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Tip: Using Municipal Vehicles to Increase Security at Public Events

A sanitation truck, snow removal equipment or public works vehicle are moveable barriers that can harden mass gatherings from vehicle terror attacks and other threats.

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Two municipal vehicles are used to block access to the start/finish area of a marathon.

Greg Friese

I have distinct memories from the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line, the sight of a home-grown terrorist attack. My first memory is seeing a Boston EMS ambulance inside the secure area just after collecting my belongings. The second memory is hearing the explosions while I was milling around in the family reunion area. My third memory is watching emergency vehicles, mostly police cars, speed towards the finish area as I walked to the apartment where I was staying.

There are many threats to mass gatherings -concerts, marathons, parades and rallies - ranging from improvised explosive devices, active shooters and vehicle terror attacks. Since many mass gatherings, like a marathon start/finish area, require temporary closure of city streets and limited access to official vehicles, one of the actions event organizers and local government hosts can take is to use municipal vehicles strategically to block and control street-level access.

Advantages of Using Municipal Vehicles as Blocking Vehicles and Barricades

Officials from public works, fleet management and transportation departments should be part of the event planning process and the during event incident command team. Those officials can work with public safety and event security teams to provide vehicles such as sanitation (i.e. garbage) trucks, snowplows, dump trucks and city buses and personnel for public events and mass gatherings.

Use municipal vehicles to supplement fencing and barricades because the trucks are:

  • Large: a garbage truck can span the width of two or more city traffic lanes.
  • Obvious: a municipal vehicle usually has official government graphics and color schemes that naturally act as deterrents to access.
  • Moveable: as the needs of the event or the spread of the crowd changes, the vehicles can be repositioned quickly.
  • Elevated: the cabs of many municipal trucks provide a higher view of surrounding streets and sidewalks than a volunteer standing next to a barricade or a police officer in a patrol vehicle.

Train Municipal Truck Operators as Part of the Event Security Team

Through pre-event and just-in-time training, prepare municipal vehicle drivers on the risks and warning signs of vehicle terror attacks. Training components might include, but are not be limited to:

  1. See something, say something: If a driver sees something suspicious encourage, empower and enable the driver to report their suspicion to the incident communications center.
  2. Incident radio frequency: Make sure drivers know the radio frequency to use to call in threats, suspicions or incidents. It’s more likely a driver will see a runner in distress so make sure drivers know how to submit a medical response request.
  3. Vehicle positioning: Discuss the best way to position vehicles that could be used for blocking. It’s likely on a slight angle and pointing towards the traffic lane outbound from the event. If a vehicle is attempting to drive into a mass gathering, it will likely be easier to maneuver a vehicle blockade.

General Vehicle Positioning to Enhance Event Security Operations

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Greg Friese

Here are some considerations for vehicle positioning:

  1. Block ingress to an event or potential incident.
  2. Park on a slight angle to allow upstream observation of vehicles and people approaching the area that is being secured.
  3. Make sure the driver stays with their vehicle and is able to move the vehicle to allow emergency vehicles to enter and exit an event or potential incident.

Municipal drivers are on city streets every day. They know how to navigate them and can exercise their expertise to spot people, and activities, that are out of the ordinary. Involving these local road experts in the protection of mass gathering participants can increase the safety of public events.

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1 and EMS1. Greg served as the EMS1 editor-in-chief for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, national registry paramedic since 2005, and a long-distance runner. Greg was a 2010 recipient of the EMS 10 Award for innovation. He is also a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and the 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.