screening procedures as well as correctly operated surveillance and access control technologies that are suitably designed from the beginning.
The design overlay for mitigating hostile vehicles must also be mindful of the ability to adapt to changing environments and the necessary requirement to maintain the vehicle management system effectively.
4. Operational Excellence – The Human Factor
Defensible space, hostile vehicle mitigation design and security technologies are only as good as the people operating them. The key to the holistic approach of the mitigation of hostile vehicle attacks are the people working on the front line of the property / public space. Empowering these individuals with knowledge of the systems, the importance of their role within the design and the provision of appropriate and continued training & personal development ensures that if the worst were to happen, your team of trained security officers and operators are able to react quickly and appropriately.
If you would like to read more about other threats and how those of us in the security sector attempt to mitigate the associated risks, download our recent whitepaper "Understanding the Risks" or contact Claire directly with your questions about how to prevent vehicle attacks.