EU ISFP PRoTECT project
The Public Resilience using Technology to Counter Terrorism (PRoTECT) project is a European project that aims to strengthen local authorities’ capabilities in Public Protection by putting in place an overarching concept where tools, technology, training and field demonstrations will lead to situational awareness and improve direct responses to secure public places pre, in, and after a terrorist threat.
The main outcomes of the project are:
- Risk and cost reduction by understanding and sharing information, vulnerabilities and (technical and social) solutions;
- Developing training materials related to the protection of public spaces for municipalities and LEAs, such as a Vulnerability Assessment Tool (manual), how to set up a Request for Information, organizing (technology) demonstrations and learning from each other;
- Putting in place and implementing a pan European vulnerability assessment tool for cities, to understand their soft targets for specific terrorist attacks.
For decades, terrorism has been a reality in many European countries and a continuous threat to a great number of European cities. It seriously threatens the safety and security, the values of democratic states and the rights and liberties of citizens. Acts of terrorism bring about long-term negative effects for cities and high social costs. Not only from a financial, but also from a psychological point of view in the sense of an increased feeling of insecurity among locals and visitors. Within the PRoTECT project different terrorist acts are in scope: fire arms, sharp object, vehicle, IED, PBIED, UAVIED, chemical, biological and radiological attacks that can harm many citizens in public spaces.
Over the years, strategies to protect public space against terrorism have strengthened and evolved, mainly focusing on protecting critical infrastructure. However, terrorist attacks are evolving as well. By adapting to new contexts and opportunities, lately public space has turned into an attractive target for terrorist attacks. To illustrate, the latest terrorist attacks in European cities such as London, Paris, Manchester, Stockholm, Berlin, Brussels or Barcelona have occurred in public areas. These areas are considered as “soft targets”. This means that crowded public places including the metro, shopping centers, sports stadiums, bars, restaurants, clubs and commercial sidewalks, are easily accessible to the public and an easy target for terrorists to do great harm. These areas called soft targets, are targets because attacking them can aid terrorist organizations to obtain their goals, for instance threatening the safety of the public, the values of democratic states or the rights and liberties of citizens. These areas are called ‘soft’, because they are not hardened against such terrorist attacks. A crowded public space, for instance a shopping center, can be hardened against other threats like vandalism, petty crime or fare evasion, but not necessarily for a terrorist attack, this gap is the focus of PRoTECT.
The PRoTECT project aims at aiding different stakeholders that are responsible for safety and security in their local area (such as a municipality) to identify vulnerabilities in public space (soft targets) against terrorism. This means that the project aimed specifically at aiding municipalities in countering terrorism in their cities, but also inviting different stakeholders involved in the process.
For the protection of a public space (like a square or shopping area) the following municipal services can be identified: civil protection, urban security department or crime prevention department, urban planning and design service, transport-mobility service, municipal police, tourism-culture-youth service and public spaces agents (like street mediators, urban guards or stewards).Furthermore, multiple other stakeholders can be involved: emergency services (police or fire and rescue), health agencies, transport agencies, event planners and local utilities and shop owners.
Within the PRoTECT project different components have been addressed. The acquired knowledge of these different components that aid in protecting public spaces (specifically soft targets against terrorism) are as follows:
Identifying what to focus on as local LEAs in countering terrorism, a European Vulnerability Assessment Tool has been developed to identify vulnerabilities for specific public spaces against specific terrorist acts. Within the PRoTECT project, this EU VAT is specified for municipalities in a manual to understand how to focus on public areas, specific terrorist attacks, taking into account what measures are in place and understanding the dynamics of crowded events and the risks involved. Furthermore, this assessment asked of all involved municipalities to engage their stakeholder, depending on the Public Space of Interest.
It is important to first identify vulnerabilities to create some sense-making of the area, create understanding of the general challenges and specific needs of these areas and to specifically focus on the vulnerabilities that could create the most harm. By identifying vulnerabilities, it is possible to set up objectives and requirements for what is missing in taken measures and to gather solutions that can aid in the protection of public spaces in the future and evaluate these in the specific context and areas.
In the case of the PRoTECT project, the EU VAT included the specific characteristics of the site, the existing measures and scenario’s per terrorist threat type to define the consequence and probability. This was done for each involved municipality with their stakeholders in a workshop setting.
After identifying the vulnerabilities of each municipality for specific PSOIs it was clear that the vulnerabilities should be prioritized to define objectives and requirement for vulnerability mitigation. These vulnerabilities show a lack of existing measures for specific threat types that askes for new measures and social and technological solutions. The vulnerabilities have been categorized to lack of physical barriers, lack of best practices, lack of technical solutions and architectural vulnerabilities.
Gather information on solutions for vulnerability mitigation
Within the identified vulnerabilities, a big part of the PRoTECT project was to gather information on social and technical solutions for vulnerability mitigation. To do this, multiple sources and activities have aided in this process. First, best practices and preferred solutions were gathered by the involved municipalities and their stakeholders, but also a larger pool of municipalities in Europe through ENLETS. Second, a State of the Art was developed by gathering information on solutions and their developments in academia and from experts in the field. Third, a Request for Information process was set up to ask the market on information of solutions for the identified vulnerabilities by using specific scenario’s for each city and their needs. Finally, the results of the RfI were evaluated and the most promising solutions were demonstrated at the specific PSOIs chosen by the involved municipalities on actual functions and effects in mitigating the vulnerabilities.
Evaluation of solutions
A very important step in the research within the PRoTECT project was the evaluation of solutions. This was done in twofold. First, within the RfI process an evaluation process was initiated with a method called Multi Criteria Analyses. This asked the involved stakeholders to set up evaluation criteria before requesting information, deciding on the importance of the criteria, and setting up workshops with all relevant stakeholders to go through all responses. The goal of this process was to identify promising solutions for the specific PSOIs and vulnerabilities. Second, the results of this RfI were used to identify the most promising solutions that could be demonstrated in the specific municipalities and evaluate the actual use and mitigation of the vulnerabilities.
This EU project has set out to provide municipalities and their stakeholders the knowledge and skills to protect their public spaces. The potential implementation of solutions lied beyond the scope of this project, but is in essence one of the goals for growing through all these components.
Other EU programs that are related to urban security can be found here.
Footnotes and references
- This PRoTECT project took part during the COVID19 crisis. The demonstrations were rescheduled and took place in a less crowded and ‘usual’ event that initially planned. However, without using real life (crowded) events, these solutions were demonstrated.