Vehicle Ramming Attacks

In the world of cyber security, a cyber-attack exploits users having weak passwords or protections in place, making it easy for threat actors to cause harm. Destructive attacks in the physical world work much in the same way, using simple tactics and a wide attack surface to intentionally cause harm. The threat of vehicle ramming attacks introduces a new dimension of challenges for security professionals, property managers, and business owners alike.

Vehicle ramming attacks occur when perpetrators purposely drive a vehicle into a crowd, building or other target to inflict widespread damage. Unlike cyber-attacks that exploit vulnerabilities in software or systems, vehicle ramming incidents exploit the vulnerability of physical spaces, making them all but impossible to predict and prevent.

The devastating consequences of such attacks underscore the importance of implementing effective physical security measures to mitigate the risks of vehicle ramming incidents – whether they are intentional or purely accidental with equally devastating outcomes.

Why Now?
The new security imperative presented by intentional vehicle ramming incidents has only come into focus in recent years. The Counter Extremism Project has documented that as of November 2023, there have been at least 74 vehicular terrorist attacks since 2006, collectively resulting in the deaths of at least 212 people and the injury of at least 1,194 others.

In the face of this evolving threat, it becomes critical for public and private entities alike to proactively implement anti-ram vehicle barriers that can effectively deter and prevent potential attacks while mitigating their associated risks.

Cities and municipalities, for example, have an obligation to ensure the well-being of their citizens and visitors with the primary concern being the potential for personal injury and loss of life. This responsibility extends to private businesses that have both a moral and legal obligation to their employees, customers, and stakeholders.

Failing to address the threat of vehicle ramming incidents fails to address a real physical/public safety issue and exposes organizations to substantial liabilities.

Beyond the direct safety and financial ramifications, property damage resulting from a vehicle ramming incident can trigger a chain reaction of operational disruptions and monetary damages. In retail settings, property damage may lead to extended downtime, diminishing sales and erosion of customer confidence.

The consequences for critical infrastructure sites like nuclear power plants, water supplies and other public works can be potentially more devastating. At these sites, physical property damage has the potential to transcend its regional impact and affect national safety, security, and public health.

Key Considerations
The implementation of anti-ram vehicle barriers necessitates a strategic approach that requires careful consideration of key factors to ensure the seamless integration of these protective measures within the broader security framework. This includes placing emphasis on the crash rating assigned to a vehicle barrier solution.

Crash-rated vehicle barriers undergo rigorous testing and are rated by standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). These standards require vehicle barriers to be physically tested to determine the impact of a specific vehicle’s weight traveling at various speeds. By assessing the crashworthiness of the vehicle barrier being tested, the ASTM rating provides a standardized scale of measurement to assess and communicate the efficacy of different vehicle barrier products.

Crash ratings also help determine the right vehicle barrier for the application at hand. Critical infrastructure, government buildings, and other high-security facilities, for example, require the highest level of protection possible. In these applications, anti-ram vehicle barriers carrying an ASTM rating of M50-P1 are ideal as they signify the barrier’s ability to stop a 15,000-pound truck traveling at 50 mph with the vehicle traveling less than 3ft into the protected zone after impact.

Anti-ram vehicle barriers can also be assessed based on their core capabilities. This concept is perhaps best exemplified when assessing mobile, crash-rated vehicle barriers. The ability to install mobile vehicle barriers quickly and easily makes them well suited for a variety of events such as parades, holiday markets, street festivals, and other occasions where pedestrians have temporary unrestricted access to roadways.

Mobile vehicle barriers are available in several forms with different crash ratings, allowing users to customize the level of protection required for specific events while maintaining a seamless balance between security and convenience.

Securing a New Frontier
When it comes to physical vehicle-ramming attacks, one thing is clear - the threat landscape is dynamic and evolving. Based on the range and severity of associated risks, it is evident that the rising frequency of vehicle ramming incidents represents a new frontier in the challenges faced by security professionals.

The good news is that innovations in physical security technology provide the necessary solutions to address this emerging threat. Just as complex passwords and encryption help to prevent cyber-based attacks, crash-rated anti-ram vehicle barriers deliver a field proven defense against a prolific threat to public and private safety and security.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2024 issue of Security Today.

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