Government Facilities

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A Government Facility is a public services and facilities infrastructure focussed towards the delivery of government services required within an urban area.

Description

Government administration facilities can be located in a wide range of locations, depending on their primary function. Local government offices will occur in most large urban areas to administer the running of such areas. At a national level, the way in which government administration facilities have been located within capital cities has led to them becoming concentrated within small or compact geographic areas; this can be seen as an important weakness in the event of a large scale attack.

Functions

Social

The key social functions of government administration facilities is in the provision of the necessary services to those who require them. Since this involves a feeling of dependence, citizens' perception of risks to government-related infrastructure might be above professional vulnerability assessments. This should be considered in urban planning, and risk/vulnerability assessment methods applied should include citizen participation-based methods in order to address social aspects of built infrastructure dedicated to public services and facilities.

Economic

The primary economic function of government administration facilities is the provision of government services, the support of infrastructure, providing education and training opportunities, and the preparation and execution of policy measures. Government facilities also play an important role in communities as a centre of social networks that allows communities to manage, change and sustain community-led development. Of course, government institutes provide direct employment for public professionals, and as an indirect economic effect, the presence of government facilities create jobs and income in the local economy due to changes in economic activity resulting from subsequent rounds of expenditure ('re-expenditures') of business companies, households and public authorities outside the home market.

The impact of security threats for government facilities is related to crime and terrorism. Public buildings and infrastructure are generally considered to be the most common targets for terrorists. Both crime and terrorism generate costs in anticipation of the event (e.g. locks, physical infrastructure, surveillance, etc.), as a consequence of the event (loss of property), and in response to the event (police investigation, legal system, etc.).

Apart from the more traditional security measures such as policing, alarm systems, surveillance and regulatory bodies, the ‘designing out’ or 'sustainable design' approach in the earliest stages in the planning process can be an effective measure from an economic point of view to prevent security threats and reduce the economic damage[1]. Keep in mind, though, that also security measures create both positive and negative economic effects.

Mobility

The mobility associated with the different government administration facilities will vary significantly depending on the type of facility, its location, the availability of public transportation modes, and the primary users of the services provided. Since government facilities offer public services and facilities, good accessibility and parking options are usually offered. However, since many government facilities are located in city centres, mobility issues that are common for city centres are also found near these government facilities. Think of congestion, lack of parking spaces, air quality problems, goods deliveries, crowded places.

Safety

Government facilities do not have specific safety issues, other than those for office buildings in general.

Security Issues

Government building after the Oslo bombing on 22 July 2011. The bomb car was placed right in front of the beam that is now on the ground, behind the two walking/running persons.
Security issues associated with government facilities, are related with the fact that it can be an attractive object for fanatics. This is related with the symbolic value of the object, with the fact that many government facilitieshave public access areas with a high volume of transiting people and with the presence of valuables. This makes these kinds of urban objects vulnerable for the following security issues:

Government administration facilities, in particular office buildings which have high volumes of people transiting through them, have shown themselves to be especially susceptible to targeting by radical groups pursuing a specific political or terrorist agenda. These can be at risk of attack as they are frequently perceived as being “softer” targets than larger or more prominent government buildings.

Measures

The measures for each type of security issue can be found on the respective pages. There are few measures they are specifically suited or unsuited to this kind of urban object, but some general considerations can be mentioned:

  • Government facilities are often by nature accessible to the public, which makes measures that restrict access less suited for the publicly accessible parts of the building. On the other hand, at the border between public and restricted area, these measures are often suited.
  • Government facilities are meant not to be uninviting, which makes very visible and impressive measures less suited (at least in the publicly accessible areas)
  • Directing traffic flows: as threats against government facilities can also encompass large explosives (as was demonstrated by the attack on the government buildings in Oslo, 2011), measures that would separate flows of traffic (pedestrians, cars, trucks) and establish a separate security zone (with their own set of measures) for each type of traffic, would be especially well suited for high-risk government facilities.

Footnotes and references

  1. In general, these measures demand larger investments than traditional security measures, but at the same time they are able to avoid future costs due to the long-term prevention of crime.