The Safe Cities Index 2019 report on urban security and resilience in an interconnected world released by The Economist Intelligence Unit places two of Australia’s iconic megacities Sydney and Melbourne among the Top 10 safest cities in the world. Sydney and Melbourne placed 5th and 10th respectively based on a ranking scale across 57 indicators that primarily included, among other factors, (1) digital security, (2) health security, (3) infrastructure security and (4) personal security.
According to the report, the residents’ quality of life is directed by how well managed their security issues are due to the urbanisation of their cities and how well these cities can provide protection to residents, businesses and visitors. It puts forward the idea that safety improvements need not be large and expensive and that the will and creativity to make things happen matter more than capital investment.
The SCI identified examples of low-cost steps in improving the safety of the city and its people, as follows:
- Information sharing on cyberattacks with the proper authorities or through social media to create awareness and remind everyone to be vigilant
- Creating a cybersecurity culture where things as simple as good passwords are the norm
- Appropriate traffic markings on roads
- Enforcement of rules against building in flood plains
- Using technology, e.g., through social media channels, to maximise the use of existing infrastructure
- Information sharing, e.g., on the ongoing novel coronavirus epidemic and efforts undertaken to safeguard residents
- Vaccination and prevention initiatives extending to poorer parts of the city
- Gathering data on pollution levels
- Disseminating emergency alerts through state apps
- Preserving natural defences against flooding
- Building a culture of resilience with neighbourhood social events like fundraising concerts for farmers whose farms have been affected by drought, invitational games for bushfire victims, etc
- Adequate lighting
- Apps so citizens can conduct safety audits alerting other citizens and authorities to possibly dangerous areas
Official info sites, infrastructure and emergency apps in place
In as far as personal safety is concerned, safe cities use apps to alert citizens and authorities to possibly dangerous areas and share information for the safety of the majority.
This is best illustrated in the spate of bushfires in various parts of Australia where emergency apps that are already in place in all Australian states and territories alerted people on the status of evacuation and firefighting efforts, health advisories and official warnings and information on what’s happening around their respective areas.
Focusing on the ability to bounce back from a calamity
More importantly, the SCI report noted that perceptions of people in urbanised areas about safety are changing, with an increasing focus on resilience. For example, major cities are more conscious now about bigger issues like terrorism and climate change in line with the general safety of their people. They have developed the ability to bounce back after a natural or man-made disaster.
The report also indicates that safe cities did strongly in these focus areas for building city resilience: (1) emerging services in the city, (2) air transport facilities, (3) rail network, (4) catastrophe insurance, (5) disaster-risk informed development and (6) cybersecurity preparedness.