Crunch Time

Crunch Time

Vehicular access is crucial part of security systems

From embassies and federal courthouses to transportation hubs and military bases, a wide variety of government agencies protect themselves from errant drivers and truck bomb threats with barriers, bollards, barricades and crash gates. Many remember when barricades at the United States Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, stopped a bomb-laden car and SUV from penetrating the entrances to the facility. The Taliban attacked the consulate in western Afghanistan with car bombs and guns on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, killing at least four Afghans but failing to enter the compound or hurt any Americans. The two drivers of the explosivesfilled vehicles did not survive.

The barricade that protected the consulate staff in Herat can stop a 15,000 pound vehicle going 40 mph. Certified by the Department of State, it features a phalanx-type rising plate barrier mounted within multiple inertial pods and can be deployed in high traffic locations for full manual or automatic operation within two hours. The plate barrier lies level to the ground to allow vehicles to pass and is raised or lowered into position utilizing a hydraulic cylinder driven by a hydraulic power unit or manually.

From what happened at Herat and other government buildings that have been protected by barricades while under attack, it is easy to discern that a large factor in saving lives from vehicle bombers is to successfully stop the attacking vehicle far enough away from the building to avoid the high pressure shock wave of a bomb blast.

Typically, though, terrorists don’t go where they see barricades. By placing the barricades where possible attacks can happen, security risks can be reduced dramatically, even if the need is only short-term. Temporary barriers can temporarily protect facilities during events, such as an international summit or presidential visit, until permanent barriers are installed, and where physical conditions preclude permanent solutions, such as the State Department does to protect our embassy on Paris’ city streets.

Bollards, Barricades and Barriers Protect

More than 160 U.S. embassies and consulates in 130-plus countries as well as those of the United Kingdom and other nations incorporate such perimeter protection. Some embassies also employ a BioBooth, which features outer and inner workrooms with sealed doors, lighting and hospital style floors. Each room has long countertops and open spaces for staging, sorting and prospective decontamination. A bench top-mounted HEPA-filtered laboratory hood with UV sterilization is pre-installed and may be flexibly positioned to isolate and protect the inspector opening the packages. The booths have controllable drainage and an internal wash-down hose bib. An optional sub-floor basin catches the contaminated liquid for removal through a valve into a disposal container.

The government is well into the largest courthouse building program in 50 years, spurred by increasing space needs identified by the Federal Judiciary. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), the continued growth of the Federal Judiciary has resulted in a system comprising 1,900 judges and 26,000 employees. Current facilities are under severe pressure to maintain and provide for increased court dockets, the expanding variety of ancillary activities related to legal proceedings, reliance on modern technology and greater security needs.

At the Miami Federal Courthouse, a loop detector holds the Delta TW2015 barrier open until the last part of the vehicle has passed the closing loop, located beyond the unit. The detector then gives a pulse on departure, instructing the barrier to rise after the vehicle has passed. Such barriers, barricades and bollards discourage attempts to cause harm and assure employees and others conducting business at a federal courthouse that they can feel secure, whether at the Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse in Albuquerque, the U.S. Courthouse in Syracuse, N.Y., or 100 others.

Originally used primarily to stop the constant risk of thefts at car rental agencies, bollards, barriers, barricades and crash gates are now common throughout airports. Booths were traditionally used for housing guards who collected parking fees. Today, they’re often ballistic rated. From protecting the tarmac to passenger areas, airports are especially conscious of controlling vehicle access.

For instance, among the many FAA mandates airports must meet is one that requires securing access points to international freight lines. That includes access to air cargo facilities, where scores of trucks must go in and out on an hourly basis. The sliding gate system that is used in such an application must be crash rated. Clear openings range from 12 to 30 feet.

A linear crash gate will withstand the impact of a 15,000 pound vehicle striking the gate at 50 mph. Gates like these can be seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on the runway accessing the Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airlines terminals.

After the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the Defense Department has been consistently upgrading vehicle access to military bases and their living quarters throughout the world. The implementation at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter on Hawaii’s island of Oahu is typical. At all eleven entrances, there is a screening area where a guard stops the vehicle, asks for and checks an ID. If everything is fine, the vehicle is authorized to continue into the base. However, if a non-authorized vehicle ignores the guard or decides to take off on his own into the base, the guard activates the vehicle access system which pops into action and stops the car or truck dead in its tracks.

Similar systems are used at other Army locales as well as at U.S. Navy and Air Force bases throughout the world.

It is almost a cliché in international spy movies. The good guys need to escape to the adjoining country to avert certain death. They pile into a car or truck and head for the border, which is defended by armed soldiers and a barricade consisting of a wooden bar the size of a broom handle. The car revs up, the guns begin shooting and the car roars through the barricade with splinters exiting out of the field of view.

Located between San Diego and Tijuana, the San Ysidro Landed Port of Entry (SYLPOE) is the busiest land port in the world, processing an average of 50,000 northbound vehicles per day. The majority of the traffic lanes have two stacked bullet-resistant inspection booths created for northbound traffic. Contrary to the flimsy wooden bar in the movie borders, the high-strength wire rope of beam barricades will stop a non-armored or non-tracked vehicle weighing 6,000 pounds at 40 mph. The barrier has been certified per U.S. Navy TM-56-86-05 to have a performance evaluation of 1/L3.0. Some of the most secure 10 to 100 yards of property in the world are at border crossings. At crossings using vehicle access control, the odds of a vehicle penetrating to any extent are almost zero. Terrorists simply need to find another alternative.

A High School Physics Reminder

A vehicle moving at 50 mph has 25 times as much kinetic energy as it would at 10 mph. Thus, an armored car weighing 30 times as much as a Toyota Corolla and moving at 10 mph would have less hitting power than the Toyota moving at 60 mph.

Because of this, every effort must be made to force a vehicle to slow down before it reaches the barricade. The most frequently used technique is to require a sharp turn immediately in front of the barrier. When vehicle speed is reduced by 50 percent, the “hitting power” is reduced by four times. If the speed is reduced by 2/3rds, the force of impact will be reduced by nine times.

Upon designing a way to slow down vehicle approach, precautions should also be taken that the attacking car cannot make a “corner cutting shot” at a barricade. Often, only a light post defines a turning point and a speeding car can take it out and not even hesitate. Knolls and other impediments should be considered. If the approach to the facility is long, it’s best to create curves along the access roads as a natural obstacle to speeding cars or trucks.

Overcoming Common Design Deficiencies

Without adequate testing, there is no assurance that the barrier will resist the threat. Testing is normally by an independent testing company or government agency, such as the State Department (DOS) and the military.

Today’s barriers are capable of stopping and destroying a truck weighing up to 65,000 pounds. Such barricades can be raised or lowered at will to stop traffic or let it through. In an emergency, the thick steel plates or bollards pop out of the ground within one second. A mobile barrier can be towed and set up in only 15 minutes. Nonetheless, it will stop a 15,000 pound vehicle going 30 mph.

One final area that should not be overlooked is aesthetics. With today’s smart designs, it’s no longer necessary to choose between form and function. You can have them both. Designers are creating secure environments with more compatible and aesthetically pleasing architectural elements.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Security Today.

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