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Urban securityBolstering security in urban centers

Published 10 April 2017

The terrorist attack in Stockholm on Friday mimicked previous attacks in Europe, in which terrorists used vehicles to kill civilians. Among the cities in which such attacks were carried out are London, Nice, Glasgow, Berlin, and more. More and more cities are considering the use of bollards to protect not only buildings – but other, “softer” urban areas. The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) program of the National Institute of Building Sciences offers a detailed Resource Page with useful analysis of and information about crash- and attack-resistant bollards.

The terrorist attack in Stockholm on Friday mimicked previous attacks in Europe, in which terrorists used vehicles to kill civilians. Among the cities in which such attacks were carried out are London, Nice, Glasgow, Berlin, and more.

More and more cities are considering the use of bollards to protect not only buildings – but other, “softer” urban areas.

Crash- and attack-resistant bollards are used to protect military and governmental buildings and domestic structures and areas of higher security levels. The choice of more robust bollards over those that are not impact resistant is based on site vulnerability assessments and risk analysis (see UFC/ISC Security Criteria Overview and Comparison; Cost Impact of the ISC Security Design Criteria; Threat/Vulnerability Assessments and Risk Analysis).

Charles G. Oakes, Ph.D., of Blue Ember Technologies, LLC and Concentric Security, LLC, writing in the introduction to a Resource PageThe Bollard: Crash- and Attack-Resistant Models — he put together for the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) program of the National Institute of Building Sciences, says that non-attack-resistant and attack-resistant bollards represent radically different safe/secure response conditions. Non-attack-resistant bollards are “perceived impediments to access.” Theirs is an “expectation of civility,” directed primarily at drivers with prescriptions for traffic control. Traffic control, while not necessarily static in its design, adjusting as it often does to daily shifts in traffic patterns, nevertheless is predictable to those who traverse the maze of cityscapes on a daily basis. With the expectation of traffic control, the issue and design of safe/secure is more predictable. It is civilized! And, accordingly, bollard configurations are more predictable.

Contrasted with drivers who are civil and compliant with society’s norms are those who plan or carry out acts of property destruction, incite terrorism, or cause the deaths of civilian, industrial or military populations. They are opportunistic, seeking for security system weaknesses and avoiding, where- and when-ever possible a facility’s strengths.

Employing crash- and attack-resistant bollards in the security design involves choices from a diverse pallet of styles. It is this versatility that influences the discussion.

Th WBDG’s Resource Page documents that the definitions of safety, security, and perimeter security design are fluid concepts; that changing threat, vulnerability, and risk assessments for any one situation can require implementation of different design scenarios. For instance, when high profile domestic industries perceive themselves to be threatened in a manner similar to that in military environments, then security design codes and standards warrant shifts from a static to a more dynamic and fluid design. Because of their versatility bollards are important participants in changing security design.

Oakes notes that the Resource Page companion to The Bollard: Crash- and Attack-Resistant Models dealt with non-attack/non-crash resistant bollards, and introduced a way to see safety and security in tandem with each other. Safety is defined as the code- or standard-related “steady state” of some entity, that is, it was doing what it was supposed to do. And security as the means that preserved, protected, or promoted that steady state when confronted by some natural or man-made threat. On the basis, of these two definitions one is able to arrive at operational definitions or performance-based measures of both concepts.

“Contrasted with the rather sublime existence of traffic control bollards whose fate merely depends on sane and civil persons doing what they are supposed to do, crash- and attack-resistant bollards are designed to withstand deliberate wanton acts of destruction and death and the prolonged after-effects of terror,” Oakes writes.

The types, costs, and performance metrics of the bollards could have been cataloged in the Resource Page dealing with crash- and attack-resistant bollard models. But Asymmetric Threats targeting high-value properties — public and domestic — require calculated responses to those who threaten. For this reason, the surveillance stage of the terrorist life cycle is identified as requiring heightened awareness by potential target populations. This led to the tactical mixing and matching of bollard configurations known as Random Antiterrorism Measures (RAM), to confuse and render sterile would-be terrorists.

The result is a dynamic situation-relevant way to define and design perimeter security. Increasingly perimeter design must become a moving and adjusting response to a moving threat. “If there is anything anti- and counter-terrorism experts have learned in recent years,” Oakes writes, it “is that terrorists are opportunists who change their attack modalities to circumvent or undermine their opponent’s strengths while exploiting his weaknesses using ever-changing methods that differ significantly from the opponent’s usual mode of operation. As long as the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) is the preferred mode of destruction, RAM is relevant, and the cataloguing of bollards and their combinations aids in saving lives.”

— Read more in Charles G. Oakes, The Bollard: Crash- and Attack-Resistant Models (National Institute of Building Sciences, 2016)