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
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
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
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.