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Rethinking Security Barriers

Rethinking Security Barriers

There are really only two ways to prevent malevolent actions; one is to deter your adversary and the other is to defeat your adversary. Today we are going to focus on deterring via barriers. It should be noted that some of the topics discussed will not be ideal for all properties or price ranges. So if you wish, take the ideas and scale them up or down to fit your needs. Remember: the goal is always to implement measures that are perceived by your adversary as too difficult to defeat, or difficult enough that it will slow them down. Sometimes this is much easier than one might think; remembering of course that perception is reality.

Barriers can be a big portion of your overall security or protection planning. Unfortunately, some people only think about walls or fences and stop at that, while others think way too big and give up without even trying because the project is way too big in their mind. But something that is often missed in regard to barriers is their true capabilities or the relatively inexpensive options.

It is important to remember that barriers such as fences and even walls only deter penetration; they do not necessarily stop it. So, it really is a matter of what your goals are and how you put barriers together that make a truly secure location. What follows is not a detailed security plan. Instead, it’s merely a short listing of things to think about as well as ideas of ways to integrate barriers into your protection plans.

One thing to remember is that with enough motivation, ALL barriers can be overcome. Not only can they be overcome, but they can sometimes be used against you. For instance; if you are in retreat, how are you going to navigate your barriers? Just something to consider. If you don’t, you might have just developed a great trap for yourself.

Barriers can also be defeated by some of the things we rarely think about. Examples of this might be how water can make the ground loose enough to dig under walls, or how trees and shrubs can create natural ladders, or how a lack of light with some dense fog may create the perfect cover. These are all just things to keep in mind as we explore your barrier options.

Fences – fences are not exactly a bad tool. It’s actually the most common type of barrier and usually consists of wood or wire. However, these can be easy to defeat as you can drive over them, scale them, cut them, and disassemble them… or anything else really. But they will slow your adversary down a bit, and while easily defeated, they are popular for a reason. Not only do they achieve the goal of slowing down an adversary, but they are fairly inexpensive. It’s a solid first level deterrent; depending on what you are using it for of course. You can increase the maximum effectiveness by ensuring the fence is at least 7 feet tall. That height may not work in some residential areas, but the higher the better.

Wire – Barbed wire or Concertina Wire are great examples of the wire option and how it can be used as a barrier. Even chicken wire can be challenging barrier depending on its application. Wire is usually much cheaper than stone walls or some wooden fences, but sometimes barbed or razor wire are used in conjunction with fencing or walls to keep people from going over the top of them. Sometimes, these types of wires are used as the barrier all by themselves and to dramatic effect; as often seen in old war footage or pictures. Probably not the best option if you live in a highly populated area, but the point remains.

The beauty of wire is that creativity is your only limitation. For example: a series of guy wires strung over a piece of property can stop a helicopter from landing. Setting an electrical charge to the wire increases barrier capability and deterrence. Some of the best barrier ideas I have seen have integrated wire in some way shape or form. If you are going to use wire to top fences or walls, and for maximum benefit, you want at least three to four Barbed or Concertina Wires used at any given time. Guy wires usage depends on the span of property being protected but at a minimum, at least one wire slightly off-center of the landing zone and preferably secured to something extremely sturdy… like a couple of large trees if you are going low-budget.

Walls – this will include brick, masonry, stones or even blocks. These are tough and rigid, and can provide excellent cover from even some of the most powerful small arms fire or even vehicle advancement. If they are built correctly, they can be difficult to climb. If they are built strategically, they be incorporated into the drive planning and make fast advancement difficult by forcing sharp and/or slow turns. Sometimes you will see fences used alongside walls, this is merely a cheaper alternative to two mighty walls side by side. Standards for optimum security is at least 7 feet tall integrated with at least three to four strands of wire at the top and any host of things in the middle or adjacent. Again, any addition simply adds to the security level and your imagination and planning are critical.

But also consider the walls of your structure or compound – such as the actual walls of your home. Is drywall and insulation enough? I have read where foamboard is just about it in some homes. Could your walls us a layer of plywood at the very least? What about something stronger? Do you have a safe room? What are the walls of this room made out of? Brick, blocks, steel and even denser wood can play a huge role in the overall security of the actual structure or room as well. Just something to think about moving forward.

Bollards – bollards are short, thick posts. You can see these on the deck of a ship, on a dock, or more and more, in front of businesses and government buildings. This allows foot traffic but stops vehicles from breaching certain areas. This also allows for an open feeling while ensuring trucks carrying explosives cannot get too close or by making sure that getaway vehicles have a harder time maneuvering. The great thing about bollards is that you can place them on your property for relatively little money. You could use concrete by itself, steel pipes filled with concrete or even old railroad ties, etc. Of course, there is always the professional option.

The key is that you want a good chunk of the bollard in the ground, with at least 3 feet sticking out of the ground. You also want them spaced enough that at least two bollards would touch an oncoming vehicle if it tries to ram them. How much goes under ground is user preference, but if I had 5 feet of material, I would probably suggest that 3 feet be exposed with 2 feet being under ground and secured with both dirt and concrete – if on a budget.

Roads and Drives – you can guide or stop traffic with the right kind of barriers. Roads and drives are created and maintained where one cannot drive. Sometimes it boils down to the easiest path. Keep this in mind as you create your drives and consider the drive itself as part of the barrier scheme. Large rocks, low hanging trees, offset walls, sharp turns, winding obstacles, cliffs, etc., can all slow, limit or even stop certain vehicles. Again, creativity is key in this regard.

Natural Barriers – as previously mentioned, a cliff is a good example of a natural barrier. Rivers, large trees, a ditch, boulders, etc. Nature provides plenty of options and sometimes the best solutions for barriers. It’s a great idea to use these to our security advantage. Some great looking and highly effective systems integrate nature into their security plans. Really analyze what you have at your disposal and build or plan around it.

Lighting – lighting is always critical. You can use this to your advantage. Just as you can illuminate your potential adversary, you can also hide yourself with the right amount of light. That’s right, light placement can create the opportunity to make dark spots. Dark spots can be used to hide certain barriers or other security measures such as bollards. Say for instance an adversary is driving down your secured road at night. The lighting winds down your road, illuminating the way. But at night, the illumination doesn’t follow the road and the lights are bright enough to obscure any doubt. Perhaps sensors trigger the lights to blinding effect at a certain point and the lights were strategically placed in front of a particular set of bollards so as to hide them in a dark spot, while also guiding the oncoming vehicle in that specific direction: Boom! The vehicle and possibly the adversary have been slowed down substantially. Just an example, but the point is that creativity can create.

Sensors and Alarms – Sensors can be used in a number of different ways. Some are set up to silently alert someone of something, some are set up to sound alarms. It really depends on your goals when it comes to their use. Silent would be handy if you don’t want your adversary to know that you are aware of their presence. This might give you the element of surprise on your home ground. Audible alarms might scare away a would-be adversary or force them to rush their plans, which might also give you an advantage if you were anticipating it. Some sensors may trigger lights, electric elements, and so on. Again, creativity is pretty much your only limitation and the technology is now inexpensive enough that it can be integrated on the cheap.

Windows, Doors and Locks – Of course windows, doors and locks right? But have you given any thought to the type of door or type of locks you currently use? Do you have a flimsy wooden door, a strong wood door, a fiberglass screen door or heavy duty steel door? Do you have flimsy locks or solid dead bolts? Are your doors attached to the studs with at least 3 inch screws, or attached the frame with 1 inch screws? Are your windows secured? Do they have polyester films installed? Can you do without a certain window that might actually be a vulnerability? The devil is in the details on this one. Each plan is different but these are your last lines of defense. And since they are your last lines, they should be your first thought and your biggest priority.

Combinations – As you have probably seen throughout this article, combinations work great. There is no “best solution” in regard to security barriers because each mission and desired outcome is different, so mixing it up helps quite a bit. Ultimately, a combination of barriers is going to be best, as each barrier provides just one more obstacle for the adversary, while providing you just a little more time to react.

Just a few examples of great combinations could be some low level guy wires strung between trees to make trip hazards to aid in the slowdown of approaching enemies; barbed wire between bollards to keep light trucks and personnel from advancing; steel reinforced walls with a reinforced door and bars over the windows to fortify your compound; or something as simple as a chicken wire buried a foot and a half in the ground to keep the rabbits out of your garden. Remember: each mission is different.

Your goals are obviously the deciding factor but planning is the key no matter what. The goal of this article to merely help you rethink some opportunities you may have in regard to your current plans or to help you come up with some new ideas in regard to future planning. Again, we must remember that barriers can be overcome; but it’s our goal to create an environment that will slow down our adversaries and buy us the time we need.

David Robertson

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David is a writer, researcher, speaker, and much more. He holds a Master’s of Science in Leadership and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in both a nationally-recognized program of Leadership and in Security Management. Additionally, he boasts certificates in both Operational Leadership and Homeland Security.

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