We all like to think we are reasonably well protected against terrorist attacks here in the UK.
But behind the scenes, our security services and counter-terrorism units are fighting a constant battle to keep one step ahead of the terrorists.
Figures released late last week by the Metropolitan police showed that security services have foiled at least 10 potential attacks in the past two years, and that authorities deal with around 550 ‘live’ cases at any one time – a pretty staggering number.
We spend the majority of our time during the working week in and around buildings. One logical way to help keep us safe from attacks, then, is to make those buildings more resilient.
A new report published today and backed by the mayor of London recommends that the government should consider introducing a law to terror-proof new buildings.
I interviewed WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff’s head of security consulting, Chris Driver-Williams, about this very topic, for a piece we published today.
Mr Driver-Williams has more than 25 years’ experience in counter-terrorism, working at different times for the Army, MI5, the SAS and the SBS, and in locations as varied as Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
We spoke at length about how the terrorist threat to the UK has evolved, from the days of the Provisional IRA attacking buildings after giving coded warnings to today’s ongoing threat from so-called Islamic State and its ‘death by a thousand cuts’ philosophy.
He has an “understanding of the bad guys”, as he puts it, having met and interviewed many jihadists and nationalist terrorists over his career.
There’s a huge amount for designers and contractors to consider with new buildings, especially somewhere like London where the terror threat is considered to be especially high.
Who will the occupants be? How will the space inside the building be used? What materials can be used to protect against bomb blasts? How can the public realm around the building be designed to deter terrorists and criminals?
Mr Driver-Williams tells me security advisers and architectural liaison officers have gone from providing “advice and guidance to actually having input into the decision about whether to give planning consent”.
That’s a big shift – and something that isn’t going to change when you consider the number of cases our security services are tracking at any one time.
Mr Driver-Williams also said: “For every threat there’s got to be a measure, and for every measure there’s a consequence and a trade-off. We negotiate to find the optimal solution.”
This trade-off is something contractors increasingly need to think about – and something that can help keep us all that little bit safer.
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