Deborah Ainscough, founder, and director of Crowdguard, discusses the difference between traffic management and hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM)
For most of us, a no-entry sign or a barrier would be enough to persuade us that a route is not available and we should choose an alternative. But terrorists don’t live by our rules. To a terrorist a road closure is no obstacle to an attack, they will ignore an ‘exit only’ sign or a portable barrier just as easily as they’ll ignore our right to return home safe from doing the things we love.
Road closures and hostile vehicle mitigation are not the same thing. Only when they understand threat, vulnerability and risk can those responsible for safety and security determine when a road closure is sufficient or if HVM is needed.
HVM is not a product; it’s a solution
At Crowdguard, we partner with some of the most respected providers of HVM equipment in the world, including ATG Access, Unafor, Rosehill Security, Highway Care, ARX Security, and Logic, but we are not an off-the-peg intermediary selling a menu of products. Every event, venue and location is different, and risk mitigation must be tailored to the individual threat and vulnerability of the specific environment. That’s why our hostile vehicle mitigation solution includes an expert approach to threat vulnerability and risk assessment, including a vehicle dynamics assessment, to understand where HVM equipment is advisable to mitigate risk and which solution would be most appropriate, aligned to operational and commercial requirements.
Vehicle attacks have become a prevalent terror tactic because vehicles are easy to acquire and can cause a lot of harm without requiring any specialist expertise. HVM equipment is effective in stopping a vehicle that is being used to attack pedestrians or locations, but the reality is that a terrorist will not just give up and go home if their first choice of methodology is foiled. If the vehicle is prevented from mowing people down by HVM equipment, the terrorist’s next move is likely to be exiting the vehicle with another weapon and causing as much harm as possible. In that sense, HVM does not deliver prevention, but delays, providing trained operatives and emergency services with sufficient time to enact safeguarding procedures and alert people to seek safety. As such, therefore, it should be deployed as part of a complete counter-terrorism plan, not simply as a tick in a box.
Managing proportionality & risk
The distinction between hostile vehicle mitigation and traffic management is about much more than semantics; it’s a fundamental difference in purpose. While traffic management is put in place to create a traffic-free zone and alert vehicle users that road closures are in place, HVM is deployed as a risk mitigation response to an identified threat. Often the two will be deployed in tandem and HVM may work in conjunction with a TTRO (temporary traffic regulation order) or an ATTRO (anti-terrorism traffic regulation order), but they are complementary rather than interchangeable disciplines. HVM deployment should always be based on expert knowledge and advice, tailored to the specific threat and environment. Expertise is just as vital as the equipment itself because without that experience, measures could be under-specified, exposing people to unacceptable risk, or over-specified, incurring unnecessary costs.
Why do we need HVM?
For many venues, stadiums and local authorities now considering whether they need to plan HVM into their security provision and budgets, the main driver is the long-awaited Martyn’s Law (now called the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill). But the real catalyst should be the terror threat. Our advice is to engage with a credible company that can help you understand your vulnerabilities, enabling you to make informed decisions on proportionate risk mitigation and any acceptance of risk.
The current UK threat level is ‘substantial’, which means an attack is likely. But the threat level and pending legislation don’t necessarily mean there are huge bills ahead for the events, sports, and entertainment industries. Based on the identified risk, there may be a need for HVM, but that doesn’t mean all traffic management measures will need to be re-specified as HVM – far from it. Indeed, for many events and venues, especially those that fall into the mooted ‘standard duty’ tier of venues/events of 100-799 people, the most appropriate response will simply be to carry out a risk assessment, for which there are free templates and examples on the ProtectUK website, and for staff to complete ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) training, which you can also access for free from ProtectUK.
Hopefully, Martyn’s Law will be in place before too long, but we must remain mindful that the threat is here already. Will you #ACTNow and prioritise risk assessment and ACT training?