Vulnerability assessment

Following recently attacks in Europe, the European Commission have produced an article looking into the aspects that need to be considered when planning the physical protection scheme of places of worship.

The next component of the risk analysis is the identification of the inherent vulnerabilities of a particular place of worship. Below several considerations are illustrated, which need to be accounted for when performing vulnerability identification/assessment and establishing potential attack scenarios:

  • Approach routes
    • Creation of bottlenecks – conglomeration of vehicles or pedestrians (possibility of explosion or firearm attacks, even drones)
    • Presence of alternative access/exit routes
    • Surrounding road network and proximity transport infrastructure
    • Surrounding urban environment and topography (eg residential area, city centre, public spaces, tall buildings from where a sniper may attack.)
    • Traffic volume and type (e.g. access to large/heavy vehicles)
  • Parking and transport facilities
    • Particularities of the access points (tunnels, shuttles, narrow lanes)
    • Location of the parking/transport facilities in respect to the public place (underground, drop-off zones etc.)
  • Access control
    • Entry / exit points (presence of alternative access points like emergency exits or side doors)
    • Positioning of access controls in a way not causing crowd conglomeration or not shifting the vulnerability to another spot
    • Efficiency and effectiveness of access control equipment (dynamic / passive protective barriers, CCTV cameras, scanning equipment)
  • Crowd management
    • Maximum crowd flow and possibilities for re-channelling
    • Presence of shelter from active-shooter/vehicle ramming attacks
    • Presence of counter or physical protection measures from UAS (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) attacks
  • Structural resilience
    • Possibility of fragment creation or partial\progressive collapse after an IED attack
    • Cascading structural effects on adjacent structures
  • Safeguards
    • Presence of security officials
    • Controlled access (personnel, visitors, vehicles)
    • Establishment of screening procedure for eliminating insider threats


Another important aspect of the risk analysis are the potential consequences of an attack on a place of worship. Loss of human life, physical damage, damage to religious artefacts with high symbolic, cultural and artistic value are the immediate consequences. In the longer term, terrorist attacks on places of worship might cause lasting psychological traumas and disruptions in the functioning of the religious community. Indirect consequences include effects on the economy, such as repair costs and the impact on the tourism industry, as well as socio-psychological effects on the whole of society.

A thorough risk analysis considering various attack scenarios and different threats provides for an informed decision on the risk appetite – the risk we are ready to accept. Because in practice zero risk does not exist. The aim is to select proportionate protective solutions – solutions which do not impinge on the very nature and purpose of the place of worship and which correspond to the level of risk.

View guidance and support by the European Commission in their article  HERE

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