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News

Closing the gap on ensuring public safety in open spaces

Frost And Sullivan : 19 April, 2013  (Technical Article)
Frost and Sullivan comments on the recent Boston Marathon bombing and the challenges of providing for public safety in open spaces

The horrific bombings that occurred at the Boston Marathon that claimed at least 3 lives and caused injury to more than 180 people was an extremely tragic event which has once again shown that at any event and/or location at which a large crowd of people gather at will always remain a potential target area for terrorist attacks.

Ever since 9/11, the US Dept of Homeland Security has been at the forefront in terms of focusing on prevention of such attacks and improving on public safety, critical infrastructure protection and other physical security.  The one single challenge the US, along with all other countries face is how to ensure public safety 100% of the time. Unfortunately, due to the volatile and unpredictable nature of terrorism, it is near impossible to ensure public safety 24/7. The patterns of such attacks are erratic in nature and can happen at any place and at any time.

According to news sources, there are plans that are being undertaken to tighten security at marathon events in London and Australia during 2013. “One of the major implications that the Boston bombings will cause globally is the tightening of security at similar sporting events,” says Neil Dave, Consulting Analyst, Asia Pacific Aerospace & Defense Practice, at Frost & Sullivan.

The homeland security segments of critical infrastructure protection, public safety agencies and CBRN detection will increase. Preventive measures that are undertaken at events where people are required to assemble in stadiums (indoor and outdoor) are usually quite effective as there is more scope for effective crowd control at these events. At such venues, public safety is ensured by having security checks with scanners, metal detectors and so on. Also, the main advantage faced is that these venues can be strategically sealed by controlling routes of entry and exit points. Hence, at-least weapons and explosives can be detected on any persons entering such venues on the spot. On the other hand, to ensure safety in terms of planted explosives, bomb disposal and EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams can be deployed to such venues days before the event to ensure there are no such devices found.

However, as mentioned earlier, ensuring public safety at all times may not always be possible, depending on the type of event taking place. For example, in the case of marathon events being held in the midst of cities, there is not much that can be done to prevent terrorist attacks by means of bomb blasts. In these events, there are a multitude of ways/options for terrorist organizations to plan such attacks. Explosive devices can be pre-planted in discreet locations anywhere across the city days before such an event is scheduled to take place. Further, in such situations, it is close to impossible and not feasible to have CBRN and EOD teams to scan such a large area for explosive devices. However, sealing the area with barricades to mark designated areas that are suitable for occupancy by public, controlling routes of entry/exit to regulate the flow of people, as well as ensuring stringent security checks via scanners and metal detectors at such events are ways to enhance the public safety by ensuring that safety against imminent threats by potential terrorists attending this event.

“While investigations continue to take place on this tragic event, it can be said that the overall main issue being faced here is that any such event which attracts large masses of people is a potential target for a terrorist attack and that organizations will always have to be extra-vigilant in ensuring that people are made aware of such threats. Spreading information awareness in highly crowded venues by having banners and TV screens which compel the general public to pay keen attention to any suspicious activities is a crucial step in promoting safety awareness” says Dave. Several other countries along with the US are also becoming more involved in undertaking these initiatives to elevate a higher level of awareness of the real and imminent threat that such attacks can happen at any time and anywhere.

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