The failed May 1 New York City car bombing reminds us that conventional explosives continue to pose a significant threat to U.S. public safety. Just like NYC, our nation’s universities, hospitals and schools could be the target of this type of attack.
Bombs are often the weapon of choice for terrorists (foreign or domestic), as well as other criminals, including the two students who committed the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Traditional explosives were used in the Madrid, London, Bali and Saudi Arabia attacks, as well as the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings of the 1990s.
Fortunately, there are steps institutions can take to address this issue.
The architectural design of a campus building—especially if it incorporates CPTED — can go a long way toward preventing, or at least mitigating, the suffering and damage caused by these types of attacks. Barring vehicle access or unauthorized individuals from gaining access to vulnerable areas that contain large crowds or dangerous materials (such as bio labs) can help too.
More than anything, however, is having eyes and ears on the ground. In the NYC case, a tee-shirt vendor noticed the vehicle had smoke coming out of it. He quickly notified a police officer, which set the city’s response in motion.
Campuses could certainly benefit from their students, staff, faculty, patients and visitors being alert to potential threats that they see or learn about through friends or social media.
Has your institution included non-security personnel in your public safety education efforts? If not, now might be a good time to start.