Many are still reeling as details emerge about the terrorist attack in Manchester this week. As with all acts of terror, this one was a horrific example of evil. It is a devastating loss for the United Kingdom, especially for those who lost loved ones.

Soft Target Vulnerability Points

Unfortunately, this particular attack is part of a disturbing trend of terrorist groups’ efforts to exploit public or “soft” targets worldwide. This improvised explosive device (IED) attack reveals the increasing desire terrorist organizations have in extending their boundaries beyond an established security perimeter. In this attack, the suicide bomber positioned himself and his IED near an exit and timed the detonation to coincide with crowds leaving the Manchester Arena just after the Ariana Grande concert ended. This attack appears to have involved sophisticated and organized planning: building the bomb, understanding where the Manchester Arena’s security perimeter ended, and knowing when the crowds would start flowing through an exit just beyond the traditional security checkpoint. In my professional opinion, this was a deliberately planned and timed attack.

Changing Tactics

In addition to reminding us that ISIS, Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups consider venues that host large crowds are ideal targets, this attack should motivate federal, state and local law enforcement and the owners and operators of large venues to re-evaluate their security perimeter protection measures. The security perimeter that worked last year or in the past 10 years may not adequately protect people in this current threat environment. New tactics may be necessary. Re-purposing security plans and methodologies will not mitigate risk. Pre-attack planning and surveillance of target locations affords attackers the pre-requisite information needed to formulate an attack.

Action Step: Vulnerability Assessment

To counter the attackers’ interests in identifying the gaps in your venue’s security plan, conduct your own assessment.

1.       Evaluate the risks, threats and vulnerabilities. A thorough assessment will identify the gaps and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker.

2.      Use the assessment findings to adjust and improve your security plan.

3.      Share the results of the vulnerability assessment with the local police department in order to leverage their resources to enhance the venue’s security perimeter.

A thorough vulnerability assessment helps private arena and stadium owners decide how and where to redeploy their security resources and those of the law enforcement agencies faithfully protecting patrons entering and exiting an event.

This most recent attack is a painful reminder that terrorists will adjust their tactics and we, as security professionals, need to counter their tactics with thoughtful analysis of our security plans to ensure every vulnerability is mitigated, every risk is detected and every threat is defeated.

Our hearts are with all affected by the attack in Manchester. Let’s translate the loss of these lives into better protecting the lives of others.

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