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Terrorism represents one of the greatest threats to public safety today, with a growing number of attacks being carried out by driving vehicles into crowds or buildings. Since 2006, there have been approximately 14 vehicle-borne attacks in various parts of the world, pointing to the emergence of an alarming and insidious new militant tactic that has rendered public spaces vulnerable and largely unprepared. Following three attacks in Israel in 2008 in which vehicles were used as weapons, Stratfor – a US-based geopolitical intelligence platform – concluded that vehicle attacks, while not as deadly as suicide bombings, are more difficult to prevent.

Embassies, consulates and government buildings – which are often regarded by terrorists as housing enemy interests – are especially at risk of being targeted in ram raiding attacks.

The use of bollards in anti-terrorism

As established and respected city sentries, bollards are steeped in symbolism and history. Originally used for mooring ships, bollards have come to embody the very essence of urban security, and have been used in traffic control applications since at least the 18th century.

The rise of vehicle ramming attacks has resulted in commercial property security taking on an entirely new dimension to include solutions specifically developed for anti-terrorism applications.  Bollards are increasingly being incorporated into the security design of buildings operating at higher levels of security such as banks and diplomatic missions, and have proven effective in helping to mitigate the destruction caused by vehicle ramming, thereby protecting critical national infrastructure.

In line with salient homeland security demands, modern bollards are designed to be highly robust and offer the maximum level of protection against concerted vehicular attacks.

Different types of bollards

Bollards vary in terms of their design, operation and the level of security that they offer. Fixed bollards, for example, are suitable for medium- to high-security sites and are most often used in traffic management applications where it is necessary to permanently restrict vehicle access. The main benefit of fixed traffic barriers is that they do not require invasive installation work or electrical wiring. Fixed installations might not always be ideal, however, as selective access may need to be given to emergency vehicles and authorised personnel.  Retractable or automatic bollards offer a much more flexible perimeter security solution, and can be raised and lowered as required using a remote control or other access control device.

Crash ratings

Pursuant to the accurate selection of a bollard system for hostile vehicle mitigation, institutions such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) have developed standardised, stepped tests for establishing a bollard’s stopping power and impact resistance. According to the ASTM’s specification guide concerning the standard test method for crash testing of vehicle security barriers, “[knowing] the penetration rating provides the ability to select an appropriate barrier for site-specific conditions around a facility”.

Since high-target sites such as military barracks and government buildings require the application of exceptional security measures, the use of crash- or attack-rated bollards with a known penetration rating is recommended.


ASTM F2656 / F2656M-18a, Standard Test Method for Crash Testing of Vehicle Security Barriers, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2018,

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