Home Emergency Management News Murder by Vehicle: A New Form of Terrorist Attack

Murder by Vehicle: A New Form of Terrorist Attack


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

A recent attack in London left four people dead, including one police officer, when a terrorist drove his vehicle into innocent people walking across Westminster Bridge.

The London incident was at least the third terrorist attack of this nature in less than two years. Last July, a large truck ran over a crowd of pedestrians in Nice, France, killing 84 people. In Berlin, 12 people died and 48 were injured when a truck plowed through a holiday market in December 2016.

Those of us in emergency management need to learn how to handle this new type of terrorism to properly react to a similar attack in our communities.

Reviewing after action reports, staying abreast of international developments and reviewing current emergency management protocols and plans will help. However, different acts of terrorism and existing security policies complicate efforts to tighten emergency management techniques and methods.

Importance of Examining After Action Reports

When emergency management resources are limited, it is difficult to manage mass casualty incidents at the scene of the attack involving numerous injuries and deaths. Given the nature of this new terrorist method, it is important for emergency managers to review the After Action Reports (AARs) of their colleagues to understand precisely how to handle these mass casualty incidents.

More importantly, however, these same reports should be shared only among emergency managers. Public access to AARs could land in the wrong hands and create security problems.

Emergency Managers Must Improve Their Knowledge of International Politics

There is a direct correlation between international security efforts and terrorist attacks. Emergency managers may not be security experts, but they still need to stay abreast of the dynamics in the international political arena.

They need to understand where future terrorist attacks might occur and how the attacks could be carried out. This knowledge could serve as a predictor for emergency managers to prepare for future mass casualty events.

Security Policies Complicate Handling of Terrorist Attacks

Security scholars say one of the most difficult aspects of countering terrorism is not knowing who the enemy really is; the war on terrorism is not the same as a conventional war between nation-states.

As a result, acts of terrorism do not fall into a category of conventional warfare. Terrorism doesn’t have to abide by international treaties or conventions. Terrorists can attack their perceived enemies in many different ways without warning or direction from a leadership group.

In order to combat terrorism, emergency managers and security professionals need to stay creative and well versed in tactics and strategies.

Preventing Future Attacks and Mitigating Harm to Victims

The unfortunate reality is that vehicle attacks likely will continue until new preventative measures can be put in place. These measures include erecting more barriers on sidewalks and around buildings to prevent vehicles from ramming into crowds.

In addition, pedestrians should avoid creating large crowds whenever possible. These crowds are easy targets for attackers using vehicles to kill or injure others.

Certainly, there are other strategies to prevent mass casualties. But they will be effective only until would-be terrorists come up with new ways to injure and kill without using modern weapons and tactics of war.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.