Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to Protect Buildings and Structures From a Terror Attack

Make a list of all buildings, structures and public places in the city that are potential terror targets. For a big city such as Mumbai (which incidently witnesed a major terror attack on 26/11/2008), this list could run into at least a 100 structures and could go as high as 300 to 500.For each building, structure or public area in this list, secure the structure using the following attack threat-counter-measure guidelines:

Type of Threat:

Terrorists on foot barging into the premises of the structure, firing bullets from assault rifles, exploding hand grenades, and timer activated bags of explosives:


  • Build a 12-14 foot high compound wall if possible around the permiter of the structure. Install a a wire fence on the top of the wall. Plug all gaps or holes in an existing wall if any.

  • Install heavy, roller mounted metal gates at all entraces through the compound wall that can be closed shut very quickly in the event of an attack.

  • Secure each gate with at least two private security guards or government security officials armed with assault rifles and semiautomatics and trained to use them.

  • Cover the entire structure's premises with highly conspicious CCTV cameras, infrared or motion sensing cameras and monitor their feeds in a control room within the structure which is staffed on a 24 x 7 basis by trained security personnel.

Type of Threat:

Terrorists raming a vehicle full of explosives into the structure and detonating the explosives.


  • Place several traingular, reinforced concrete barriers (similar to ones used as road dividers) at regularly spaced intervals either immediately outside or immediately inside the compound wall of the structure.

  • If the structure does not or cannot have a compound wall, place the barriers along the perimeter of the structure. If the structure has a compound wall, also place a second line of barriers immediately sorrounding the walls of the structure. Position the barriers so that a vehicle will not be able to reach the entrance or the walls of the structure.

  • Note that concrete barrier based security will not work for structues where it is required for vehicles to pull up near the entrance of the structure such as hospitals, airport arrival and departure areas and hotel foyers.

Type of Threat:

Terrorists sneaking into the premises by climbing over the boundary wall of the structure or generally sneaking in under the cover of darkness.


  • Well lit premises.

  • Adequate CCTV camera coverage, optional infrared cameras and motion sensors where required and a 24 x 7 staffed control room.

Type of Threat:

Terrorists sneaking into the premises in garb of ordinary visitors.


  • Implement airport class visitor scanning measures at all entry points into the premises. This will include:

  • Scanning all bags carried by the visitor using sensitive and accurate baggage scanning machines.

  • Operation of those machines by trained baggage scanning staff.

  • Authority to open and search any item of baggage that is found to be suspicious, authority to confisticate any item found to be suspicious.

  • Requiring all visitors to go through a body scanner after emptying pockets and removing other metallic items such as belts on person.

  • Additional body frisking by male and female security personnel using hand held scanners.

  • Basically all passenger security measures that are employed at an airport's security checkpoint.

  • Note that if these operatiotions are carried out as efficiently as they are in modern airports, handling visitor volume ought not to be an issue.

Type of Threat:

Terrorists quietly leaving behind timer activated explosives within the premises of the protected structure.


  • Well lit premises.
  • Adequate CCTV camera coverage, optional infrared cameras and motion sensors where required and a 24 x 7 staffed control room. Visitor scanning measures described above.

Note that all countermeasures that are employed should be implemented so as to be as visible as possible to the potential attacker.

The primary goal is to deter the potential attacker and not to trap them.

There are several other forms of attack such as lobbing explosives and grenades into the premises of the structure from a distance or ramming highjacked planes full of fuel into the structure (9/11 style) and so on which can be prevented only by increasing the security of the overall country or region.

However, the measures described above should adequately fortify the structure against most common forms of attacks.

If the attackers manage to enter the premises, there are several things you can do to reduce the scale, intensity and duration of the attack:

  • CCTV control rooms will detect the intrusion as soon as it happens and radio the on-site security personnel and the city police for help.

  • If it is determined that the attackers have not entered the building, all building doors will be quickly closed and locked.

  • The onsite security personnel will quickly engage the attackers.

  • Concrete barriers installed at various points around the premises will prevent the attackers' vehicles from coming very close to the actual structure to be protected.

  • There is one more very effective defense against a rogue vehicle that can be installed which is metallic spikes that can be activated to emerge from the surface of the street. Such a device should be installed at all entry and exit roads lying inside the structure's premises and which lead up to and lead from the main entrances of the building. An example is the small access roads that lead up to and from the foyer of hotels and convention halls.

Some things to remember in general:

  • CCTV / infrared / motion detecting sensors aren't of much use if they do not adequately cover the premises of the structure.

  • Any amount of sophisticated CCTV or infrared/motion detecting camera/sensor network, even if it adequately covers the premises is useless if the feeds from this network aren't monitored in real time on a 24 x 7 basis by trained personnel.

  • Continuous monitoring of camera footage and immediate detection of intrusion is in turn not of much use by itself, if there are sufficient number of security personnel available on the premises who are equipped with modern weaponary and who have been trained to use it to quickly engage any sort of intruder from a harmless tresspasser to a burgler to terrorist.Not all security measures described above will be appropriate for protecting a given structure depending. While deciding how to protect a structure, onr may pick and choose from the techniques described to form a strategy for deterence and defence.

In summary, note that the following set of countermeasures will make the structure to be protected very unattractive to terrorists:

  • Full coverage of the premises by CCTV cameras / infrared camera and motion sensors.

  • Continuous monitoring of camera and sensor feeds in a control room sraffed on a 24 x 7 basis by trained personnel.

  • Adequate number of security personnel armed with and trained in the use of modern weaponry deployed within the structure at all times.

  • A high compound wall around the structure, if possible. Heavy, roller mounted gates at all entrances through the wall.

  • Airport class visitor scanning procedures at all entrances into the structure.

  • Main building having doors/shutters that can be quickly closed in the event of an attack.

  • Reinforced concrete placed suitably all around the structure to prevent an attacker's vehicle from coming close to the structure.

  • Mechanically operated road spikes in access ways leading to and from the entrances of the structure.

  • Well lit pemises.

  • Highly conspicious security measures.

Remember that terrorists prefer soft targets. Deterence is the best form of defence.

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