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News article13 June 2019

Hands-on training to protect public spaces from terrorist attacks

Security by design
Security by design
© EU 2019

Urban planners, architects, counter-terrorism advisers and security officials from different European cities learnt at JRC Ispra about designing and selecting solutions for the protection of public spaces from terrorist attacks.

With a focus on mitigating threats from ramming vehicles and blasts, the training supported the implementation of the Action Plan for the protection of public spaces.

The concept of security by design

The training and exchange of best practice among the participants endorsed the concept of security by design – the idea of addressing security concerns and providing physical security solutions from the very beginning of the planning and design of a public space. It is part of the European Commission’s efforts to actively support Member States and local authorities in their fight against the threat posed by terrorism. This approach is the result of an extensive consultation process with various stakeholders.


The training and exchange of best practice was organised by the JRC, in cooperation with the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs. It addressed the need to:

  • Establish vulnerability assessments for public spaces.
  • Consider security and physical protection from the start of the design process of a new facility or the organisation of an event.
  • Develop and implement security awareness programmes.
  • Use modern technology, such as smartphone applications to facilitate communication and improve the public’s reaction in case of an attack.
  • Develop a facility or event security plan identifying the appropriate (effective, discrete, proportionate and tailor-made) measures that will not create new vulnerabilities.

Examples were given and best practices exchanged on applications in the urban layout, which will contribute to the quality of everyday life for European citizens.

Public spaces as soft targets

Recent terrorist attacks have shown a recurrent targeting of public spaces, exploiting the intrinsic vulnerabilities of these so-called "soft targets" that result from their open nature and public character. This concerned pedestrian precincts, tourist sites, transport hubs, shopping malls, places of worship, outdoor markets, concert halls and city squares, as seen in attacks in, for example, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, London, Manchester, Nice and Stockholm. Besides more complex "high intensity" attacks combining explosives and firearms, Europe has also been hit by a growing number of "low tech" attacks against public spaces carried out with everyday items such as a vehicle for ramming or a knife for stabbing. The targets are often chosen with the intent to causing mass casualties.

Further information

For subscribing to the upcoming Newsletter on the Protection of Public Spaces, please follow this link.

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Publication date
13 June 2019