Can Planning Offer a Line of Defense Against Terrorism?

Planning for resilience might mean more than preparing for climate change, according to this opinion piece. Urban terrorism, in its current, tragic form, will require planners to prepare for the worst.

1 minute read

June 23, 2017, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

London Terror Attack

Pinkcandy / Shutterstock

Jon Coaffee, a professor of urban geography in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, takes to the pages of The Washington Post to make an appeal for planners to prepare for "a new onslaught of urban terrorism."

"State security services have long been occupied with defending vulnerable urban spaces against attack," writes Coafee, "but until recently, the style of terrorist attack — the targeting of high-profile commercial or government buildings — seldom affected everyday city life." But a recent string of terrorist attacks in Europe has relied on relatively low-tech devices like trucks and knives.

According to Coafee, "the modus operandi of terrorists has changed significantly in recent years and counter-responses, including urban planning, must adapt to this new reality."

The idea of preparing for the perpetual threat of terrorism is a challenging proposition at best. It's impossible, according to Coafee,"to perfectly balance urban aesthetics and livability within secure design, just as it’s impossible to prevent every kind of attack in any open society." Still, he writes, measures can be taken.

Planetizen correspondent Irvin Dawid has noted some of the public safety infrastructure that works to deter terrorism, such as sidewalk bollards. In the past, anti-terrorism planning has also focused on transit and drinking water supplies.   

Thursday, June 22, 2017 in The Washington Post

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