VP Dave King’s Best Practices & Technologies in Perimeter Protection

Military nasa Guard Booth

In a recent discussion with Government Security News, Dave King, Vice President of B.I.G. Enterprises, offered his perspective on the five major product and technology areas of perimeter protection technology – sensing technologies, fencing, barriers, guard booths and new and emerging technologies.

B.I.G. Enterprises has been producing Guard Booths for all divisions of the military, the U.S. Secret Service, hundreds of universities, airports, major corporate headquarters and key government, nuclear chemical and other facilities for 40 years. Among the company’s breakthrough achievements, said King, B.I.G. was the first company in the field to provide bullet resistant guard booths, the first to offer architecture matching the booths’ surroundings and the first to obtain blast resistant certification for its manufacturing techniques.

Based on a recent webinar featuring experts from Southwest Microwave, Ameristar Fence, Nasatka Barriers and Bavak Speedgates, here are King’s comments on the five technology areas:

Sensing and Detection

Perimeter protection vendors typically divide the sensing function into four areas – detection, delay, assessment and response – and they typically specify one or more of four different types of detection or sensing systems:

  • Fence mounted sensors that detect the cutting, climbing or lifting of the perimeter fence;
  • Volumetric field sensors such as microwave, that create an invisible field of detection with height and width, making it more difficult to defeat;
  • Buried or covert cables that are located in the ground using an rf field; and
  • Infrared sensors which, in their active mode, provide a light beam.

The decision on which of these should be utilized, said King, should be based on the threat and risk assessment, and whether it is high, medium or low.

King added that one of the largest issues in the detection area is false alarms which are not caused by an actual intrusion, but by weather, animals, debris and ground vibrations, or, sometimes, by the equipment itself (although this is a rare occurrence with current technology). The problem with the nuisance alarms, says King, is that when there are too many of them, it causes guards to ignore the alarms.

In the case of a real alarm, however, the actual detection must be integrated with assessment, which is accomplished with a combination of CCTV and security guards in a command and control center.


The most common types of fences used in perimeter protection, said King, are chain link, welded wire, expanded metal, punched metal, ornamental and palisade.

While chain link is the most common and least expensive, it is the least aesthetically pleasing and offers the least amount of delay resistance to attempted breaches. Welded wire, expanded metal and punched metal constitute the second type of fence fabric, are more expensive and offer added protection against someone passing items through the fence of breaching it with ordinary tools. These products are typically vinyl coated to provide color and added longevity.

There are three prevailing standards used for vehicle anti-ram protection, said King. For embassies overseas the US Department of State utilizes anti-ram walls allowing very limited penetration, since the embassy is typically in an urban setting with limited setback from public roads. For military sites, the Department of Defense uses a broader standard that incorporates a number of threat size vehicles at varying speeds with varying amounts of permissible penetration, because site conditions typically include more standoff distance between the VBIED and the protected asset. For all other sites, the appropriate standard is the ASTM F2656 standard, which incorporates four different threat vehicles, four different vehicle speeds and four different zones of penetration.


While there are multiple types of barriers, King pointed out, there are also differing opinions among perimeter protection experts as to which ones constitute the most effective deterrent. For active vehicle entrances, sally ports and unmanned entrances, the following Active Vehicle Barriers (AVBs) are used: wedges, bollards, sliding, rising or pivoting horizontal beams and lethal net barriers – making it important, said King, for the buyer to do proper due diligence and obtain at least two opinions from the experts.

One thing that helps, said King, is that there is documented risk methodology recommended by the U.S. Government, called the Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) 4-022-02. This risk based design takes a number of items into account: attack vehicle size, weight, speed and contents; allowable penetration based on standoff distances; traffic patterns; site specifics, such as approach, bends, natural obstacles; civil engineering; facility engineering; climate; and barrier operating procedures.

Another good basis for making these decisions can be obtained from the Protective Design Center (PDC) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The PDC has developed standards for Design/Criteria drawings for ACPs that provide not only recommendations but also mandatory requirements to Army installation security specialists for designing Army ACPs.

Factors that should always be taken into account, according to King, are safety, security, integration, aesthetics, maintenance and total cost of ownership over 3-5-7 years (TCO).

Guard Booths

Moving on to his own company’s core expertise, King described Guard Stations as “the one piece of equipment that is used every day” and “a key asset to the overall perimeter security plan, as it houses your guards, as well as many other critical elements, such as monitors, gate controls, duress buttons and many other options.”

“The guards are your eyes and ears,” he said, “and it is imperative that they have a well manufactured, climate controlled area to stay alert. Additionally, bullet resistant booths no longer need to look like hardened boxes. It is easy to add architectural features to make the booths fit with the overall architecture of the facility they protect, and this can be done at a surprisingly affordable cost.”

King pointed out that Guard Booths are “the first line of control to let a person into a facility”, and he emphasized the necessity of having a well-protected Guard Booth to avoid having the guard for a high security facility turn out to be “a sacrificial lamb to a terrorist.”

King reiterated that the Army Corps of Engineers’ Protective Design Center has been very important in setting standards for perimeter protection of facilities. In the case of larger corporate facilities, the guard shelters tend to be larger in size to protect more people, and in addition to interior restrooms, they tend to have interior and exterior cameras, data communications and monitors placed on shelves, with pre-run conduits and boxes installed to make it easy to install the phone and cat lines after booth installation.

At the highest level of perimeter security, such as at nuclear power plants, King pointed out that Bullet and Blast Resistant booths (BBREs) are often specified so that they can act as fighting positions, and as such, they are also equipped with slide open gun ports and exterior blinding lights so that the attacker has a hard time seeing the booth and guards.

Discussing the continuing evolution of Guard Booths, King observed that the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) around the world serves as a daily reminder that even low-tech weapons such as homemade explosives and high-speed collisions are requiring B.I.G. Enterprises to develop ever more high-tech bullet- and blast-resistant guard booths to protect soldiers and citizens — and this mandate is nowhere more pressing than with strategically important targets like chemically processing facilities, nuclear power plants and government buildings.

“A booth that is designed to resist the blast and remain intact and working,” he said, “not only insures the guard’s life, but also allows the guard, if required, to open the gun points and return fire.”

Speed Gates and other New Technologies

In the final segment of his interview, King turned his attention to speed gates, such as the Bavak speed gates being installed at the Port of Long Beach, that can open and close in 3-5 seconds.  These speed gates can work with physical security readers, such as prox readers, auto license plate recognition and under-vehicle cameras, King added, noting also that it is important to make sure that a speed gate system is UL 325 listed, King said, because the 325 listing means that the gate has been tested and proven to be safe.

In conclusion, King pointed out that the Army Corps of Engineers has developed an automated system called the AIE (Automated Installation Entry) that is becoming an integration standard. The system combines cameras, sensors, computers, EPS Systems, Electronic Security Systems (ESS), BMS Sensors that notify a central monitoring station whether a door is opening, red-green light with drop arm gate, CCTV facial recognition cameras checked against four databases and driver’s license plate recognition that is also checked against databases. King asserts that the process is so fast that it can be completed in seconds.

Other new trends and technologies include detection sensors that can pinpoint intrusions to 3 meters, and actually adapt the site with automatic compensation fence condition, terrain and environment. In addition, video analytic software can also be integrated with these location type sensors to greatly improve the effectiveness of the software analytics. And finally, adding thermal imaging cameras will allow the full video assessment in any light conditions, saving the cost of lighting and allowing the guards to have a full situational awareness 24/7.

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in further information on perimeter protection may also wish to view a Webinar produced in 2010 by B.I.G. Enterprises and Government Security News. This Webinar can be found on the home page of the GSN Website at www.gsnmagazine.com. Other expert speakers besides Mr. King include Bob Kirkaldie, VP of Sales of Southwest Microwave; Ken White, Executive Director of Perimeter Protection Systems for Ameristar Fence; Dave Natelson, Director of Sales and Marketing for Nasatka Barriers and Neil Sampson of Neil Sampson Associates.