On the evening of 14 July 2016, 19-tons of truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and further injuring 434. It was an alarming day – and used a tactic that’s becoming more and more common - car ramming. This is where the perpetrator deliberately drives a vehicle into a building or crowd of people. As the world saw in Nice, this form of attack can be devastating.
Avoid high-threat events and areas whenever possible.
Most important is to think about where you’re going and employ situational awareness to avoid a potential target. Larger gatherings such as tree lightings, Christmas events, even artisan shopping markets could be targets. Whenever significant crowds of people congregate outside, in the open, where a vehicle can approach on the road without suspicion, could be a target.
Whenever you’re in crowded environments vulnerable to vehicular attacks, do your best to maintain a high level of situational awareness. Know where the main avenues of approach are from the road. Understand where cars can approach, whether it’s a road or easily traversable terrain near a road or terrain that vehicles traverse. If you maintain a focus on these roads throughout the event, you could spot suspicious vehicles from afar and move toward cover.
As you’re on the lookout you’ll be able to tell if a vehicle isn’t driving normally. No doubt, even for the radicalized, driving yourself into a crowd of people will be an emotional event. If the driver is angry or overzealous, the vehicle might gain speed at an early point in a B-line towards the crowd. On the other hand, it might drive awkwardly slow as if to sneak up on the crowd. Maybe, the driver is having a difficult time to find the will to act and the vehicle is slowing down and speeding up unnecessarily. No matter what the situation it’s possible the driver gives an inadvertent signal to anyone paying attention.
Find Barriers for protection
Identify large concrete walls or trees to use as a barrier and to distance yourself from an attack. If you’re between a barrier and the crowd, you’re safer from a follow-on attack if the drivers get out with a gun. More importantly, a concrete wall or large tree can stop a vehicle. Even a fence could prove to be life-saving and might significantly slow down a vehicle at the very least.
If a Vehicle is approaching at speed, distance yourself from the center of the crowd
Whatever you do, act, and don’t stand there with the rest of the crowd in awe of what’s happening. Run to the obliques of the crowd and try to gauge the trajectory of the vehicle and avoid it.
If the Vehicle stops don’t be a hero. It might blow up, or the driver may have a gun.
The attacker in Nice had a gun and left the vehicle. VBIEDs or Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices are commonly used, by terrorists. Whether it’s a shooting or an explosion – it’s not worth finding out. Wait, assess the situation, and begin figuring out your next steps before you approach the vehicle.
Before you respond to help injured, ensure your family is safe and you aren’t injured.
Sometimes, in the thrall of action people do not realize they’ve taken shrapnel. If there’s a vehicular attack and there are injured who need your help, you still need to take a breath- yourself. Ensure you aren’t injured and most important, ensure your family, if they’re with you, are OK. Then, move them towards safety either safety by distance or between solid barriers in case there’s another attack. Then, as I mentioned before – wait and see if anything happens, if there’s any suspicious movement.
Above all, stay safe and if you’re unsure what might happen next, get out of there and call for help. The most important thing you can do is notify the authorities and get more people on the scene.