International Foundation
for Cultural Property Protection


Can We Prevent Armed Assault?

January 24, 2017 12:19 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

by Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI

Some of our postings are in response to, or soon thereafter, a major tragic event.  I’m going to step out of the box and offer some strongly preferred preventive, defensive measures.   We are (as a country) going to continue to be victimized by a growing number of “lone wolf” attackers, and in all likelihood, small groups of attackers, who may or may not be affiliated with large, more organized entities.   These attacks may occur at any location where the opportunity exists to cause considerable damage, destroy property, and kill or injure Americans.  Every reputable law enforcement agency and the Department of Homeland Security recognize this threat.  Our “soft targets” are everywhere.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict or prevent an act perpetrated by a lone wolf, and almost as difficult to prevent or predict those acts of small, unaffiliated groups.  Cultural properties present ideal targets.   They are, for the most part, not easily protected from armed assault.   They are hosts to numerous special events and gatherings.  They house valuable assets, in many cases, closely identified with our culture.

The presence of armed security, even special police, to protect public entries may not do any more than present an immediate target.   Besides, gunfights at our public entries are not really in keeping with the welcoming image preferred by institutions.  There are, however, definite measures which may, in fact, deter attempts at initiating an attack, and may well delay or deny the ability to enter the facilities.

We must protect our perimeter.  Every conceivable entry point should be controlled in such a manner as to make unauthorized entry too difficult to attempt.  Vehicle approaches, or entries where vehicles may gain access should be prevented from doing so by installing removable or fixed solid bollards or similar barriers.  The objective is to make it impossible to crash through an entryway with a vehicle, especially a vehicle that may be loaded with explosives.

The entryway itself should be constructed as a Sally Port…a controlled entry with both outer and inner doors and a protected space between the doors.  Video surveillance should be installed to observe approaches to all exterior entries. A Sally Port may be installed to meet size requirements of any institution.  Bullet resistant material should be installed to protect entry area glass and Sally Port walls.   Wireless panic/duress signals should be available to staff working at each entry point.   A facility-wide emergency notification system should be installed to include notification through all electronic devices utilized by staff, volunteers, interns, and long-term contractors.   Entry staff should have the capability of securing each entry with little warning.

These measures are not inexpensive.  The costs to recover from an armed assault are considerably higher.   The costs to install preventive measures after the fact, are always higher than costs occurred during construction, or when not pressured by recovery efforts after considerable loss.