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Infrastructure Resilience | Terrorism

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Designing for terrorist attacks is a sad reality for many engineers. With the frequency of attacks seemingly increasing, protection of our infrastructure and buildings is now more important than ever.

In May of this year, London mayor Sadiq Khan commissioned a report to look into what could be done to improve London’s resources and readiness to respond to a major terrorist incident.

It says that while iconic sites are an attraction for terrorist attacks, other locations where people gather are also being targeted. Venues like sports stadiums, transport systems, buildings and airports all need protection.

Contest strategy

Currently the UK response to terrorism is delivered through what is known as the “Contest” strategy. It has four components:

  • Pursue investigation and disruption of terrorist attacks
  • Prevent people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism
  • Protect society by improving protective security
  • Prepare by working to minimise the impact of an attack and to enable rapid recovery.

“Scenario rehearsal and preparedness of emergency response is an integral part of ensuring the necessary resilience requirements in the design of an asset,” says Arup associate director David Cormie.

“Testing and exercising are vital to resilience and preparedness. The government has a National Counter Terrorism Exercise Programme … and substantial emphasis is placed on learning and absorbing the lessons from these exercises quickly and comprehensively.

Testing and exercising are vital to resilience and preparedness

David Cormie, Arup

A marauding terrorist firearms attack is considered to be the most significant threat to the UK. This can be in the form of shootings; the use of explosives and grenades; fires; hostage taking; and sieges.

To mitigate these, Cormie says that millions of pounds have been invested in infrastructure protection by government and industry in recent years.

“Millions have been spent covering the design of street furniture to withstand a hostile vehicle attack, blast engineering, protection against forced entry or ballistic threats, detection and response and cyber security,” he says.

Glasgow attack

Bollards played a vital role in stopping a van loaded with propane gas from being able to drive into Glasgow airport in 2007. Five people were injured, but none seriously and the fabric of the airport remained intact. It reopened the next day.

In addition, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CNPI) says that up to 95% of all injuries from bomb explosions are caused by flying or falling glass. It suggests the use of anti-shatter film and bomb blast net curtains or laminated glass in normal window frames where the glass is not bonded to the frame.

Even lighting can play a vital asset protection role, says the CPNI.

Lighting security

It suggests that lighting should not illuminate guards or patrols but should still support guards and CCTV.

The ICE has set up a register of security engineers and specialists to promote the engineering behind the security measures.

“There are three grades of membership equivalent to chartered, incorporated and technician-level membership,” says Cormie. “It is open to engineers, applied scientists and specialists who apply their knowledge to securing the built environment and infrastructure.”


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