Jane Embury, director, looks at a threat that hasn’t gone away
It’s been a year dominated by Covid-19. Not least, its impact on lives lost, jobs lost and social dislocation.
But while the pandemic may be on the retreat, not everybody’s mind has been concentrated on the things that really matter.
UK counter-terrorism chiefs have revealed that three terror plots have been foiled during the coronavirus pandemic. Two Islamist plots and one right-wing terror plot.
It brings the total number of foiled attacks since March 2017 to 28.
The better news from the Home Office is that the number of arrests for terrorism-related activity fell by 34% in 2020. Lockdown, it would seem, has had unexpected benefits.
Of those in prison for terrorism offences in the UK last year, one in five were right-wing extremists. That’s the highest proportion since records began.
It’s a reminder that public safety isn’t just about Covid-19. It’s also about how we address the agendas of hatred and violence.
Dealing with that aspect of public safety is a multi-faceted issue. It’s not simply about the police and intelligence agencies.
It’s about how we tackle extremism in the community and in the educational system.
It’s remains an international problem. For example, fourteen people were recently arrested in Denmark and Germany on suspicion of preparing one or several attacks.
Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, assesses that the overall terrorist threat to the security of the EU remains acute.
We do therefore have to remain vigilant and, in terms of our built environment, realistic.
That attitude of safety first is all about doing everything to foil terrorist plots, but to minimise the impact of a successful attack.
That’s why we were among the first in the international market to develop a glazing system capable of countering a lorry bomb. Since then, we have supplied worldwide.
Advising on high-performance systems involves calculating the level of required safety, against the performance characteristics of our advanced glazing systems.
It means, for example, calculating the likely blast loading from various levels of attack at different stand-off distances.
When a bomb detonates, it produces gases at very high temperatures. This in turn leads to rapid expansion and the creation of a shock wave travelling at speeds of up to twenty times the speed of sound.
The shock wave lasts only a few millionths of a second and is then followed by an equally sudden but longer-lasting drop in pressure. It’s the enormous impact of the shock wave that shatters glass.
Our advanced system was first live tested over ten years ago at a specialist test site in Northumberland. It involved the structurally-glazed system being subjected to the equivalent of 500 kilos of TNT. You can see a video of the test here.
While the world’s attention has been on Covid-19, and our recovery from it, architects and specifiers shouldn’t forget that old threats still remain.
The new normal that we emerge into will have some old normal extremists.
Photo: Blast test