The First Line of Defense
Holding any threat at bay requires top-notch security at the outer reaches
- By Bill Evenson
- Aug 01, 2009
Thousands of sensitive sites across the world require highly reliable, cost-effective
perimeter intrusion detection solutions that meet the wide range of
security threats to governments and corporations. Critical infrastructures,
such as military bases, airports, petrochemical plants and refineries, differ
enormously in their individual security requirements, but one universal truth
for any facility is that physical security begins at the perimeter.
In addition to theft and sabotage, the threat of terrorism has caused increasing concern
and a corresponding increase in capital investment in threat reduction technologies.
According to USA Today, governments and businesses worldwide increased their
security spending to thwart terrorists nearly six-fold between 2000 and 2006, and security
spending is expected to double from 2006 to 2010.
The threat of terrorism is particularly felt within the commercial aviation industry,
with the number of security incidents dramatically increasing and causing widespread
concern. Between October and November of 2008, 39 separate incidents occurred in
airports and on airplanes worldwide, including sabotage and physical attacks on airport
In December 2008, London's Stansted Airport was brought to a standstill after protesters
from a radical environmental group breached security fences and occupied the
runway. They simply cut through the perimeter fence and wandered onto the runway
unhindered, remaining on the tarmac for five hours. Scores of flights had to be cancelled,
and thousands of passengers had to make alternative travel arrangements.
The airport is now facing huge fines and possible sanctions by the British Civil
Aviation Authority. Lacking a perimeter protection plan had a significant and lasting
effect on the Stansted Airport Authority.
In an unpublicized example at another international airport, graffiti artists "decorated" three parked planes overnight. The airliners were immediately grounded while aircraft engineers inspected them for other physical damage before they were certified
to fly to a maintenance facility for repairs. Repair costs and lost revenue exceeded $1
million due to a simple case of vandalism. Perimeter security systems were immediately
Even U.S. airports are not immune. A recent security breach at a major international
airport in the western United States ended with the arrest of a man who climbed the
perimeter fence and wandered onto one of the runways.
These examples of perimeter intrusions demonstrate how easily a security breach
can occur in an environment with which we are all familiar.
A Hidden Threat
Less familiar, and certainly less well publicized, is the pervasive illegal tapping of oil
In one 35-mile stretch of oil pipeline that extends from Turkey's Osmaniye region
to the Mediterranean Sea, operators located at least 13 illegal oil tap sites in an
18-month period. Illegal siphoning of this precious resource is relentless, potentially
dangerous and hugely expensive to the pipeline operators.
The problem is by no means isolated. In recent years, oil and gas pipelines have
been attacked in Nigeria, Pakistan, the Sudan, Myanmar and Iraq for a range of political
and criminal reasons.
According to the European Gas Pipeline Incident Data Group, the major cause of
gas pipeline incidents in Europe is external interference, including illegal tapping (50
percent of all incidents), followed by construction defects/material failures (16 percent)
and corrosion (15 percent).
In recent years, oil and gas pipelines have been a favorite target of terrorists. In
Colombia, for example, rebels have bombed Occidental Petroleum's Caño Limón
pipeline some 950 times since 1986, an average of 43 times per year. The bombing
often shuts down pipelines for months at a time and has cost Colombia's government
$2.5 billion in lost revenue.
In some cases, the potential for disaster is enormous. A 2002 plot was uncovered in
Saudi Arabia in which al-Qaeda sympathizers planned to attack the country's main oil
terminal. Had the attack been successful, up to 6 percent of the world's daily oil consumption
could have been halted, causing widespread disruption of energy prices,
stock valuations and consumer confidence.
The sheer volume of pipelines across the globe also is a factor in pipelines as a
security threat. The United States, for example, is criss-crossed by 375,000 miles of
natural gas pipeline and 250,000 miles of oil pipeline. By comparison, the length of
all U.S. interstate highways is less than 50,000 miles. The United States represents
but a small fraction of the worldwide energy delivery network, and the risks are
At The Edge
No matter the type of facility, from plants and oil refineries to underground pipelines
and sensitive sites, it is the responsibility of the physical security staff to prevent theft,
sabotage and accidental damage. Perimeter protection is always an integral part of the
In many cases, the shear length of perimeters requiring protection is too great for
any guard patrol to cover effectively. Large campus-style facilities need wide-area surveillance
systems that use a range of technologies such as ground radar, thermal sensors,
distributed fiber optics and CCTV cameras.
Traditional methods of protection include basic fence systems and fence alarms.
The major flaw in these systems is that by the time a fence alarm sounds, the security
breach is either in progress or already has occurred. This technology also is prone to
false alarms and provides limited tracking, assessment and situational awareness capabilities,
making it impossible for ground staff to identify an intruder's point of access
or egress in a timely manner.
Thanks to recent advances in photonics, applied physics and computer science, a
diverse range of technologies is available for perimeter security, varying greatly in
effectiveness, affordability and accuracy. To some degree, each tries to meet primary
customer requirements, including the ability to accurately pinpoint the location of an
intrusion, immediate notification to allow timely threat assessment and response, reliable
detection and low false/nuisance alarms, ease-of-use with minimal reliance on
manpower, a plug-and-play interface to existing and future technologies, and low lifecycle
Instant notification of the precise location of an intrusion is essential; it is not sufficient
to simply know a breach of the perimeter has occurred. There are a number of
solutions available to support perimeter protection.
Radar and thermal imaging technologies are newly developed detection and tracking
solutions. The two technologies work in very different ways, but a key benefit of
both is that they allow suspects to be spotted and tracked as soon as they enter predefined
zones. This means that potential intruders can be monitored while they are still
beyond the perimeter and can be tracked if they cross it.
Taut wire is a decades old means of detecting fence movement or possible tampering.
However, it is subject to high nuisance and false alarms due to environmental
causes such as wind, rain or animals.
Fiber optics can be an ideal perimeter p rotection solution. A fence-mounted fiber-optic detection system interfaced to
CCTV cameras provides visual confirmation
for appropriate threat response.
Some manufacturers now provide complete
end-to-end distributed fiber-optic
sensors. The benefits of these systems lie
in the key attributes of fiber optics:
- Extended distances (up to 50 miles)
- Pinpoint detection accuracy at the
speed of light
- High probability of detection coupled
with low FAR/NAR
- Immunity to RFI, EMI and lightning
- Virtually no preventive maintenance
- Extremely small power requirements,
using light, not electricity
Importantly, fiber-optic technology
operates in all weather conditions with no
change in sensitivity and virtually no nuisance
alarms. It also requires no electronics
or power in the field. It is easy and economical
to install or expand, and no required
field maintenance is an added bonus.
CCTV refers to the video system of a
collection of CCTV cameras and surveillance
that acts as a virtual barrier and
assesses the situation. The use of television
cameras for close scrutiny and
observation allows for accurate identification
of a threat.
Access control systems manage various
combinations of entry, exit and movement
within sterile and non-protected
areas. Access control is a subsystem that
supports intrusion detection systems.
Volumetric sensing monitors the physical
space adjacent to fence lines for system
penetration, and digital systems are
used to evaluate alarms. They are characterized
by very open-architecture systems,
large camera installations and a
wide variety of technologies.
Into The Future
Experts predict that the increase in
efforts and budgets to combat security
threats and protect perimeters will cause
more large system integrators to enter
the security market and forge partnerships
with smaller niche technology
companies to offer governments and
corporations improved threat detection
Future Fibre Technologies' Secure
Fence™ security solution has been
named a participant of the next generation
U.S. Military Joint Force Protection
Advanced Security System. Secure
Fence was one of a select group of nextgeneration
security solutions demonstrated
to high-ranking government and
military personnel, including representatives
from the Pentagon's Physical
Security Equipment Action Group, earlier
this year. It was the only outdoor
perimeter fence sensor technology chosen
for inclusion in this high-level liveaction
demonstration. The next step is
for the integrated JFPASS system to be
fielded at an international location with
the expectation that FFT and the
JFPASS system will become the
standard for base and force protection
within all branches of