The Risk of Car Bombs to Hotel Security
Over the past 15 years, nearly every mass casualty attack in Africa and Asia has included assaults on hotels.
In 2019, high-profile attacks like those seen in Sri Lanka where three 5-star hotels (the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand Hotel, and the Kingsbury) were struck on Easter day, and the January assault on the DusitD2 in Nairobi, have highlighted the threat facing hotels.
Hotels have long been primary targets because they are hubs for westerners, providing attackers with both a concentration of valuable targets as well as a symbolic win. According to many experts like Bob Howell from the risk management firm WorldAware, threats to hotels are likely to increase in the near future as violent groups look to emulate the success of militants like al-Shabaab in Africa.
Given the rising risk to hotels, security managers face a set of challenges and questions.
First is what are the threats that they need to prepare themselves for in terms of violent tactics that militants are likely to employ. Second are the tools and tactics that will help them to mitigate risks without turning themselves into a bunker.
Understanding the Anatomy of an Attack
More often than not, attacks on hotels begin with a boom.
In most modern attacks by insurgents and terrorists against hotels, the first act of the assault is usually preceded by an explosion, carried out either by a suicide bomber or with a car bomb, also commonly referred to as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED).
This type of tactic has become standard because it gives them the advantage of the element of surprise, punching a hole through the defender’s perimeter from which to continue their breach and assault.
VBIEDs are extremely popular for use in attacks because they are inconspicuous and deadly. Capable of hiding in plain sight until the moment that they are either inspected or explode. A report from the Department of Homeland Security notes that they can carry between 500 to 10,000 lbs of explosive materials and can be used as part of the shrapnel for the attack.
Contrast this with 20lbs that a human can carry, and we understand how much damage one of these vehicle attacks can cause.