Monday, May 14, 2007

The Transition of the Low Tech Fence
Robert Gruber, PSP
Master Halco Security Solutions Group

Yesterday I saw a cartoon picturing the US / Mexican border in the background, with new 20' fencing being installed. In the foreground was a ladder shop with a gentleman up on a ladder changing his signage to read, "New - 21' Ladders on Sale." Obviously, the illustrator hasn't kept up with the state of the art in perimeter security. Even low tech basic fences have reached geek level.

In the past, that 21' ladder may have been a solution for climbing over a fence, but today it will take more than one ladder to get through a perimeter barrier. Just a few years ago, the fence itself was the perimeter security. Now, the fence is the basic building block of the perimeter security solution--the foundation for adding intrusion detection measures.

First, the physical structure of the fence itself is more diverse. The fence can be chain link, welded wire (welded on just one side or both sides), or it can be razor mesh to make handholds an impossible option for intruders or unauthorized personnel. It can be designed as a stun fence or perhaps even lethal to the touch. You can install a see-through fence or choose privacy to inhibit who or what can be seen on the other side.

Next, intrusion detection systems are now designed to attach to the fence or near it. This can include potential underground wire / electromagnetic sensors or fiber optic sensors. The electromagnetic sensor puts a "balloon" of energy up over the ground near the fence, and when a metallic substance passes through, an alarm can be activated. Most humans carry metallic substances. The fiber optic type of sensor is one which will compress when there is a weight pressed over it - the nature of the light traveling through the optic will change with the compression. Other "near the fence" methods include infrared, microwave, radar, or LIDAR methodologies (LIght Detection And Ranging, a new type of "light" radar).

Intrusion detection options located on the fence range from the basic--a simple taut wire system-to more complex technology. The principle of taut wire is simple: if the fence is tensed, such as when someone climbs it, the wire becomes more taut, and the sensor activates. Mechanical or electromechanical sensors such as shaker systems can also be installed. These are simple in technology, and are based on the movement of a loose part, such as a ball bearing, inside a container. The overall system has a certain resistance characteristic, and when the movement takes place, the resistance changes. With a change in resistance, messages can be sent to a control point to activate a prepared response.

Much more sophisticated sensors can be added to the fence as well. Some fence wire is hollow and sensor material can be built into the wire itself. Parts of the fence can be made to be positive and negative plates of a capacitor - when something interferes with the distance between these "plates," capacitance changes. The change in capacitance creates an electronic message for sounding an alarm. You can also incorporate fiber optic or copper wire into the fence--different principles of operation, but all are effective. Deciding which to use depends upon your security needs, geographical location, and weather patterns.

These smart fences can attach to a wide area communications network to send an automatic message if any type of problem takes place at the perimeter. This "message" can even be sent through the Internet to a person's handheld operator. For the corporate environment, the perimeter security solution can be incorporated onto the company's Local Area Network (LAN) just as building security has been incorporated into the IT realm.

Additionally, smart fences can be used to support other structures such as a lighting system--lighting that is activated by movement taking place at the fence. For those very remote areas, the lighting can be powered by solar panels. These panels now have the ability to store about 5 days of power within the lamps--much more than is typically required for security applications. Likewise, video can start recording by activity at the perimeter--not just any video, but the new analytic technology which can track movement via intelligent pan, tilt, and zoom. These cameras can even hand off activity from one camera to another just as a cell phone hands off a conversation from one cell phone tower to another.

The old style perimeter barrier using only a fence involved constant human patrols just to see who may be trying to climb over the barrier and to monitor areas of damage (either as a result of human interference or through general wear and tear) for maintenance. The new "smart" fence doesn't require human involvement at the perimeter, necessarily, depending upon the overall objectives in a company's security plan. So, I'm sorry Mr. Salesman, you've got to do better than building a taller ladder. The low tech fence, while still a viable barrier option for commercial and industrial applications, is giving way to the smart fence of the 21st century.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Transform Your Fence Business into a Physical Protection Systems Provider

Doug VanderKolk, National Sales Manager
Master Halco Security Solutions Group

Today, there are new opportunities for fence contractors to grow their business from a service provider to a solutions provider. Introducing and familiarizing your organization with a few key components and products can help you differentiate yourself from your competition. This newly acquired knowledge can open up avenues of expansion and new growth by leveraging your core knowledge and expertise and turning your team into an expert in the field of Physical Protection Systems (PSS).

Many fence contractors provide the installation service of a fence that simply and many times beautifully, defines property and boundary lines. This barrier also acts as a deterrent to keep intruders at bay. Too often, this is considered a complete project for the customer. In reality, it is the foundation of a PSS and an opportunity for the fence contractor to discuss a wider range of security solutions that will improve and safeguard their customer’s physical site and reduce security risks beyond deterrence.

After the fence, the first consideration is detection. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) should be considered as an additional method of securing a facility. You can begin equipping your business with IDS products using a few key technologies. Fence contractors who are familiar with installing gate operators and turnstiles are already working with the detection concept. These products play a key role as they actively control who enters or exits a facility.

As well, the variety of available IDS products allows the contractor flexibility in meeting budget requirements. Fiber optics, vibration sensors or video analytics installed into a new or existing camera design are just a few possibilities that can be easily adapted into any PSS.

One consideration to keep in mind is that these low voltage solutions often require some additional training or licensing. If you have concerns with understanding or installing a new product, a possible solution would be to partner with a security integrator who provides these services on a regular basis. Negotiate a deal where you refer business to the integrator and gain some on-the-job training as you work together.

As many of you are already CFP’s, an additional certification as a Physical Security Professional (PSP) should be considered. Available through ASIS at, the program goes into great detail and provides your customers with the assurance that they are dealing with a professional that understands the concept of securing their facility. Requirements for a PSP include 5 years of experience in the physical security field, a high school diploma or GED and the applicant must not have been convicted of any criminal offense that would reflect negatively on the security profession, ASIS, or certification program. Examination fees range from $300 for an ASIS member to $450 for non members with review programs available for an additional charge. Another resource available for the interested fence contractor is the Partners in Excellence Program with Master Halco. Web based and classroom training is available for qualified customers and can be scheduled to fit your calendar. Visit the site at

Delay is the next element in an effective PSS. Multiple fence lines, effective landscaping, or even natural barriers like creeks or ponds can slow down intruders and add the necessary time required to meet and effectively control a security breach. Creating the necessary delays should provide your customer the time required to respond to a threat.

Based upon your customer’s site, budget, and needs, this might mean looking at the fencing perimeter in a new way and offering a variety of fencing options when you draft your solution proposal and estimate. For instance, you could add another line of fence using a new material or partner with a landscaper to provide a delay option which capitalizes on the environment. The point is to look at the whole facility to provide a total solution.

Denying access and managing the security response is critical as you help your customer develop the strategy to keep and maintain a secure facility. Expanding the time between detection and response is one reason more and more facilities have been pushing the detection out to the fence and beyond. The sooner a potential threat is detected, the more response time is available to protect the vital assets of the customer. These are important decisions that many owners fail to consider when they inquire about a fence on their property.

Helping your customers consider all of the options and checking these options with their needs can also help transform your fence business into a Physical Protection Systems provider. This will take some effort and training, time and money, but it is well worth the investment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To Certify...or Not to Certify...?

David W. McCoy, CPPMaster Halco Security Solutions Group

What is certification and why should I consider pursuing it? There are a number of prestigious certifications available to security professionals today such as CPP (Certified Protection Professional), PSP (Physical Security Professional), CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and CFP (Certified Fence Professional). Each one comes with its own set of qualification requirements and training and continuing education demands.

Professional certification is something that has been a part of American culture for many years. Consider that doctors, accountants and lawyers have been required to be certified for many years. When you ask yourself why, a number of basic reasons immediately come to mind including such things as:

1. Assure a basic level of professional competence

2. Limit newcomers from entering the market until they have achieved the requisite level of experience and competence in the field

3. Limit liability and improve quality by developing and maintaining industry standards

4. Achieve prestige and recognition in a specific field of study

5. Allow consumers to have a basic level of trust in your certified abilities

According to The American Society for Industrial Security International (ASIS):

The simple answer [regarding professional certification] is that to remain as competitive as possible today, you must be certified. The bar has been raised in the security profession and employers, contractors, governments, and even clients are now taking additional steps to ensure that they are hiring or working with the most skilled and knowledgeable individuals in the business. Professional certifications from ASIS International offer them another screening tool, one that has the backing of and credibility of the pre-eminent professional society in the world for those who are responsible for security.

The flagship certification programs supported by ASIS include:

Established in 1977, the Certified Protection Professional or CPP designation requires applicants to:

1. Hold a Bachelors degree or higher AND 7 years security industry experience and 3 of those years must be in a position responsible for the security function of a business.


2. Have 9 years experience in the security industry, including at least 3 years of which the person was responsible for the security function of a business.


3. Prove no prior conviction of any criminal offense that would reflect negatively on the security profession or ASIS International and its certification programs.

Established in 2002, the Physical Security Professional or PSP designation requires applicants to:

1. Have 5 years of experience in the physical security field.

2. Hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

3. Prove no prior conviction of any criminal offense that would reflect negatively on the security profession or ASIS International and its certification programs.

ASIS professional certification programs recently became the only type to be awarded the SAFETY Act designation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "The SAFETY Act designation gives ASIS board certified professionals, their employers, and their customers immediate protections from lawsuits involving ASIS certification and the certification process that arise out of an act of terrorism."

What does this mean to the consumer using ASIS certified professionals? In general, you will have liability protection (related to acts of terror) when utilizing the services of ASIS certified professionals to consult, design, and manage security programs and systems. This is a very powerful reason to seek certification and seek suppliers and employees that have achieved ASIS professional certification.

ISC or the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium offers six certification programs to information security professionals:

"Technological solutions alone cannot protect an organization¡¦s critical information assets. Employers demanding qualified information security staff give their organizations a leading edge by providing the highest standard of security for their customers, employees, stakeholder's and organizational information assets."

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional or CISSP designation is their foundational program and requires applicants to:

1. Have four years direct fulltime experience as a security professional in one or more of CISSP's ten subject areas


2. Have one year of full time experience as a security professional and a Bachelors degree or a Masters degree in Information Security.


3. Pass a comprehensive examination.

4. Take annual CEU credits to maintain the CISSP certification.

Once an information security professional achieves this level of certification, you can continue into the management, architecture, or engineering certification programs where holding CISSP certification is a prerequisite.

For physical security professional in which the basis of all security includes fencing and related barriers, the American Fence Association (AFA) offers the Certified Fence Professional (CFP) program.

The AFA has a rigorous certification program that recognizes individuals that have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to quality products and improving standards within the fence industry. A certified Fence Professional (CFP) will have a good understanding of the specifications, product quality and installation techniques that will help assure a first class product for the consumer. A CFP must meet a continuing education requirement as well as industry service requirements to maintain this certification.

The CFP certification requires that applicants possess:

1. A college degree with three years in the fence industry.


2. An Associates degree with four years experience in the fence industry.


3. A High School Diploma with 5 years experience in the fence industry.


4. No High School Diploma with 10 years experience in the fence industry.


5. Pass a comprehensive examination.

Each of the designations requires a specific level of experience, demonstration of achievement of a certifying level of subject knowledge and continuing growth of industry knowledge through continuing education requirements.

It would be difficult to argue against the view that all such designations are a benefit to our customers and the security marketplace. They clearly have the impact of raising the

quality of goods and services provided to consumers.

In response to my initial question to certify or not to certify, the answer is a resounding YES! Industry practitioners should certify and as consumers we should seek out certified suppliers and service providers to assure we get the highest quality products and services.

Monday, October 16, 2006


by Robert Gruber, PSPMaster Halco Security Solutions Group

There is no such thing as true denial of "entry."

No matter what type of fence or boundary exists, there will always be a determined group or individual who finds a method of breaching it . The term "deny" is used to describe the success of the active perimeter security plan to disable an intruder’s ability to compromise assets. This is where it is vitally important that the three previous steps we’ve discussed--deter, detect, and delay--have been implemented properly.

Many texts use the terms; deter, detect, delay and "respond." We've enhanced the response activity to include both response and remedy – the overall result being denial.

“Delay” is an especially strong teammate of denial. If we can cause a long enough delay at the boundary, building in a response time that allows us to intercept the intruder and stop him before he reaches his target – our asset(s), then “deny” can be labeled a success.

A boundary marker, such as a fence, is designed to deter, detect, and delay entry at every point except the gate, where other types of access control measures are facilitated. Many times the boundary is enhanced through CPTED, crime prevention through environmental design, to lead an individual to the entry or gate area. There may be a ditch, a berm, or a landscaping design that will enhance the security aspect of the fence at all points except the access area. If someone overcomes all of this security and breaches the boundary, then the "deny" factor kicks in.

If things go right, an intrusion detection system will alert security personnel who will initiate a proper response. Perhaps personnel will travel to the breach point and stop the intruder before he reaches his target. Or the response may only be initiating lighting, allowing the intruder to become an easy target. Another type of response might be a siren sounding loudly to cause personnel at the asset area to spread outwards toward the boundary to cut off the intruder.

Regardless of the response and remedy tactics, the "deny" factor is a result of all the other perimeter security initiatives: making sure that deter, detect, and delay work efficiently together to prohibit access to your facility’s vital assets.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


by Robert Gruber, PSPMaster Halco Security Solutions Group

The third “D” of the 4 D's of perimeter security is “Delay.” So far, we have attempted to deter an intruder, and having failed to do that, we have detected him. We've established that there is an intruder who is making his way onto our property by attempting to breach our perimeter. So now, it is wise to delay that intruder, at least long enough to initiate and complete an appropriate response.

Delaying an intruder is easier said than done, as a determined trespasser will almost certainly breach the perimeter and the delay time that can be designed involves a matter of seconds rather than minutes or hours. Typically, we will design perimeter security in layers, just like interior protection is intentionally planned . The more secure the area has to be, the more layers of protection we will design and erect.

As an example, at a nuclear power plant, there are typically two (or more) fences. After breaching the first, the intruder will have to cross an area to approach the second fence, and then get through that one as well. The first fence may be regular chain link with sub-layers of protection in the form of barbed wire or razor tape on the inside of the boundary along with other mechanical detection devices.

Between the first and second boundary it’s important to build in additional deterrents via CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) and through the use of electromechanical devices. The second fence may be of a heavier gauge with increased layers of protection, such as razor mesh on both sides in several rolls. It’s sometimes useful, even essential, to design a third boundary (or more), depending upon the site and the vital assets within it. At this high security site, personnel who have already been on standby (24/7) would be sent out to deal with the intruder.

At a less secure facility, there may be only one fence with an offset and a few strands of barbed wire. The response may only take the form of turning on a camera, turning on a video recorder, and alerting a security guard. Responses can take many forms: lights can be turned on, sirens sounded, and / or personnel dispatched to the intrusion location. The main concern with "delay" is that you design it to be long enough to fulfill the response time. The response, of course, is designed to "DENY" access to an intruder. We’ll cover that step next time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


by Robert Gruber, PSPMaster Halco Security Solutions Group

Previously, we discussed the first 4-D principle--deterrence. Now let’s move on to the second principle, detection.

Realistically speaking, there is no special boundary that will keep a dedicated intruder out, so for perimeter protection, it is important that an intrusion detection system of some sort be incorporated. With an intrusion detection system installed - one that works well, we will at least know when someone is attempting to breach our perimeter. The problem with intrusion detection systems is that there are so many in the marketplace—literally, a plethora—that choosing the right one for your needs requires understanding a variety of different technologies. Just look in a trade magazine to see mechanical “shaker” systems, electromechanical vibration sensors, taut wire, video, fiber optic, and the list goes on and on…

The most important thing about deciding which technology to use is to identify the characteristics of the medium to which the intrusion detection system will be attached. You probably would not want to put a mechanical shaker on a very rigid decorative fence, nor would you want to use a copper wire incorporated sensor around a high powered antenna field. This is where it becomes important for the security integrator to be as familiar with the type of deterrence barrier as he is with the type of detection sensor. Unfortunately, many security technicians will just grab the first available intrusion detection system in his inventory and attach it to the fence he’s working on. It may or may not work properly. Although most sensors are sophisticated enough to prevent false alarming, there could be a great deal of nuisance alarms due to using the wrong system. Nuisance alarms are those which are legitimate because the sensor picked up activity it was designed to look for, but it was not the activity of ultimate interest related to security protection. On the other hand, in the case of the “shaker” being used with a very rigid fence, there may be no alarm at all, in a situation where one is definitely needed. Bottom-line, the deterrence and detection systems must correspond with perimeter security goals, usage patterns, and appropriate materials.

If economically feasible, it is always a good idea to build a bit of redundancy into an intrusion detection system. The practice of installing multiple types of sensors for intrusion detection (all, of course, being appropriate for the perimeter), will increase the probability of detection tremendously, and/or will cut down “nuisance” alarms dramatically. It is an “and/or” statement because the use of multiple alarm sensors can be programmed in an “AND” logical configuration, thereby mainly reducing nuisance alarms or an “OR” logical configuration to raise the probability of detection by making the entire system more sensitive.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the appropriate type of sensor(s) for the system. Not only do we have to make sure that the sensor(s) are the right type for the fence and related barriers, but intrusion detection designs must take in environmental, geographical, and psychological considerations.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

D1 - Deterrence
by Robert Gruber, PSP
Master Halco Security Solutions Group

de•ter (d -tûr )
v. de•terred, de•ter•ring, de•ters
v. tr.
To prevent or discourage from acting, as by means of fear or doubt: “Does negotiated disarmament deter war?” (Edward Teller). See Synonyms at dissuade.

v. intr.
To prevent or discourage the occurrence of an action, as by means of fear or doubt: “It's this edge that gives nuclear weapons their power to deter” (Thomas Powers).

[Latin d terr re : d -, de- + terr re, to frighten.]

Last month, I described the “Four D’s” of a good perimeter security solution: deter, detect, delay, and deny. Now, I want to take a closer look at each of these four areas. Let’s start with “deter.” To prevent or discourage from acting…….. This is right in line with what we are trying to accomplish by erecting a fence.

Our deterrence can be soft or hard. We can put up an easily climbed decorative fence which is designed to enhance the attractiveness of our property and says to the public, “Please don’t enter here – follow the fence around to the gate.” On the other side of the spectrum, we can erect a welded razor fence with intrusion detection that screams to the public “KEEP OUT!” (or in the case of a prison, perhaps to KEEP IN!)

The fence is always a deterrent. Whether the design is aesthetically pleasing or built for high security, an erected fence creates a boundary line that marks a point where we don’t want people to cross. In the case of a marathon or similar sporting event, we may put up a temporary double fence path that leads people down a prescribed lane to the ticket booth or turnstile. In this instance, fencing is used to deter the public from forming an unregulated mass – we are keeping people in a nice orderly line deterring them from chaos.

Our border may be a virtual border, one with no visible fence, but with video keeping an eye on the people within our boundaries. Of course, we would have signs posted that tell the public that they are being watched; in this case, we are deterring people from doing anything that may be memorialized for future use against them.

So far, we’ve been talking about physical or virtual fences as deterrents, something I don’t have to go into great detail with a fencing crowd. However, there are other things that we can put at our boundary, usually at the access point that can act as strong deterrents to entry. There could be a human guard for instance, who would act as a deterrent especially when armed. A guard regulates who and what can enter the grounds. In conjunction with the guard there may be certain deterring devices such as lift gates, wedge barriers, bollards, or crash resistant gates.

Lighting can also be a deterrent to a determined intruder if it is designed to effectively cover the entire boundary. The lighting may be constant or triggered by an alarm device of some type such as intelligent video, or an intrusion detection device, depending on the security level of the facility. Intrusion detection devices are available in many forms and can be customized for the area to be covered for geographical concerns, environmental conditions, or type of boundary. I’ll talk more about detection in the next blog.

The use of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is also a deterrent at the perimeter. Landscaping and placement of outdoor furnishings such as signage and decorative sculpturing should take into consideration the surveillance capability of the area including illumination, overall esthetics, and the preclusion of providing cover for the intruder.

Overall, the perimeter security designer should attempt to optimize deterrence while sending the right psychological message, whether it be, “Welcome, but please pay attention to the proper access points”, or simply, “You’re in the wrong place; KEEP OUT!”

Let us know what you think. Just click on the "comment" section below and let us know.