Terrorism is not a new concept. Throughout history, it has taken a variety of forms and has undergone many changes.

Today, a terrorist’s arsenal includes guns, bombs, vehicles, axes and knives, and we also expect ‘lone wolf’ attacks directed at public places and facilities. As we saw in Paris, Nice, London, and Orlando, targets are often iconic landmarks, city centre precincts or offices, entertainment venues and beaches. These targets offer a higher chance of success and greater potential to spread propaganda. 

In the internet age, terrorist organisations have an unprecedented ability to directly influence and guide impressionable individuals all over the world. 

The design of the pressure cooker bombs used at the Boston Marathon were based on instructions in an IS article titled ‘How to make a bomb in your Mum’s kitchen’. In the wake of the Paris attacks, activist hacker organisations like Anonymous quoted themselves as having taken down 5,500 IS Twitter accounts in a matter of days. While this figure isn’t independently confirmed, it hints at the scale of the problem.

Terrorism and Business 

Measuring the exact impact of an individual terrorist attack is difficult. We do know that the global cost of terrorism has been on the rise since 2010 and is now at its highest level since 2001. According to Vision of Humanity’s index, which assesses the direct and some of the indirect costs of terrorism, the global economic impact of terrorism in 2015 was USD52.9 b. 

More often than not, the financial costs associated with a terrorist attack are significantly higher in the medium-to-long term rather than in the short term. More immediate costs include damage to property, disruption to business operations, and necessary restoration of infrastructure and technological systems. 

These costs can be significant, but they dwarf in comparison to some of the indirect financial costs that can result. If we take 9/11 as an example, the total cost of the physical damage was USD55b, while the indirect cost of the attack was calculated at USD123b. 

Consumer and investor confidence is also undermined following a terrorist attack and higher insurance premiums for businesses deemed at risk are likely to result. 
Terrorism can no longer be treated as a political issue that is solely the responsibility of governments. Individuals and businesses need to be aware of the risks and take proactive measures to ensure their environment is protected and secure.

Four Actions to Help Secure Our Cities

1. Take a deep breath 
Rest assured that we are not in this alone. Australian security services are actively working to disrupt terror networks across the country and we can work together with them to mitigate risk.

2. Be vigilant
Be aware of your surroundings – of changes in people around you, of peculiar behaviour, of unattended baggage. Vigilance works and has led to numerous terror events being thwarted. 

3. Know your risks 
The pragmatic application of security in a business environment requires a solid understanding of the risks, developed through the completion of a security threat and risk assessment. From this foundation of knowledge, we can make informed choices on how security can protect and even enhance operations. 

4. Develop a malleable security strategy 
With a bit of planning, our open spaces, buildings and businesses will still be around in 50 years or more but the face of terrorism will be very different.

 

Five Security Measures for Our Urban Spaces

1. Securing our public realm via Environmental Design (CPTED)
CPTED involves deliberately altering the physical design of communities and places to deter criminal activity. The aspirations of architects or landscape designers to enhance a public realm design often reflect CPTED principles. 

For openness, read natural surveillance. For clearly defined spaces, read territoriality. For seats and landscaping, read cleverly disguised hostile vehicle mitigation. It is important that we consider the principles of CPTED early in the design of our public spaces. 

2. Developing secure zones
Developing wider secure zones and safety perimeters within CBDs and high-density areas is increasingly appropriate. Managed through the combined efforts of town planning and business security initiatives, it calls for effectively managing road closures, developing pedestrian zones and sharing off-site logistics hubs with regulated deliveries in designated, readily identifiable vehicles. 

3. Strengthen our buildings 
While secure public realms are the first layer of defence, secure building design is the second. Security should be considered early in the design process and engage all relevant parties including developers, architects, quantity surveyors, owners, insurers, financiers and tenants, where possible. This approach allows for more targeted security enhancing solutions such as traffic calming, vehicle blockers, blast resistant glazing, or more technology-focussed solutions. 

Security measures can often provide additional benefits, such as blast resistant glazing on tall buildings that also strengthen against wind. WSP has embraced this idea during design work for a number of iconic tall buildings in London, which included blast resistent glazing and facial recognition software. 

Retrospective installation of security on pre-existing buildings is sometimes unavoidable. Designers must carefully consider the cost and impact versus the benefit. Measures can include the application of anti-shatter film to windows, structural enhancement or installation of bollards on access roads.

4. Using technology against physical threats
Advances in technical security add a digital layer of defence that enhances our ability to respond swiftly to threats. Video analytics allow us to identify stolen vehicles (a possible precursor to an attack), recognise criminals or terror suspects, and analyse suspicious behaviour and packages. 

Integrated security management systems mean we can effectively control the security of a building, lock down areas, raise alarms and provide early warning, call up security services and coordinate responses, or transfer control to disaster centres. 

5. Operational security
Operational security should include things such as security staffing and behaviour, mail screening, employee screening, evacuation procedures, business continuity, and information security. Good physical security is a deterrent, but without these tight operational security measures businesses are still vulnerable. 

Operational security should be rigorous and regularly reviewed but need not be oppressive. In fact, many of the policies and procedures for enhanced operational security are the same or similar to those used for wider business resilience. 

Training staff to be vigilant to the likely precursors to an attack, to have confidence to report suspicious activity to the police, and how to respond in the event of a terror attack may make all the difference. 

Terrorism has shown it can adapt and innovate – and we must too. Urban environment design must take every opportunity to apply security in ways that will evolve to meet the changing risk in our urban environments.

Terrorism can no longer be treated as a political issue that is solely the responsibility of governments.


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