Andy Neal discusses the threat from vehicle attacks in crowded places and provides advice to minimise the threat.

We have seen an increase in attacks by terrorists using vehicles to cause maximum harm and fear. In crowded places, across cities and towns in many countries, local councils and governments have implemented measures to try to mitigate the risk from these threats. However, there are actions you can take to reduce the threat.

In this article I will cover some of actions you can take to minimise your risk from vehicle-based attacks should the worst happen. These are simple actions that, if learnt now, can help you make the right decisions when the time comes.

Actions on vehicle-based attacks

As a tactical security expert with over 22 years of real-world experience I have taught people across the world the following tactics I would recommend using if a situation develops.

The first aspect is to grow your situational awareness and understand the way the environment plays into these attacks.

Most public spaces have vehicle-based deterrents already installed in the entrances and exits, these will be in the form of large concrete posts and concrete flower tubs as well as street furniture.

However older streets and shopping areas do not have the infrastructure for modern security measures like vehicle mitigation defenses.

Access to old buildings is often only ever by the main entrances located in the same streets as pedestrians. ​​​​​​​

When entering a location with your family, or yourself, look out for vehicle mitigation measures.

This could include being in areas with bollards, large plant pots, or even statues designed as vehicle-based stopping points. Ask yourself this question, could you drive a vehicle directly down the road?

The answer will probably be “yes.”

If the area you are in is open and has vehicle access you must consider adopting these tactics:

  • Try and walk against the flow of traffic
  • Keep close to the building line and not immediately next to the road
  • Watch for the movement of people and sounds

If you hear:

  • Shouts and screams you must immediately react by looking for a place of cover, such as something that would stop a vehicle from moving through it

As an example, a waste paper bin is not a safe area, nor will a bench stop a car. Look immediately for concrete structures or furniture with a robust base that offers impact protection and cover from sight.

Do Not:

  • Run in straight lines, run at angles – think to yourself how quickly can you clear the front of a vehicle if you run or dive
  • Do not run with a crowd, people in critical situations act like sheep and all follow each other, this increases your risk extensively, make a decision and act on it. Do not do what the crowd is doing
  • Do not sit in a café or restaurant with your back to the road or area, always sit facing the road, so that you can have maximum vision – remember if you hear anything unusual, do not dismiss it. Actively look and establish the risk
  • Do not wear headphones in public places


  • Consider your footwear, is it necessary to wear high heels while shopping? If you do, consider carrying some flat shoes for your journey
  • Keep up with local and national media, look for indicators from the security services about the likelihood of attacks
  • Look for the presence of extra security such as armed police. This is a reassurance measure, but also it should indicate to you that you should plan a suitable seating area and look for roadside furniture that offers you protection
  • Formulate a plan in your head – “If this happens I’m going in that direction to that location.”

By heeding this advice and guidance you are some way towards improving your awareness of the environment and being able to react safely should the worst happen.

However, there is always more to learn when it comes to your safety. Contact Cardinus Risk Management on 0207 469 0200 or email [email protected] to enquire about our security services.

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