Stopped In Their Tracks

Vehicular control protection takes off at airports

Before Sept. 11, 2001, perimeter security provided an extra barrier of protection for an airport and its people—typically from hijackers and vandals. Although that is still true, there is now an added threat. Today, we cannot afford to let a terrorist or attacker get near airport facilities, people or passengers. In all too many cases, getting close is all they have to do.

Although every effort is made to ensure the safety of air travelers, what is being done to protect airport employees? What about the security of the cargo delivered? What about perimeter security breaches, which allow potentially dangerous terrorists and criminals onto federal aviation property, thereby endangering everyone within? Airports nationwide are now taking measures to protect everyone— passengers and employees—by installing vehicle access control devices. These new airport security systems are designed to stop any type of vehicle.

A Greater Need
Originally used to stop theft at car rental agencies, bollards, barriers, barricades and crash gates are now common throughout airports, especially after 9/11. From protecting the tarmac to passenger areas, airports are especially conscious of controlling vehicle access. As a countermeasure to the increased theft of rental cars 15 years ago, many rental car operators began using traffic controllers to disable unauthorized vehicles from entering or leaving their lots. Motorized traffic controllers (“wrong-way” teeth), warning signs and traffic- and surface- mounted controllers (e.g., gates) prevent thefts of rental cars by disabling unauthorized vehicles from entering or leaving the lot. Installation of these units all but eliminated drive- or crash-out thefts.

Almost every airport features parking/cashier booths. Some are fairly basic; others are upgraded. For instance, on the way out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, 18 prefabricated Delta parking/cashier booths help handle the airport’s doubled parking capacity of 13,000 spaces. Put in prior to 9/11, these booths simultaneously are aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the security of the airport by providing vehicle access control. The rounded corners and custom-painted design complement the two nine-level parking structures. Two heaters, double insulation and tinted glass help parking attendants guard against both the Minnesota winters and sun.

Contrast those booths with the bullet-resistant booths used at California’s Ontario International Airport. These 6 x 12-foot buildings were manufactured to meet tight specification requirements, including structural calculations and wet seals from drawings by a registered California structural engineer.

Guarding with Gates
The ramp-up in guard booths illustrates the increased security measures airports now take with vehicle control. Soon after 9/11, the U.S. Air Force deployed 541 high-security DSC 501 barriers at its facilities around the globe. This barricade will stop and destroy a 65,000- pound vehicle traveling 50 mph and can be raised or lowered at will to control traffic. In an emergency, thick steel plates or bollards pop out of the ground within 1.5 seconds. It didn’t take long for commercial airports to follow the Air Force’s lead.

With its shallow 18-inch foundation, the DSC 501 obviates interference with buried pipes, power lines and fiber-optic communication lines, a major consideration at airports. The foundation also reduces installation complexity, time, materials and costs. Front-face warning lights warn drivers that the barricade is in the “up” position. There also is an open area on the front for signage. Diagonal yellow and white stripes are standard, but optional colors and graphics are available. The open-channel construction even lets airports specify hot dip galvanizing.

One of the many Federal Aviation Administration mandates airports must meet requires securing access points to international freight lines. That includes access to air cargo facilities, which scores of trucks enter and exit hourly. That was the issue facing California’s largest fencing contractor, Alcorn Fence, at Los Angeles International Airport for Qantas Airways and Singapore Airlines.

To solve the problem, Alcorn Fence installed crashtested swing gates on the runway that accesses the cargo facilities. The SCG 1000 provides openings of up to 40 feet for gates up to 9 feet tall, allowing plenty of room for cargo to pass through. Best of all, no ground tracks are required, keeping installation costs to a minimum while protecting the runway.

LAX also uses the SGC 3000 industrial gate. This gate, like the SGC 1000, doesn’t need a track, wheels or roller path across the entrance or drive. Thus, it adapts well to roads with high crowns, drainage gutters or other conditions that preclude ground tracks.

Bollards: Simple and Effective
With today’s smart designs, it’s no longer necessary to choose between form and function; airports can have both. Designers are creating secure environments with more compatible and aesthetically pleasing architectural elements. Ranging from faceted, fluted, tapered, rings and ripples, colors and pillars to shields, emblems and logos, bollards are aesthetically pleasing and versatile. In other words, they dress up airport security.

Bollard systems operate individually or in groups of up to 10 and are used for intermediate-level security applications. Individual bollards are up to 13.25 inches in diameter, up to 35 inches high and usually mounted on 3-foot centers. Hydraulic and pneumatic versions can be operated by a variety of control systems. Manual versions are counterbalanced and lock in the up or down position. All models are crash-rated and can be lowered to permit authorized vehicles.

An incident at Glasgow International Airport on June 30, 2007, raised new concerns for airports. The airport was evacuated after a green Jeep Cherokee struck the airport’s terminal building and burst into flames. In such cases, a cost-effective fixed bollard array can be used instead of retractable bollards. However, airport infrastructures exacerbate installation problems caused by rough surfaces, turns and lack of traditional foundation depth due to subsurface utilities and fiber optics. Moreover, conventional barriers require surface areas to be completely level. Given the growing demand for a crash-resistant device that is easy to install and attractive, yet compliant with restrictive subsurface conditions, the DSC 600 shallow foundation bollard recently was introduced.

On curves, setbacks often end up too close to the facility. Now, airports can install bollards on the upper levels of parking structures and other unprotected facilities without using unsightly make-do solutions to stop car bombers or negligent drivers.

DSC 600 bollards protect approaches to airport facilities, drop-off and passenger loading areas at transportation hubs and other locations where unauthorized vehicle intruders face no obstacles. With DSC 600 bollard modules, facilities surrounded by streets, abutting sidewalks and lawns now can be effectively protected. The DSC 600 bollards easily blend into curves, rough terrain or inclines. Setbacks can be as short as 2 feet, providing a greater safety cushion for an airport facility.

With a foundation only 14 inches deep versus the typically required 4 feet, shallow foundation bollards can be installed on sidewalks, on top of concrete deck truss bridges or in planters and can be conformed to inclines and turns. The new two-bollard modules, which can be arrayed in any length, will stop and destroy a 15,000-pound truck traveling 50 mph. The product has already successfully passed a K12 rating crash test, proving its ability to provide high-energy stops. In fact, the DSC 600 is the first shallow foundation bollard to meet the U.S. Department of State specification that requires the bed of the attacking truck to travel less than 39 inches beyond the point of impact.

The new bollard modules also meet the 1-meter clearance regulations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although DSC 600 bollards will let people pass through, they will stop vehicles in their tracks.

Protecting Vulnerabilities
Because of the relationship of velocity to the kinetic energy of a vehicle, airports typically force a vehicle to slow down before it reaches the bollard or other barrier. 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 four times. If the speed is reduced by two-thirds, the force of impact will be reduced nine times. Meant to slow vehicle approach, this design also ensures that an 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. In this case, knolls and other impediments are typically employed.

By their very nature, terrorist attacks are unpredictable and predicated on surprise. Staying one step ahead by identifying and securing vulnerable areas is critical to staving off vehicular attacks. Terrorists typically don’t go where they see barricades, so placing them wherever possible attacks can happen reduces security risks dramatically.

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