New Threats: Current Challenges in Protecting Soft Targets

January 17, 2024

4 min

The protection of soft targets remains an increasingly pressing issue in today's world. On Friday, January 12th, security experts gathered in the historic building of Prague's Karolinum to discuss the current situation and possible approaches and technologies that could contribute to better protection. The discussion took place under the auspices of the Central Crisis Staff of Charles University and was organized by the ASIS association, which brings together security professionals from around the world.

Soft targets, such as schools, hospitals, shopping centers, or public gatherings, are places with a high concentration of civilians, making them tempting targets for potential attackers. Unfortunately, history is full of examples where insufficient protection of these places led to tragedies. However, the general public, until recently, believed that the problem mainly concerned foreign countries, until the tragic shooting at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University at the end of last year, a tragedy that no one expected even in the darkest dream.

Technological progress offers new possibilities for the protection of soft targets that are flexible and comprehensive, capable of responding in real-time to a diverse spectrum of potential risks. Presented systems, such as the detection of non-standard sounds from Jalud Embedded, the crisis and alert system SAFETE, the communication network MUNIPOLIS, add-on systems for shared situational awareness from iVISEC, and video analytics from Innovis, are examples of innovations that can significantly contribute to better prevention, accelerate response to crisis situations, and above all, provide the most accurate information immediately to the Integrated Rescue System.

However, Jan Čulík from Innovis noted: "We have a wide range of technologies available; it is essential to realize that none of them is a universal solution. The effectiveness of technologies depends on their suitable combination and integrated collaboration among them, as well as the collaboration of people who use and rely on these technologies."

The public needs to be prepared for the fact that events like the lone gunman attack at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University cannot be completely prevented. We are familiar with many technologies that can detect threats and alert to them. However, it is people who must act and decide during a crisis. Whether they are security managers, operators, or people at the scene of danger. Despite the existence of security measures, the response may be inadequate. During life-threatening events, time is of the essence, and ignorance of basic security procedures can result in loss of human life.

Without a unified methodology and certified procedures, the protection of soft targets remains fragmented and often incomplete. This was agreed upon by most experts. A significant benefit would be cooperation and coordination between the public and private sectors, ensuring the education of the public, employees, students, and other vulnerable groups to be prepared to respond correctly in crisis situations.

For example, in practice, the police use sophisticated procedures during interventions and also educate the leadership of schools in this area. On the other hand, there is no effective transfer of this knowledge among teachers, students, or pupils. In other cases, contradictory information is received from different institutions and trainers.

"Without technological solutions and education, it won't work today. However, we must not forget that every object, building, or space is specific and unique. Security depends on fundamental security analysis. It is absolutely crucial for protection," concluded the discussion Oldřich Rutar, vice president of the Czech and Slovak branch of the ASIS association.

The platform raised many questions and did not have answers to all of them. However, it offered a new perspective on how technological progress and public education can lead to increased security. Specialists will discuss further aspects in detail during upcoming meetings later this year.

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