Security experts have been talking for a long time about the risk of terrorists harming us by driving trucks into crowds, but now that that former threat is a reality, what’s being down about it? And what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially if you’re planning to travel? We’ve got you covered. Here with what you need to know is Shari O.
We don’t need to recap how often this seems to be happening now. We’ve seen trucks being used as weapons in France, England and even in New York City. But this does seem like an even faster growing problem than terrorist using guns or even bombs. Why is that?
- Relatively New
- ISIS Leader Call
- Commercial Vehicles
- Crowded Public Locations
- Regulation-Law Resistant
In the past few years, hundreds of people (over 200) have been killed and hundreds more (over 700) wounded in dozens of ramming attacks around the world. This is something never seen before. The jump in the frequency of vehicular attacks on civilians appears to coincide with an ISIS leader's call in September 2014 to use whatever weapons or tools, including vehicles, available to kill "infidels.” Commercial vehicles — distinguished by their large size, weight and carrying capacity — present an especially attractive mechanism for vehicle ramming attacks because of the ease with which they can penetrate security barriers and the large-scale damage they can inflict on people and infrastructure. They’re big, powerful, mobile, and offer concealment. They’re easy to obtain and they’re everywhere. Nobody looks twice at a truck. Particularly vulnerable locations include those where large numbers of people congregate, including parades and other celebratory gatherings, sporting events, entertainment venues, or shopping centers. Because of this, the problem isn't one that can be solved by more regulations, background checks, law enforcement initiatives or even stricter immigration laws.
What’s being done about this?
WHAT’S BEING DONE?
- Trucking Industry-Rental Industry
- Transportation Safety Administration
- Local-National Law Enforcement
For starters, the trucking industry itself has responded with warnings and guidelines to its members. Remember, this is about their vehicles being used, but it has also put truckers themselves at risk as, in at least one known incident, a terrorist hijacked the truck and murdered the driver. The industry has urged vehicle owners to report theft or other suspicious activities promptly, including unusual and unexplained modifications… such as attempts to reinforce the front of the vehicle with metal plates. Owners operators and rental agencies are being counseled on how to protect their vehicles from theft. The industry has issued the "Vehicle ramming attacks: Threat landscape, indicators and countermeasures." And is working with law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security. Truck Renting and Leasing Association released guidelines to help fleets prepare for, and counter any attempts to hijack commercial vehicles and use them against so-called soft targets. After the attacks in Europe, the FBI, New York Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies began regular visits to rental car locations, particularly during the holidays. The Transportation Safety Administration has also issued warnings regarding the use of trucks as a terror weapon trucks. And of course local Law Enforcement is working with Federal agencies, including the FBI and Homeland Security to help protect us. Overall, increased surveillance to help car rental companies identify out-of-the-ordinary rentals, much like airlines use similar methods to identify passengers meriting greater scrutiny. This could prompt cross checking with existing databases. But it will not prevent terrorists from borrowing or stealing vehicles, or using their own. And it is sure to raise privacy concerns. You’re not going to see much of that on the surface. What you will see especially if you travel is an increase in:
WHAT’S BEING DONE? (continued)
- Armed Police – Check Points
- Pedestrian Barriers - Traffic Obstructions
- Slowing Down Traffic – Restricting Access – Pedestrian Only
- Event Barriers – Specific Location Barriers – Widening
Armed police: to increase surveillance and respond more quickly to an event. However, the time between a moving car or truck suddenly veering into pedestrians and a street filled with casualties is a matter of seconds – rapid response is still good, but cannot prevent carnage. And putting more police on road surveillance reduces the number available for other important duties. And hiring more police is an expensive proposition. Pedestrian barriers: The barriers between sidewalks and the street that now prevent jaywalking or street crossings at dangerous intersections are be strengthened and expanded. This complicates street parking, but parked cars are themselves a barrier. Traffic obstructions: Bollards, or posts, are being installed to prevent any vehicle that jumps the curb from traveling more than 20 or 30 feet on a sidewalk. But this is a massive undertaking that simply can’t be instituted along the curb of every busy street. And vehicles can still hit pedestrians by running red lights at crowded intersections. Slow down traffic: Speed bumps are being installed, slowing down and increasing traffic, and potentially impeding a terrorist driving a vehicle. But this is a big inconvenience for law-abiding drivers who travel along these roads every day. Slowing down traffic will lead to increased congestion and increased travel times. Barriers at events: Trucks are now routinely parked to block areas for festivals, events parades and such (example NYC marathon). Police are setting up checkpoints and conducting random vehicle stops. For instance, vehicle access is denied to the thousands gathered in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And during the NYC Marathon even pedestrians were required to have bags checked before entering the fenced in observation area. Protecting government and other special locations or buildings: The threat of terrorist truck bombs has already resulted in road closures and the installation of barriers around government buildings, historic and tourist locations. These measures are being expanded. Widening the security circle: Were also seeing wider barriers in places that have been protected for a while. Pedestrian walkways: More busy shopping streets and restaurant rows may wind up being turned into pedestrian-only areas where no vehicles are allowed. Technological solutions: Various electronic means of remotely shutting down vehicles exist and could possibly be employed to prevent vehicular attacks. Looking ahead, autonomous vehicles could be programmed to preclude their use as weapons. But self-driving cars could be prone to hacking. Even these solutions will raise issues including with privacy, civil liberties, parking, traffic, and or course costs. One interesting consequence has been the design of barriers which we already see being thoughtfully integrated into their environment. They are often disguised as flower pots, decorative walls or even sculptures. Bollards that slide into the ground, hidden from view until needed, are also common. The aim is to provide security without making a city feel like a fortress. This will no doubt impact new building and public are design. In the very near future, a connected fleet manager is going to know the instant something suspicious happens to one of a fleet's trucks. Alerts will be generated if the vehicle begins driving erratically or leaves a designated geofenced area of approved operation. Depending on the degree of telematic capability, the fleet will be able to instantly contact a driver to see what's going on. And, if there is no response, even remotely check on the driver's health. Worst case, the fleet can pivot to emergency protocols and take control of the truck away from whomever is in the driver's seat. Locking the cab doors or even keeping a seat belt from opening, commanding the vehicle to pull over to the side of the road, drive to a police station, or, if a bomb is suspected, getting the truck to a remote, or isolated area to mitigate any blast damage or casualties. We may even see smart trucks that simply cannot be used as weapons; they will simply "know" not to plow into crowds of Christmas shoppers, no matter how frantically the terrorist behind the steering wheel tromps on the accelerator pedal. But for the time being we also need to know how to protect ourselves.
(Spanish police advised cities to introduce tougher controls along key roads. Following that recommendation, Madrid also banned trucks from entering its city center ahead of certain events. In Barcelona, the city increased its police presence, but officials decided that bollards would hinder access for cleaning and emergency services and disrupt traffic. Munich added security measures for Oktoberfest, requiring that all delivery trucks entering the festival grounds register in advance and leave the premises by 9 a.m., at which point visitors will be allowed to enter. In Paris, the city has expended the Eiffel Tower’s security perimeter to include two small public gardens on its eastern and western sides, and build walls on the northern and southern edges. At the Cannes Film Festival, metal barriers and large concrete flower pots were placed along the beachside road. In Avignon, where a popular theater festival takes place annually, high-end Israeli Mobilar vehicle barriers were put in place.)
What can we do to help protect ourselves and our loved ones?
WHAT YOU CAN DO
All of these measures are referred to as ‘mitigation.’ That’s because ‘prevention,’ is simply not possible. Cities are filled with pedestrians and vehicles, in some cases separated by mere inches. And, as we said, many measures to reduce vehicular terrorist attacks would be too disruptive and costly, and could easily be circumvented. But there are some things you can do to protect help yourself. First, before you go to a place or event that’s likely to be a higher than normal risk, you may want to consider the time you’re going and go when it's likely to be least crowded and a lesser target, when security is likely to be there. Don’t carry more than what you need with you. Have a discussion with your group of friends and family to develop contingency plans for communications and pre-determine reunification spots by envisioning the direction you think most people will run to flee an attack, then establish your primary and secondary reunification points slightly outside of those high-volume routes. A small, powerful flashlight can be seen in broad daylight. These lights, especially those with a strobe feature, are excellent tools for visually communicating your location if you are unable to do so by other means. Make sure everyone has critical contact numbers in writing and tucked away in a pocket or even written on their hand or arm. When you get there, be aware of roads where a driver could build up speed or access crowds, where barriers are located, know where first aid tents or security are stationed, and where you could exit if needed. Select your location based on safety, not simply on having a great view. Avoid the center or densest parts of the crowd; try to stay on the fringe to allow yourself options for movement. Stay near street corners rather than the middle of the block; this will allow for more avenues of retreat. Avoid standing on, under, or around temporary structures like stages or viewing platforms than can fall on you. Stay behind heavy security barriers or bollards. Last, no matter how quickly professional emergency responders arrive, bystanders will always be first on the scene. The uninjured can initiate critical bleeding control and save lives by acting quickly and decisively. Check out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Stop the Bleed” campaign to learn more about this topic.