Expert describes how to survive a vehicle-involved terror attack
Brooklyn venues prepare, quietly
The odds are it will happen again.
The number of vehicle-involved terror attacks is going up and people need to plan ahead to survive, said Steven Crimando, one of the nation’s top security experts.
Brooklyn-born Crimando, founder and principal of Behavioral Science Systems, a consultancy on crisis response and intervention, spoke at the ASIS New York Security Conference at Javits Center on Thursday.
Brooklyn is home to a number of venues where security is a major concern, including Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, MetroTech, world-famous parades, and schools and universities. Crimando is familiar with Brooklyn’s hotspots: he was adopted by the former Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights (operated by Mercy Corp. today) and lived in Red Hook and Canarsie.
Crimando recently consulted with Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus on exercise scenarios, though he is not at liberty to discuss specifics, he told the Brooklyn Eagle. He also teaches verbal de-escalation skills at a Brooklyn orphanage.
The same energy and excitement that makes a large gathering like a parade or sporting event fun for us also makes it attractive to would-be terrorists, he told the security professionals attending the conference.
From 2014 through 2017, 23 violent extremists used cars and trucks to mow down unsuspecting people, including the recent April 2018 attack where Alek Minassian drove a rented van through the business district of Toronto, killing 10 and injuring 16.
In a New York City attack on Halloween in 2017, Sayfullo Saipov drove a Home Depot flatbed pickup truck and rammed groups of pedestrians and cyclists in lower Manhattan, killing 8 and seriously injuring 12.
Need to Prepare in Advance
Most vehicular attacks are over in minutes, and situational awareness and pre-planning are required to make it out alive.
This means identifying risks and resources in advance, Crimando said. Risks include places where crowds might gather or sections of a road where a driver might accelerate. Resources include security bollards and police checkpoints.
Crimando gave the same survival advice to security professionals attending the conference that he would give to his own family.
“Think safety, not having a great view,” Crimando said. Don’t worry about getting a front row seat. “Be at the periphery of crowds.”
Since drivers in vehicle attacks want to keep up their speed and momentum, the vehicles don’t turn, Crimando said. When watching a parade, “Stand at the corner, not in the middle of the block.” This will give you an escape route.
Also, avoid standing against solid objects like walls or doors where you can be trapped. “Have a fallback position,” Crimando said.
Stay away from temporary structures that will collapse if struck by a vehicle.
If the vehicle veers toward you, don’t just run from danger — run towards safety, Crimando said. If law enforcement put out blocks, planters or bollards, use them as resources. They can provide cover from gunfire and concealment from the vehicle.
After the vehicle stops, don’t be a hero and rush toward it, as it is likely the attacker has a secondary weapon and will continue the attack.
“These are the little things to think about,” Crimando said.
Vehicle Attacks Play Into Terrorist Narrative
It’s likely that terrorist groups like ISIS will continue to encourage vehicle attacks, Crimando said, since these types of attacks are easy to carry out and can be extremely deadly.
Vehicle-involved attacks represent “an evolution of the strategy of terrorism,” he said. “Creation of fear is a strategic goal, especially ambient fear.” Ambient fear is a fear that is always in the background, and its effect is strongest when the threat is delivered on a random schedule.
“That’s where we are today,” Crimando said. A vehicle-involved attack “plays well into the terrorist narrative.”
Would-be terrorists actually receive online and print training from ISIS and Al Qaeda on how to carry out these attacks, he said. One advertisement in a terrorist publication published in 2010 boasted of a Ford F-350 pickup as “the ultimate mowing machine.”
Terrorists also follow a “playbook.” The plan includes a secondary attack by the terrorist, such as a knife attack, after the vehicle portion is completed, and ends with martyrdom and a profession of allegiance to the cause. Surrender or capture are unacceptable.
Citywide Defense Measures
Fencing, stationary barriers and movable barriers are among the measures recommended by security experts to keep the public safe from vehicular attacks.
In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to bring 1,500 permanent perimeter bollards to “high-profile” sites, at a cost of $50 million. The city conducted a “thorough review of locations, including business corridors, tourist attractions and iconic sites,” the mayor said in a release. The city says bollards will be installed in all five boroughs.
One area where bollards will be installed is on Flatbush Avenue around the 911 Call Center in Downtown Brooklyn.
In another project, the city requires that planning for the last undeveloped site in Brooklyn Bridge Park — where the former Purchase Building stood at 11 Water St. — must include security barriers blocking vehicles from entering the park, potentially making contact with the foundation of the Brooklyn Bridge.
NYPD SHIELD is a public private partnership based on security information sharing between police and private organizations. Two NYPD SHIELD officers at the ASIS conference, who specified they could not be identified, said that Barclay’s Center was a SHIELD client.
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