Zuidas Safety Platform: 'Zuidas can't guard against emergency'

The Zuidas Safety Platform is an alliance of local businesses, law enforcement, municipal authorities and the Amsterdam-Amstelland Safety Region. Most Hello Zuidas members delegate a facility manager or head of security to represent them within the platform. Its aim is to exchange knowledge and experience on how to respond to incidents and emergencies. The Safety Region often invites interesting guest speakers, from fire experts to terrorism and cybercrime specialists. The platform also examines incidents outside the district, such as the tram attack in Utrecht in March 2019. Olivier Otten, director of the Hello Zuidas Foundation, and Serge Dijkstra, Securitas branch manager, explain what the platform is all about.

The Safety Platform’s focus centres on emergency situations, such as terror threats, cybercrime, power failures, pandemics and so on. In what ways has the district been confronted with these kinds of events? 

Olivier: ‘It’s an unfortunate fact that Zuidas can’t guard against every kind of emergency. In 2015 the whole of the VUmc had to be evacuated due to flooding. And in the same year a power failure in Diemen led to a massive blackout that also hit us here in Zuidas. During construction of the Mahlerplein bike facility, we had to evacuate all of Q Park in the Mahler area. Organizations in Zuidas are also occasionally targets of cybercrime. And now, of course, we’ve been in a crisis situation for several months due to the coronavirus. We can see the effects of that on this wonderful district every day.’

The platform has its own alert system, with a Calamities app and an Incidents app. What do they do?

Olivier: ‘Members of our platform have to sign a confidentiality statement for Hello Zuidas, which is a requirement to be added to both of the app groups we maintain. Organizations and security services in Zuidas can use the Incidents app to report suspicious situations on and around their premises, actual or attempted burglaries, theft and minor fires. The Calamities app group was set up at the behest of the competent authorities to share information about threats or emergencies affecting all, or parts, of the district, for instance in the event the station has to be closed, or in case of serious traffic congestion.’

There have been some indications within the platform that knowledge-sharing and partnerships around social and physical safety in Zuidas need to be improved. How can a firm like Securitas contribute to that? 

Serge: ‘At Securitas, we’re driven by our purpose – “We Help Make Your World a Safer Place” – to look beyond the bounds of our immediate responsibilities. It’s based on that same belief that we started Safe Zuidas [Zuidas Veilig], a project in which we’ve taken the initiative to use our knowledge and resources to play an active role within broader issues of safety in Zuidas. Connecting to the Hello Zuidas Safety Platform is an essential and greatly valued part of that. We strongly believe in finding the right answer calls for a collective effort and looking at Zuidas as a single entity. This objective is in line with the idea that the current approach to knowledge sharing and cooperation around social and physical safety doesn’t have the basis to achieve that optimal state. To do that, we need a commitment that’s more broadly supported by all stake- holders. Our added value in this solution will constitute taking active and proactive measures throughout the district.’

Do you think the topic of safety deserves more prominence in Zuidas? 

Serge: ‘Absolutely! Recent events and news about incidents in Amsterdam are also resonating in Zuidas. I can imagine the fatal shooting of a guy from Badhoevedorp after an altercation over a watch and the violent crimes targeting lawyers are giving many people in Zuidas pause. It underscores how thin the line is and how fast safety and the sense of safety can be undermined. Safety deserves to play a more prominent role in the daily awareness of individual residents, workers and visitors here. Citizen participation, awareness about your safety and the safety of your immediate environment and reporting unusual situations will all be essential in future. The Hello Zuidas Calamities app and Incidents app are a great initiative in that direction.’