The First Line of Defense

Holding any threat at bay requires top-notch security at the outer reaches

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.

Real-world Examples

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 personnel.

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 installed.

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 pipelines globally.

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 enormous.

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 security solution.

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 costs.

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 required
  • 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 and prevention.

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 the military.

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