L-136 Europe's Anti-Terrorism Protection Construction Strategy

June 2007
Rick Krosenbrink , Eric Deschambault (Munitions Logistics - Transport and Storage)

Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure or so free. The violence of the first half of the 20th Century has given way to a period of peace and stability unprecedented in European History. This first line of the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) describes a peacefully consolidated Europe. To a certain level this is true, but one must not forget that Europe has suffered from terrorism for decades (e.g. ETA, IRA), and that the calm picture described in the 2003 ESS was shattered by the terrorist bombings in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005. Those two terrorist events in particular have generated considerable concern about the ability of the European Union (EU) to protect itself from terrorist bombings and other physical attacks.

After the Madrid bombings the European Council stated that The threat of terrorism affects us all. A terrorist act against one country concerns the international community as a whole. There will be neither weakness nor compromise of any kind when dealing with terrorists. No country in the world can consider itself immune. Terrorism will only be defeated by solidarity and collective action. This same European Council then issued a declaration against terrorism and appointed a counter-terrorism co-ordinator.

Following the London bombing attacks in July 2005, EU interior ministers held a meeting where they agreed that all measures already decided upon (after the Madrid bombings in 2004) should be immediately implemented as a matter of urgency, and that Europe must be united in this fight as never before.

Though terrorist bomb attacks have become more commonplace in Europe in the past twenty years, the Madrid and London bombings brought the reality of such brutal attack against the public closer than ever to the European nations. Information and technology for making devastating explosives/bombs is readily available in books and off the internet, and they are often simple and relatively inexpensive to make. Delivery of these bombs is as easy as parking a car near a target; placing a briefcase or backpack on a bus; delivering mail to an office; or as we are seeing so much of in Iraq these days, delivery by a suicide bomber who has explosives strapped to his body and is willing to die along with the unfortunate victims.

The perception of a terrorist threat within Europe has become an important issue for EU citizens. According to a questionnaire performed by Eurobarometer (an EU Poll Organisation), 80% of EU citizens want to see more EU decision making in the field of counter-terrorism. Clearly, on this issue public expectations of the EU are high.

Knowledge and understanding of the effects of explosions on structures and their sub-systems and on how they respond to those effects can save lives and reduce property damage. Preventing the collapse of a building as a result of an explosion attack is one of the most important objectives associated with protective construction. Historically, the majority of fatalities associated with terrorist attacks directed against buildings are due to building collapse. Prevention of collapse must start with an awareness by architects and engineers that structural integrity against collapse can be incorporated early in the design process and is important enough that it must be considered in all new designs. Features to improve general structural integrity against collapse can be incorporated into designs at affordable cost. However, given that a design can prevent progressive collapse, then other significant explosion-produced hazards (e.g., blast, fragments, flying and falling debris, window breakage and glass fragments, fire and smoke) that can cause serious injury and death must also be addressed. If buildings can be strengthened against these explosion effects, then casualties will be significantly minimized. A great deal of information and experience about explosion effects and how to protect from them already exists within certain European Nations, but the knowledge that has been gained needs to be shared, appropriately refined and then integrated/implemented in public building design and construction standards and practices.