The situation which unfolded on Bastille Day in Nice - which resulted in the deaths of 83 people - and three subsequently - has once again brought into sharp relief the clear and present danger that vehicles can pose to large crowds of people at major events, especially in our towns and cities. Earlier this month, for example, we saw a taxi driver arrested in New York for allegedly plotting to replicate what happened in France.
Placing what transpired in Nice into a wider context, although nothing on this scale had happened in Europe before, this is not the first time that we have witnessed vehicles being used in anger. Back in December 2014, for example, a van sped into a crowd at a Christmas market in Nantes, France, hurting 11 people, five seriously. Years earlier - June 2007 – we also had the spectacle of a Jeep Cherokee, carrying propane gas cylinders careering into the glass doors of the terminal building of Glasgow Airport in Scotland, with hundreds of passengers gathered inside. Thankfully the bollards outside the entrance prevented the vehicle from entering the terminal proper.
So given the emerging threat landscape what can be done to shore-up defences? More attention is likely to be given to the deployment of temporary blockers, barriers, bollards, and other hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) measures in areas temporarily closed off to traffic. This was certainly the view echoed by Robert Ball, the Engineering Director at UK vendor ATG Access, when asked by Security News Desk, post-Nice, about the situation with regards to Britain: "The UK is probably the most advanced country in the world in having developed a full palate of hostile vehicle mitigation solutions. Many fixed and semi-permanent devices are installed to protect the public realm, crowded places, and national infrastructure. As well as permanent solutions, there are a number of products that can be deployed on a temporary basis to provide a barrier against a hostile vehicle attack within a given zone," said Ball.
Offering a different perspective on the practicalities here, Paul Jeffrey, Managing Director at Avon Barrier – which is exhibiting at Intersec 2017 - believes that it is important to ‘think outside the box’ in terms of the lessons to draw from Nice: "If you take Nice as an example I don't think it is practical to start putting in permanent or temporary solutions to control the access of vehicles because there are so many routes on to that piece of road. Looking at the way it unfolded, what they should be doing is providing refuges at the edge of the road with bollards, for example, so if people want to get off the road someone simply can't drive a truck into that area.”
Certainly from talking to security experts, it is clear that today’s hostile vehicle mitigation strategies are about much more than just protecting assets like buildings. Crowded public spaces are high on the agenda and, crucially, were so even before Nice thanks to efforts made around events like London 2012, Euro 2016, and the Rio Olympics. Frontier Pitts – who will be displaying its solutions at Intersec 2017 - was one provider at the forefront of London 2012 where security barriers, blockers and gates, are concerned. With the World Athletics Championships coming to London next year, Frontier Pitts confirms that its PAS 68 Compact Terra Barrier has been specified as a Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) solution to meet the threat level requirement at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Interestingly the design of the landscape means that, on approach, a hostile vehicle cannot reach a speed higher than 30mph/48 kph.
On the other side of the Atlantic over the summer we witnessed specialised portable HVM solutions being deployed to help secure the high profile Republican (GOP) and Democratic conventions from driver error or worse. Although the announcement regarding the measures for the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia came post-Nice, according to Delta Scientific - the vendor involved - the actual order from the US Secret Service was placed well before what unfolded in France.
Asking Keith Bobrosky, Vice President, Sales - High Security Systems, at Delta Scientific Corporation, about his thoughts on Nice and the value of mobile barriers like those which appeared on the streets of Philadelphia he says: "It has been very unfortunate about Nice but maybe it will open some people's eyes to the vulnerabilities of these type of targets." Bobrosky, reckons that the practicalities of the latest portable vehicle barriers make them a relevant option in the context of the heightened terrorist threat moving forward: "What we call the model MP5000 is basically a trailered unit that is a wedge barrier. You can pull it around with a truck and then deploy it in a roadway in matter of minutes and it is hydraulically operable so hydraulic jacks lift it off the wheels."
In addition to portable solutions the advent of HVM solutions with shallower foundations, in the view of many vendors, makes them quicker and more practical to install in urban areas, where there are multiple services under the ground. Added to this, today's HVM measures can more readily blend into their environments for instance the way that blockers are being transformed into dual-purpose street furniture, such as seating and planters. Security providers are becoming more creative, a good example of this being the way that large letters spelling out 'Arsenal' are being used, outside the club's Emirates Stadium in London to provide added - yet subtle - protection for fans congregating in the adjacent open spaces.