European cities still face many familiar ancient threats – earthquakes, volcano eruptions, floods and fires – plus a modern set that includes terrorism and industrial accidents. Dealing with such dangers requires new design concepts for urban spaces, foremost of which is resilience.
The EU-funded DESURBS
(Designing safer urban spaces) project aimed to support designers and managers with new tools to ensure safer cities. The list included: a security event database, a security and resilience design framework, other guidelines and risk assessment tools, and a web-based decision-support system.
DESURBS successfully produced the planned system. Developments include new methodologies, various databases and software tools. The latter may be used either singly or in combination with the project's decision-support system portal (DSSP). The easy-to-use system is targeted at urban planners, designers and engineers.
The DSSP helps stakeholders to recognise and rectify security weaknesses in urban designs, based on current best practices. Certain databases estimate the strengths of common building materials, while others provide tools for assessing weak points in buildings. The package also includes a modelling tool for simulating urban catastrophe management scenarios.
Further outcomes involved development and testing of mobile phone applications for crowd monitoring and tracking and for citizens' communications with authorities. The project also devised a tethered balloon system to facilitate emergency communication.
The DESURBS toolset helps authorities plan for and manage urban disasters, including natural and human-caused. The result means an improvement in safety for urban residents and better emergency response.