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When Fire and Fury Become a Threat to the Community

Lance Guillory
May 23, 2024

Many communities face challenges from those with malicious intent, including the threat of ramming and the use of fire as a weapon. While these may not seem like typical weapons, vehicles and fire can cause serious harm and disruption, and it only takes one attack to bring down the places we know and love. Attacks often target public venues, businesses, and even homes. Here’s more on the damage these attacks can cause and how you can take proactive measures to reduce your risk with better security.

Understanding Ramming and Fire as a Weapon

Before discussing preventive measures, let’s get into what vehicle ramming and fire attacks generally look like. Vehicle ramming attacks involve the use of a motor vehicle, typically a car or truck, as a weapon to intentionally ram into a crowd of people or a building.

Attacks involving vehicles as weapons are particularly concerning due to the minimal skill required to execute them, coupled with their potentially devastating impact in crowded areas. This is especially so for spaces with limited security.

These types of attacks have also become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with terrorists and extremists using them as a means to cause harm. 

Recent Incidences of Vehicle Ramming Attacks

Past Incidences of Vehicle Ramming Attacks

  • New York City, October 2017 - An ISIS-inspired individual used a rental truck to kill 8 and injure over 11 on a busy bicycle path.
  • Stockholm, April 2017 - A stolen 30-ton truck drove into pedestrians in a shopping area, killing 4 and injuring 15.
  • London, March 2017 - A rental car targeted pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, resulting in 4 deaths and 40 injuries.
  • Nice, France, July 2016 - A 19-ton rental truck attack during a fireworks display killed 86 and injured over 430.
  • Ohio State University, November 2016 - A personal vehicle was used to injure 11 pedestrians on a sidewalk.

Vehicle Ramming Action Guide, CISA

The Threat of Fire by Way of Arson

Statistically, the threat of arson and fire-related attacks is rising. Malicious actors are increasingly using fire as a weapon to target public spaces, critical infrastructure, and communities.

What is Arson?

“Any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, or other such personal property of another.”

Fire as a Weapon, CISA

Recent Fire as a Weapon Statistics and Events

Fire as a Weapon, CISA

What to Think About When it Comes to Safety

Perimeter Control: Define and secure pedestrian-only areas with bollards or barricades. These physical barriers will prevent unauthorized vehicles from accessing your crowded spaces, automatically reducing the risk of ramming attacks. The use of such barriers creates a clear demarcation between vehicle and pedestrian areas.

Access Management: Implement controlled access points for vehicles and pedestrians, using separate routes for delivery vehicles. This reduces the chances of unauthorized vehicles entering critical and sensitive areas. Effective access management includes installing gates, barriers, and using security features to monitor entry points.

Vehicle Barriers: Consider passive (fixed bollards, fences) and active (retractable bollards, rising wedges) barriers to increase standoff distances. These barriers can be customized to fit the specific needs of the venue. For instance, retractable bollards can be used in areas that require occasional vehicle access, while fixed barriers can provide permanent protection.

Fire Safety Systems: These systems include smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers. Regular maintenance and testing of these systems should also be completed to make sure they function correctly during an emergency. A well-maintained sprinkler system can quickly suppress a fire, minimizing damage and preventing it from spreading to other parts of the building.

Emergency Action Plans: Developing and practicing comprehensive Emergency Action Plans can save lives and reduce property damage in the event of a fire. These plans should include clear evacuation routes, designated assembly points, and protocols for contacting emergency services.

For expert help, view Safe Haven Risk Management’s security services. We offer Physical Security Assessments and Monthly Security Packages so that you’re ready for any threat, anytime. These are tailored solutions that keep you safe and secure.

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