Prep your city against attacks & storms

Q&A with Daniel Hiller, Head of the TAURUS network

“Our tool is more than just a new technology for infrastructures. It operates at the interface between humans and technology.” TAURUS network

Fraunhofer EMI Daniel Hiller

Your network has developed a virtual urban planning tool to improve resilience to extreme events which could be of interest to the United States. Why is this?

Our virtual planning tool has already made it possible to considerably improve the resilience of various large infrastructures in Germany. We know from colleagues in the United States that urban planners are seeking ways to prepare their potentially threatened towns and cities even better for extreme events and protect their citizens. Such extreme events are affecting the East Coast of the United States increasingly frequently and severely, be it hurricanes, floods or terrorist attacks.

We will not be able to prevent damage entirely even in the future but our tool can help to minimize such damage: We systematically include extreme events in our planning and specifically design new infrastructures and urban districts so that they are able to make a fast and successful recovery from extreme events and public life can quickly return to normal. This means that we have added the aspects of resilience and security to the three factors that have determined urban development in the past – design, use and cost effectiveness.

What is the advantage of the tool for international partners?

We are offering interested partners a reliable virtual resilience check on their infrastructures or urban areas based on real data. We are able to simulate various extreme events in the respective districts and large infrastructures to measure their current resilience. In the next step, we go on to devise the most effective action to offer the best protection and security. This also has advantages for society as a whole because our tool is more than just a new technology for infrastructures. It operates at the interface between humans and technology since it is not possible to generate urban resilience by technical means alone. A building in itself cannot be resilient. Should a catastrophe occur, the people involved are just as important: the personnel in the control room, the people who have to be evacuated or the fireman who needs access to certain storeys.

How does the tool work?

When planning or building a new large infrastructure you can use our planning tool to simulate the occurrence of catastrophes on the basis of real data and already consider the possible impact in the building’s design. In other words, our tool provides upfront answers to various important engineering questions connected with extreme events. These may be questions such as: If there is a terrorist attack: What strain must my infrastructure be able to withstand? Where am I most vulnerable? Planners can then decide to reinforce a certain part of a building, to build a thicker wall or to opt for security glass, to install security cameras or to work with simple solutions such as ensuring that sufficient distance is kept or issuing bans on vehicles.

The tool systematically considers a large number of measures in their entirety and prioritizes them according to the aspect of cost effectiveness. After all, security and resilience cost money in the short term. It is therefore good when investors see how much money they can save in the long term through comprehensive planning using our tool.

Will American urban planners be interested in your tool?

The issues of security and resilience are highly topical in the United States. Natural or man-made extreme events have repeatedly brought public life to a halt in recent years because critical infrastructures have been destroyed. These so-called lifeline infrastructures include, for example, supply systems for water, energy and food as well as the banking system, transport networks and communications infrastructures. Our planning tool enables us to prepare towns and cities for precisely these kinds of extreme events.

In view of the current political situation, it is very difficult to predict developments in US policy regarding security and resilience research in the relevant government departments such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy or the Department of Transportation. A sudden change in general conditions could have an impact on our potential for cooperation. We are placing our hopes in our academic partners. They are very receptive to solutions regarding the protection, security and resilience of vulnerable urban areas. They are actively seeking new solutions to help better prepare metropolitan regions such as Washington D.C., Boston and New York City for natural and man-made extreme events and protect their citizens.

About Daniel Hiller:

Daniel Hiller has initiated and managed national and international projects related to applied security and resilience solutions in various environments. Before taking up his current position with Fraunhofer EMI, he served as the Managing Director of the Fraunhofer-Group for Defence and Security Research (VVS). In addition to this, Daniel Hiller is the Managing Director of the Sustainability Center Freiburg, a joint initiative of all five Fraunhofer Institutes in Freiburg together with the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg, Germany.