Physical Barriers To Guard Against Vehicle Attacks - Help Or Hindrance?

Author / Mark Breen
14 Feb ‘18
I'm a firm believer that the decisions we make around public safety when planning events need to be informed and risk-assessed. Barriers to stop vehicle attacks are an interesting case.

This article was originally published as an article over on my LinkedIn

It has been adapted & amended slightly for use here

The Context

During the New Years Eve 2017 celebrations all around the world many cities used physical barriers including garbage trucks, police patrol cars, concrete blocks, jersey barriers and more to guard against vehicle attacks and I found myself considering the potential issues around their deployment.

I published a blog post over on recently entitled The Curious Case Of The Policing Levels For New York & Sydney NYE Celebrations, which prompted some interesting conversations with Event Safety & Crowd Safety professionals around the world. Following on from those conversations as well as some with clients and others yesterday and today, I decided to put this quick article together.

The Issues

Here are some things I think need consideration with respect to the deployment of physical barriers such as these:

  • What should actually be used as a barrier? Should we use jersey barriers / concrete blocks as they are big and solid and not designed to move of their own accord?
  • Should we use vehicles such as garbage trucks? They're big and heavy. They can be filled with sand to make them even heavier.
  • Should we use vehicles such as patrol cars? What if they're needed elsewhere? Can they be redeployed during the event? If so, is the security and safety at the event then compromised?
  • If we use vehicles then where are the keys kept? Do we deploy someone with each vehicle whose sole responsibility is to move it if required? Does that place a further burden on our manpower?
  • If we use vehicles then do we have management processes around how much fuel they contain when deployed? Are they increasing the fire / explosive risk while reducing the vehicle attack risk?
  • What if the barriers we put in place are a hindrance to emergency services looking to respond at the event, if the worst does happen?
  • If we use the likes of concrete blocks or jersey barriers, do we have a plan in place to move them as required? Is the plan efficient?
  • If we're focusing on vehicle attacks so much (understandably, at the minute) are we maybe overlooking a more 'realistic' threat to our particular event?
  • What impact will this deployment have on our Transport / Traffic Management Plans?
  • Have we communicated the deployment plan to all relevant stakeholders? Will lit have any knock-on effects and cause issues elsewhere?

A Solution?

I spoke to a colleague today that worked an outdoor street event shortly after the Nice attacks. They used stillages that transport blocks for Heras fencing and positioned them, fully loaded with the blocks, as barriers to vehicles at the points of road closure.

They ran an exercise to time how long it would take a team of staff to empty and remove the stillage and clear the barrier, if required. This was all part of their Risk Assessment and control measures for their event.

It shows a level of proactivity we don't often see here in Ireland with respect to events and learning from experiences around the world.