HEIDELBERG, Germany - Living in Europe affords many Americans the unique opportunity to take advantage of the local culture, and savor the sights and sounds of their host nation country.

However, along with these opportunities, come an increased level of responsibility and awareness.

Last September, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg anti-terrorism officials, in coordination with U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, began testing a pilot program called the Off-post Activity Assessment Program.

It's designed to identify security concerns at local establishments such as night clubs, restaurants, hotels and places of religious worship routinely frequented by U.S. personnel.

"The purpose is to identify security concerns we may have that could be a detriment to our American community here," said Tim Harmon USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg physical security specialist. "What we do is make recommendations to the managers and supervisors of these places for improvement. We also like to see where we can offer a hand in improving security for our American personnel that do visit these locations, as well as for the local nationals community." It's another way that we can work together to ensure the safety of the overall community," he said.

The program allows specialists in the security, safety and intelligence fields to collaborate and coordinate with local national law enforcement and host nation owners of popular off-post establishment, Harmon added.

It targets off-post establishments known to host a population of 50 or more U.S. personnel on a regular basis and it also works in conjunction with the garrison's iWatch program.

"iWatch is not only limited to the American community. We also like to invite our host nation community to be active in the program when we're out doing these assessments. It allows the owners and managers of these places to have a point of contact if something does seem suspicious, and it's also a way to make sure our folks have access to iWatch information wherever they go," he said.

During an assessment, a small team usually made up of a physical security specialist, an anti-terrorism officer and a local national police escort visit the off post establishment. With the owner's permission, they use a comprehensive checklist to survey the inside and outside of the building and parking areas.

"We start from the outside and work our way in," Harmon said. "We look at how close the parking areas are to the building, the vicinity of a main road or autobahn and how well lit the parking areas are. We also look at the basic structure of the building to see if it's wood or if it's brick, if there's adequate lighting at all entrances and exits of the exterior. We see if there is some type of access control, whether it's a guard or someone at the door checking ID cards or an entrance with a secret pin number or card."

Other things the team checks for are security cameras, emergency exits, working fire extinguishers and proximity to host nation hospitals and emergency services.

The assessment usually takes about an hour and the findings are reported to the garrison.

Officials from the establishment are also briefed on the results and presented with possible solutions if problems are found. So far, teams have gone to sites in Heidelberg and Mannheim, and there are plans to possibly take the program to the Kaiserslautern community.

For information on the Off post Activity Assessment, the iWatch program or other anti-terrorism resources, visit www.bw.eur.army.mil/iwatch.