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Counter-Terrorism Solutions: Towards Successful Specification

05 May 2020

PROFESSIONALS INVOLVED in the planning, design and ongoing management of public spaces and streetscapes must consider and address a number of factors when looking at site security and safety. Here, Mark Lester explores the key issues involved and the solutions available to mitigate against potential terrorist threats without altering the overall landscape.

As crowded places remain an attractive target for terrorists, architects and specifiers alike have an ever-increasing challenge in front of them to successfully blend counter-terrorism protective security measures with the urban design principles of the public space they’re creating.

The Government’s ‘Protecting Crowded Places: Design and Technical Issues’ guidance document provides those involved in the development and maintenance of the built environment with a comprehensive basis for the appropriate specification of counter-terrorism solutions. The document offers salient advice on how high design quality can be upheld throughout the commissioning and planning of new development schemes without impacting on the overall style and intention of the location in question.

Using this guide as a basis, professionals should first understand the varying circumstances and associated degrees of risk that each project presents before then looking to specify solutions that aim to reduce the vulnerability of the location from a terrorism perspective.

For many public spaces, it's fair to point out that significant crowd density may be temporary. In this instance, a specifier will be responsible for locations housing concerts or events that don't have a constant level of visitors, rather one that's concentrated at peak times. Here, the specification of temporary counter-terrorism solutions presents an appealing approach as the desired attraction of the space can easily be retained without compromising the safety and security of the environment during high footfall periods.

One of the main benefits of temporary counter-terrorism systems designed to specifically manage hostile vehicle mitigation is that they offer the potential for continued flexibility, and particularly so when compared to fixed systems that must be permanently installed. As the very nature of temporary systems lends their application to a wide range of configurations that can be transported to different areas or zones of a given location, the evolving requirements of the environment can continue to be met without impacting on the level of security and safety provided.

Integrity of technology

By first assessing the potential levels of security risk the space presents, professionals can then understand the integrity of the protective technologies required. Here, temporary systems - such as certified single units - enable professionals to successfully meet the exact levels of integrity needed as the quantity and configuration is tailored to the individual project and its level of risk.

For example, mobile vehicle blockers certified as a single unit can provide effective protection against unauthorised vehicles without restricting pedestrian access or altering the intention and accessibility of the urban public space. As the solutions are temporary, consideration of the sub-surface and the materials specified do not need to be addressed as no physical fixings are required to keep the blockers in place.

This also offers significant cost and resource savings throughout the lifetime of the project, while at the same time ensuring the continued adaptability of the systems to best meet the specified requirements and intentions of the environment as it evolves.

The benefit of a solution that can be arranged individually, in rows or offset offers a completely flexible system that doesn't require any compromises to be made to the initial design plans and can adapt to meet the specific needs of the space. For example, narrow pavements or cycle paths can be effectively secured with a single blocker unit, while a sluice or slalom-style arrangement can create defined passage points for Emergency Services and rescue vehicles.

Professionals should also look to explore blockers that feature axisymmetric geometry as they have no predefined impact side. This means the angle of any collision is inconsequential, in turn providing the highest levels of security regardless of the direction from which the vehicle is travelling.

Historical or sensitive sites

Temporary solutions may also be an effective consideration for the retrofitting of counter-terrorism systems at historical or sensitive sites, such as conservation areas, where fixed solutions would impact the physical design and integrity of the site.

To ensure compliance with all relevant legislation and provide a clear audit trail of due diligence, professionals must specify hostile vehicle mitigation solutions that have been certified according to internationally recognised standards and standardised crash tests. This will evidence the fact that the chosen products can withstand the force of a specific test weight and speed, enabling architects to specify solutions tailored to meet the integrity requirements of each specific project.

By adopting a proactive approach right from the initial concept stages and working closely with specialist manufacturers, security professionals can ensure the counter-terrorism solutions they specify are not only fit for purpose, but also have minimal impact on the overall design intentions of the project at large.

Mark Lester is Area Sales Manager at Hörmann UK