Paris, France, March 2021 – Rigorously assessing the degree of vulnerability of urban public spaces, in particular ‘soft targets’ such as commercial, cultural, and sport venues, or public transport, is a top priority for many European cities. As part of the PRoTECT project, which seeks to strengthen the capacities of local and regional authorities in protecting such public spaces, notably against terrorist threats, Efus is organising a series of web conferences, the first of which was held on 17 February.
Tools to assess the vulnerability of public spaces
The meeting looked at how local authorities can ‘make informed decisions on the necessary security provisions for public spaces’, notably through various tools developed either by the European Union or by the PRoTECT project.
Radoslaw Olszewski, of the European Commission’s Directorate General Home – Terrorism and Radicalisation unit/Protection sector, presented the EU’s Vulnerability Assessment Checklist for Public and Security Authorities developed by the DG Home as part of the European Commission’s efforts to support Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in protecting public spaces. He stressed that the EU’s Counter-Terrorism Agenda, which is part of the EU’s new security strategy, distinguishes four types of actions to be taken in order to protect public spaces at local, national, European and international level: Anticipate, Prevent, Protect, and Respond.
Pilar De La Torre, Programme Manager at Efus, presented the Vulnerability Assessment Manual developed by Efus and the Dutch organisation TNO, the leader of the PRoTECT project, to help municipal staff use the EU-DG Home’s Vulnerability Assessment Tool and conduct an informed and thorough vulnerability assessment of local public spaces.
Lastly, Anita Schilling, Technical Project Leader at the Aix-en-Provence-based technological company DIGINEXT, presented the European STEPWISE Project, which uses virtual reality mock-ups of real-world public spaces to improve their security.
Holistic approach, new technologies, and the importance of exchange and cooperation
Participants emphasised that threats must be addressed in a holistic manner, taking into account all the aspects that contribute to them, including how they are perceived. Another important point is that not all threats can be prevented, but we can mitigate them and respond to them. A key part of risk evaluation is deciding what threats to accept as not being possible to prevent, and what mitigating measures to put in place.
Technologies are also helpful in facilitating a vulnerability assessment, such as drones, which provide a comprehensive picture of a given public space, and virtual technologies such as the platform created by the STEPWISE project. It provides a virtual, 3D visualization of a place as well as specialised software that enables security actors to precisely assess its vulnerabilities.
Finally, tools and guidance material, such as the factsheets developed by Efus to facilitate the use of the EU’s Vulnerability Assessment tool, can be of great support to local authorities due to their flexibility and high customisation, but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Constant cooperation and exchange of information are necessary to keep such tools and practices up to date and relevant for security practitioners.
> More information on PRoTECT
> The minutes and materials of the web conference are available on Efus Network
> A second web conference was held on 17 March, which we will report on in our April newsletter