Sunday, May 19, 2019

Getting Everyone to Speak a Common Language

A couple weeks ago, I was teaching a class about using building design to deter criminal activity, including terrorist attack, and when it fails reduce its effects and prevent mass casualties.  After the obligatory introductions, I said something to the effect, that building design is a matter of reducing risk whenever and wherever possible.  But in order to do that you have to the know your “DBT”.

Based on the blank stares, I got back, I knew something was wrong.  So, I said it again.  Still the deer in the headlights looks.  So, I said, “Everyone knows what DBT stands for, right”?  Still nothing.  Not one person raised their hand.  I was taken aback.  After all the class was made up of seasoned architects, engineers, planners and security folks.  I would have thought, at least, one or two would have known what I was talking about.

So, we spent the new few minutes talking about Design Basis Threat or DBT, if you will.  DBT is identifying your threats, their tactics, the tools they may use and then designing your building to deter or prevent them from happening, in the first place, and understanding that if they do happen you can reduce their effects if you’ve included reduction strategies into the design.

The very first thing to do is to assemble “the planning team”.  The idea that “it takes a village” needs to be used here.  The team should include architects, engineers, facility manager, security, end users and others.  It’s important to bring these folks together, so that they can discuss the parameters of what they are trying to accomplish and “buy in” to the project.  If done correctly at the beginning of a project, security costs can be kept to a minimum, usually somewhere around five percent of the total project costs.  If security comes in at the end of the project this cost may skyrocket to thirty-forty percent, because of the long term cost of equipment maintenance and especially, personnel costs.

Once the team is assembled, the first step is to identify the threat or threats.  Threats can be divided into two categories; natural and man-made.  Fortunately, laws and ordinances exist that address natural threats in building design; i.e., earthquake, flooding, fire, tornado, etc.  Man-made threats on the other hand – not so much.  Although, that is changing slowly.  Last year, federal legislation was signed into law that addresses the use of hostile vehicles as a method of attack in public spaces.  We’re still waiting for the DHS report the law requires and its subsequent findings and recommendations.  I’m particularly concerned that our government hasn’t the courage to attack hostile shooter legislation, when it is so needed.  But that’s another Blog topic for another time.

The second step is to identify the motives of the man-made threat,; i.e., causing injury or death, theft or unlawful removal of property or equipment, damage to property or facilities and causing adverse publicity.  Then we need to figure out what type of groups commit these acts; criminals (sophisticated/non-sophisticated, organized/unorganized), protesters (organized/non-organized), terrorist (domestic/trans-national/state-sponsored) and subversives.  

Then we look at the tactics they use; stationary or moving vehicle, different types of weapon usage, forced entry, etc.  Each tactic uses a different set of tools. That said, each type of tool use has a countermeasure available to reduce its effectiveness.

If we understand their motives, tactics and tools, we can design countermeasures into inhabited space that reduces the possibility that they will occur and when that falls short reduces their effects. 

My book, The Solutions Matrix: A Practical Guide to Soft Security Engineering for Architects, Engineer, Planners and Security Professionals, will be available in September.  It will outline the processes used to determine DBT, have a quick reference chart that outlines how to counter each type of man-made threat and provide examples of practical real-world solutions.  

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