Protecting against a ballistic attack
Threat of ballistic attack is a risk that security professionals have encountered abroad but haven’t necessary been required to mitigate here within the UK on such a large scale until very recently. For the first time in 10 years, crime reports show a significant rise in the number of offences recorded involving the use of firearms as so published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In direct comparison with the United States, offences involving firearms is still very low. There were nearly 6,500 firearms offences (types identified as burglary, violence against the person, possession, criminal damage, robbery and public fear/distress) recorded during 16/17 in the UK, with indexed offences of burglary and public fear/distress and burglary increasing in the last year by 86.7% and 13.5% respectively. It is important to note that the UK includes air weapons and stun guns when referring to firearms, though these statistics are based on offences involving lethal weapons (handguns and rifles). The United States in comparison, recorded nearly 61,500 gun-violence incidents in total during the same period, with nearly 40,000 deaths a direct result of gun violence (including mass shooting, murder-suicides and unintentional shootings).
These chilling statistics show that the UK, a nation with strict gun controls laws, face as serious shift in terms of public safety, risk management and mitigation. The most common offences with a firearm are robbery, assault and public fear/distress which includes terror.
Buildings and site may not directly face ballistic threat due to the nature of firearm destruction but must cater for the protection of people and assets.
Why is it important to protect against a ballistic attack?
Ballistic threat is a unique risk that many applications may not require mitigation for. High profile applications such as Government building and military Defence bases are more likely to encounter targeted assaults with the use of heavy weaponry. These applications, along with many others, require effective solutions that also work in parallel with the standardised approach. To make a determination, there must be an assessment of seriousness.
There are two main factors to consider regarding seriousness; intention and force. Intention refers to what the attackers aim to achieve from the assault, whether it be theft, casualties or mindless violence. A Financial Institution such as a commercial bank may encounter a ballistic assault where the attacker intends only to take cash but brandishes a weapon as a means of force. A Community space on the other hand may be caught up in gang retaliation attack. This distinction matters as it acknowledges the level of assault sophistication, and therefore the standard of performance resistance the solutions implemented must uphold.
Force refers to the degree of planning, the weapon choice and extent of injury caused. Gangs account for nearly half of all offences in London where firearms are involved and a large part of the tackling of this issue is communication. Communication networks are vital for police task forces such as the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) and Metropolitan police task force Trident, who are continually monitoring territorial, drug and trafficking movements of gangs and other groups and individuals posting a threat to the nation. The type of weapon used (handgun, shotgun, machine guns with large calibre bullets) is also a means for concern, with the more powerful firearms more difficult to effectively mitigate.
Common challenges when protecting against ballistic risk
The quantity of firearm offences is relatively small in comparison to all crimes recorded within the UK, but nevertheless it is a threat that can have devastating effects.
The UK’s approach to gun crime as far has been to remove all instances from the public eye and to enforce strict policies on ownership (handguns were banned in early 1996 following a fateful mass shooting in Scotland). Subsequently, most properties do not have sufficient physical security measures in place to protect the inhabitants from a serious ballistic attack despite their highly public nature of concern. Schools are regularly targeted within the US with motivations almost always a combination of negative peer influences, experiences of bullying, mental illness or terrorist (political/religious) motives. Human emotion is the unpredictable element of ballistic incidents, with further aggravation caused by further external involvement a huge risk.
Attitudes towards protecting against ballistic force are somewhat reactive, but to effectively mitigate a further increase in recorded offences there must be a national education of severity of weaponised assault.
In London, where gun crime offences are highest, statistics show that nearly two thirds of offenders are young people under 25 which highlights a real need for further preventative education.
A consequence of minimal preventative strategies in place is that properties and individuals are extremely vulnerable against weapons of such deadly force. Unable to withstand the force of a controlled explosion, point of entries and gantries are vulnerable to manipulation. Despite their vulnerability, securing buildings against ballistic force is a relatively easy task.
Secured enclosures and authorised entry naturally mitigate larger weapons, though further standards of security can be achieved though performance-standard solutions, certified to European ballistic resistance standards BS EN 1522/1523 in which every element of the sub-frame, corner joints, profile and windows are tried and tested.
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