Security In Depth: How to Respond to the Vehicle as a Weapon Threat Using Temporary Security Schemes

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    Awareness of the vehicle as a weapon risk has never been greater. Especially within temporary security schemes, which are back in full swing with demand increasing following changes in events and consumer behaviour following the pandemic.

    But, even with official guidance and frameworks to interpret, there remains significant grey space and varied approaches in responding to the vehicle as a weapon risk for temporary security schemes.

    ATG’s latest Security in Depth feature, in conjunction with Hardstaff Barriers – the national barrier asset framework provider for temporary security in the UK – provides clarity and a guide to best-practice.



    Part 1: An Introduction to Vehicle as a Weapon Risk

    What does “Vehicle as a Weapon Risk” Refer to?

    “Vehicle as a weapon risk” refers to the potential of a vehicle – car, lorry, bus – being used to inflict harm on people or property in fixed and temporary spaces. Despite being a comparably safe country with exceptional threat intelligence and high regard for security obligations, the UK’s vehicle as a weapon risk is an unfortunate constant for which we must all prepare.

    Although you will be most familiar with vehicle as a weapon risk in the context of terrorism and violence, the concept applies to accidental scenarios where the public faces a vehicular threat. For example, high-density or high-traffic public spaces may identify a vehicle as a weapon risk from incapacitated drivers using adjacent highways – of which there have been several headlined incidents in the UK.


    How is a Vehicle as a Weapon Risk Determined?

    In the UK, a vehicle as a weapon risk is typically identified by one of three groups: Counter Terror Security Advisors (CTSAs) employed by the police, independent Security Consultants, or Security Managers working within larger organisations (i.e., Tier 1 sites such as Premier League football stadiums).

    Per official National Protective Security Authority (NPSA – formerly the Centre of Protection of National Infrastructure or CPNI) guidance, the risk identification process must include a technical assessment of specific locations centred on relevant vehicle threats. This assessment, which you may know of, is called a Vehicle Dynamic Assessment (VDA) and should be provided by a HVM specialist working in the counter-terror space.


    Is a Vehicle Dynamic Assessment Necessary?

    Without a VDA, it is difficult to define and evaluate the impact of a vehicle as a weapon and accurately specify the scope of any Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) solutions deployed on-site. Further, in the absence of a VDA (and proof that its findings were appropriately actioned), you, your employer, your CTSA or your consultant may be ultimately liable for prosecution should HVM fail.

    It is not hyperbolic to say that the consequences of under-specification can be catastrophic. Yet, ATG and our partners still encounter projects with either unactioned or non-existent VDAs with alarming frequency. But why is this?

    The industry debates many theories – haste, framework misinterpretation and conflicting stakeholder visions. However, the misconception around VDA costs appears to be a common barrier. In reality, VDAs represent a small fraction of overall project budget and usually cost somewhere in the region of a few thousand pounds per entry point.

    And as it happens, a VDA may help to reduce project expenditure. As part of a complete vehicle as a weapon risk assessment, it can accurately inform what appropriate and proportionate HVM solutions look like in context, thus avoiding over-specification. We explain how to navigate over and under-specification later or skip ahead now.


    How Seriously is Vehicle as a Weapon Risk Taken in the UK?

    It should be no surprise that vehicle as a weapon risk is taken exceptionally seriously in the UK – a stance we are all dedicated to upholding. As many readers are likely aware, the UK’s focus on the vehicle as a weapon threat is set to amplify following high levels of interest surrounding the introduction of the Protect Duty (the exact implementation timescale is currently unknown).

    However, as a precursor to any vehicle as a weapon conversation, ATG would like to emphasise that the Protect Duty is a draft bill, and its scope and implementation date still need to be determined.


    Part 2: Vehicle as a Weapon Risk in Temporary Schemes


    Does Vehicle as a Weapon Risk Apply to Permanent and Temporary Schemes?

    Yes, vehicle as a weapon risk applies to fixed infrastructure with permanent HVM solutions and temporary or evolving environments. In the UK, at least, “temporary environments” are often highly visible outdoor events that generate a significant swell in footfall, located on sites that are usually fully accessible.


    Is Vehicle as a Weapon Risk Assessed Differently in Permanent and Temporary Schemes?

    One of ATG’s partners – Hardstaff Barriers is the national barrier framework provider for temporary security in the UK in collaboration with The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), and their position is uncompromising. They advise that securing temporary schemes must be approached similarly to permanent security installations.

    From threat and risk analysis, VDAs and HVM solution standards right through to delivery, the process of mitigating, minimising, and managing vehicle as a weapon risk is the same – although risk levels, objectives and products may vary.

    From here on, we’ll focus on vehicle as a weapon risk in temporary schemes.


    Can Temporary Spaces be More Difficult to Secure?

    Every security scheme has its unique complexities, but the difficulty with securing temporary spaces rests in their fluid nature. In short, temporary schemes, especially public events, are prone to evolving in real time.

    This is true even for long-planned events such as the mourning period for HM Queen Elizabeth II, or the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Adapting appropriately to maintain a security posture is the biggest challenge of temporary security schemes and, thus, a significant contributing factor to solutions and management.

    Another characteristic of temporary (and some permanent) security schemes is the final mile principle, referring to groups of people approaching a ticketed event entrance from main transport hubs. If people are congregating to attend an event shielded by temporary fencing like, ‘steel shield’, it can be debated that duty of care also extends to on the “wrong side of the fence”. Football stadiums are very familiar with securing the final mile and other organisations may wish to consider this aspect of HVM in their specification process, too.



    Part 3: Responding to Your Vehicle as a Weapon Risk


    Step 1: Becoming Aware of Your Threat

    Most projects become aware of their threat following an analysis of some description, but this analysis’s credibility can vary greatly. Ask yourself, has advice come from a registered individual with the qualification, capability, competency, experience, and track record to recommend HVM solution in a counter-terror context?

    In summary, your first step should be clarifying the credentials of the person or company that has dictated your vehicle as a weapon threat and subsequent residual risk.


    Step 2: Evaluating Vehicle as a Weapon Advice

    Not all advice is provided equally, and before acting further, it is critical to determine that your vehicle as a weapon risk has been scoped correctly.

    This means following NPSA guidance, the UK’s temporary security framework and undertaking a VDA for all project sites. However, correct scoping should also demonstrate proof of extensive threat and risk analysis, contextual considerations and detailed transparency around solution specifications.

    Another green flag is your advisor’s line of questioning. They should ask broader questions about your temporary security objectives, aesthetic requirements and operational requirements,  these are all important aspects of delivering a successful scheme fit for purpose.

    Generally, do not hesitate to challenge your vehicle as a weapon risk evaluation. Second opinions – from the right person – are worth their weight in gold. For help getting in touch with a trusted, approved temporary security scheme expert, contact ATG here.

    And one final note: advice should also be clear and evidenced. If something is vague or recommended without reason, ask why. The answer could be specification-critical, which leads us to our next step.


    Step 3: HVM Specification and Key Considerations

    To reduce vehicle as a weapon risk in temporary security schemes, your specification must dually consider operational requirements and your VDA. When you, your temporary security advisor and your stakeholders have a shared vision of what you want to achieve and why, you are more likely to deliver an accurately specified solution.

    By this, ATG and our partners mean implementing products and processes that deliver an appropriate and proportionate response to the protection and permeability required by a temporary site. We always have confidence in schemes that follow these specification steps:


    Interpret Your VDA and Decide Your Appetite for Risk

    Having undertaken professional analyses, including a VDA, you will understand the vulnerabilities of particular sites and be able to evaluate the direct and residual risks. From here, you can begin specifying HVM solutions and decide the residual risk level you or your client are willing to accept.

    The appetite for residual risk may result in changes to site layouts, access, and management solutions. For example, risk appetite may be very low despite a VDA showing minimal residual risk due to natural obstructions such as short roads with irregular layouts. As a result, you may specify a blanket block of all vehicles within 0.5 miles of a site and one-way tiger-trap entry.

    An important note – do your utmost to involve as many stakeholders as possible at the risk appetite point. Knowing about budget restrictions or conflicting priorities early on is far better. Doing so can significantly mitigate real-time changes to which temporary security schemes are prone.


    Ask What you Want to Achieve From Security and Operational Perspectives

    From pedestrian permeability and employee entry to emergency service access and event deliveries, you need to understand how the level, coverage, and duration of HVM interacts with the operational requirements of event organisers.

    Essentially, this means ensuring that vehicle as a weapon risk, mitigation, minimisation, and management are built into operations in a manner that doesn’t disproportionately impact accessibility.


    Analyse the Threat in Collaboration

    A good Consultant won’t delegate the threat identification process, but they will invite clients to participate. The exact reason is that the non-professional eye will share the same insight and tools as a terrorist or other threat actor – i.e., Google Earth, Google Maps and perhaps first-hand knowledge of the local area.

    Using these tools is crucial to pinpointing every vehicle as a weapon entry point and, in many ways, “thinking like the threat”, who may potentially undertake a hostile reconnaissance mission. This step can also be helpful in rationalising product specifications, coverage and forming the “golden thread” of security accountability, i.e., a record of every decision made and why.

    For more about the golden thread in the context of vehicle as a weapon threat mitigation, click here.


    Decide if the Gold Standard is the Right Standard

    It is understandable why the standards – BSI PAS 68 and/or IWA 14-1 – are enforced in so many temporary security scheme specifications. Sometimes however the weight of the vehicle and the speed of travel advised are not always justifiable.

    The reason is that, for some sites, vehicles can’t reach the speed, weight, angle and penetration level that PAS 68 or IWA 14 certified products can withstand. Lower-specification products may be equally effective at protecting people and property while enabling client organisations to meet their operational goals – i.e., high pedestrian footfall.

    A VDA may find that due to obstructions on approach (such as narrow or bendy roads), only 2.5-tonne vehicles can navigate the space and reach a maximum of 20 mph. Therefore, clients can choose a lower-cost product, proportionate to the calculated risk, without having to close additional roads.

    With this example in mind, remember that it’s perfectly okay to ask questions about the products recommended. A good advisor or consultant will explain a product’s effectiveness and prove a rationale for its use by referring to the golden thread. And by explaining where a product fails, not just what it withstands, they can demonstrate where over-specification may be an unnecessary expenditure.


    Being Clear on Liabilities

    It is an uncomfortable subject, but vehicle as a weapon risk discussions must address legal liability. Although UK law has never prosecuted under such terms, the fact remains that CTSAs and Security Consultants are responsible for the advice they give and the products they recommend.

    If HVM fails due to the absence or incorrect interpretation of the relevant risk assessments, the advisor may be liable for prosecution at some point in the future. The same may apply to client organisations who need to act on advice or prove their reasoning.

    In summary, follow NPSA guidance and temporary security frameworks, use a credible consultant and keep an evaluation track of every decision you make; create your own golden thread.



    Part 4: Ensuring Temporary Scheme Project Success


    The Importance of Managing Different Stakeholders

    Temporary events and their subsequent security schemes involve a large pool of stakeholders. It is inevitable, then, that some will not fully understand the complexities of temporary events and therefore not appreciate their accountability within the process.

    Take for example, stakeholder miscommunication. It’s a common cause of unplanned change in temporary security schemes which can impact solution performance and public safety. If all parties knew that by going against process, they hold some accountability for any negative outcomes, would plans be followed more closely?


    How can Temporary Scheme Disruptions be Minimised?

    ATG and our sister company Hardstaff Barriers find that being open and available for stakeholders is the best way to minimise disruptions caused by misunderstandings or miscommunications. Therefore, from the beginning, we recommend laying out a roadmap for temporary scheme success and taking stakeholders along on this journey.

    From pitching the best products for the brief to explaining the working window: when stakeholders understand the chain of decisions and the impact on vehicle as a weapon risk, unexpected change may be minimised. Or at least, impact and accountability would be acknowledged.

    Devising an effective response to vehicle as a weapon risk is firmly the domain of professionals with specific skills and experience operating in the critical area of counter-terror HVM.