The threat from a vehicle being used as a weapon in an act of terror has been growing in western countries in recent years, as the relative ease of access to vehicles in public spaces becomes a more obvious option for radicalised violent extremists, or for non-terror motivated violent individuals. This has been reinforced with the recent vehicle attacks in New York in October 2017 (BBC News), in London in June 2017 (The Telegraph UK), in Melbourne in January 2017 (ABC News), in Berlin in December 2016 and in Niece in 2016 (The Telegraph UK).

In 2017 the Australia and New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) released a set of ‘Hostile Vehicle Guidelines for Crowded Places.’ These Guidelines are available on the ANZCTC website (https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au), and set out the various obligations of stakeholders responsible for hosting mass gatherings in public spaces against ‘hostile vehicle’ attacks.  The Guidelines put a more significant onus on event organisers to work with police and other relevant authorities to implement appropriate ‘target hardening’ measures to mitigate or eliminate vehicles being able to travel at speed into crowds. 

The Guidelines encourage event organisers to utilise venues with existing natural or man-made barriers or to install additional infrastructure around mass gathering areas that are vulnerable.

Currently in Australia and other comparable countries, the use of large concrete barriers are being utilised as a highly visible, physical deterrent for not only temporary public events, but also as temporary/permanent infrastructure protecting public spaces.

Whilst such barriers act as a useful vehicle mitigation control, it was reported in a crash-test conducted by German vehicle manufacturer; Dekra in April this year, the barriers to be less than effective at preventing vehicles driving at speed (World News RT). The test conducted under controlled conditions involved a ten-tonne truck ramming concrete bollards at 50km/hr, resulting in bollard penetration with little effect on the speed of the truck.  

According to the study, this raises questions about the effectiveness of this form of vehicle mitigation as a standalone control, and that it may be required to be used in conjunction with other forms of target hardening mitigation methods.

As was also reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Scotland Yard in the UK are developing new strategies to combat vehicle attacks with a product called a ‘Talon’ – a large piece of netting with metal barbs, designed to puncture and grip to the vehicle tyres bringing it to an abrupt stop. More information about this product can be found at: http://news.met.police.uk/news/new-protective-equipment-used-at-central-london-event-259161.

The threat of terrorism appears to be with us for some time to come, and these additional considerations in a venue or event’s risk assessment will continue to grow in importance.