Good Security Begins at the Gate

Security is increasingly important to society. This is true even in contemporary China where some folks believe that installing a mirror at a gate fosters better security.

“One summer saw a particularly good harvest of ginseng. Having steamed and dried his ginseng, the man put it into a shabby basket, and made ready to go down the mountain and sell it in the nearby town. Before he left, he fixed a mirror to his courtyard gate. To his puzzled wife he explained that it was a thief detector. A thief would run away at the sight of the mirror, just as a wolf dreaded fireworks and a demon feared bright flames” (The Hunter, translated by Qin Yaqing and Jin Li, Chinese literature).

Although a mirror at the gate might appear like a good deal to a security department strapped for cash, it is hardly as effective as a fully integrated gate control system. There are various facets to facility security at both pedestrian and vehicular gates.

As the need for greater perimeter security arose in the wake of terrorism striking America, so has demand for better and more reliable telephone entry and gate controls. Gate controls can either be automatic or require a human at the other end. An authorized visitor has ways to gain access, ranging from cards they insert to proximity cards they need only wave at a reader. Visual verification is also coming into play. When budgets are tight, it may be wise to integrate several control methods together.

When it comes to larger commercial facilities, industrial complexes, university campuses and, most of all, government facilities, gate controls and exterior access control can act as a shield against unimaginable acts of terror.

Gate Security Proves to Be Important in Overall Security Plan
At approximately 9:02 a.m. Eastern Time on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists struck at the heart of the American people. The result was 3,030 dead and 2,337 injured. One year later, the insurance industry reported a loss of $40.2 billion in property claims.

Because of 9/11 and the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, trust comes hard for many people now. For this reason, security has become more important in today’s society.

Security’s role has been expanded to include an even higher level of protection in government facilities as well as corporate, retail, and public places. One very important aspect of this expanded role involves the control and monitoring of perimeter portals that lead to and from private and public grounds.

“Gates facilitate the entrance and exit of authorized traffic and control its flow,” says J. Barry Hylton, author of Safe Schools, published by Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn, Mass.

Perimeter gate security involves both motorized vehicular barriers as well as pedestrian gates where people are able to enter and leave on foot. Both are equally important to the overall security of a facility and must be considered when providing comprehensive protection. This is true no matter whether it is a complex of buildings at a public school or a manufacturing plant that makes parts for a military missile project. In the overall scheme of things, when protecting the perimeter of a complex, there are several things that must be considered when it comes to security. They are:


  • The automated and manual means of controlling the flow of people and motor vehicles.
  • The audio communication of visitors with security, both on foot and in their vehicles.
  • Visual surveillance of all perimeter portals and the recording of all or selected activity for documentation and review.
  • Resistance to forward motion of hostile unauthorized motor vehicles.

Automated and Manual Are 2 Ways to Control Traffic Flow
There are several ways to control traffic into and from a complex of buildings using motorized vehicular barriers and pedestrian gates. All of these can be broken down into two categories: automated and manual. Because most security departments are being stretched to the limit these days — usually due to budgetary considerations — it behooves management to utilize an automated solution where users are validated as authorized at both pedestrian and vehicular gates. The alternative is a private security officer stationed at each and every entrance, which would not be economical.

There are several ways in which to implement an automated access solution. They will entail the following:


  • Something the user possesses, such as an access card.
  • Something that the user knows, such as a personal identification number (PIN).
  • A physical characteristic of the user that distinguishes them from all others, such as the iris of the eye, a fingerprint or their voice.

The most common way to provide automated access is to place an access reader at each portal where visitors and users come and go. In most cases, the reader is placed where the user must interact with it. In others, the reader is hidden in some manner and interacts with the user in a subtle way.

Putting Access Under Manual Control Necessary for Interaction
Automated access is certainly the goal, but security personnel are bound to encounter situations where manual activation of a vehicular or pedestrian gate becomes necessary. Manual control is needed for a variety of reasons, such as when a breakdown occurs in an automated access control head end — at either the host computer or a gate controller or reader.

Manual control is also required when security finds it necessary to interact with visitors and staff. Unless security has the communicative capability and a means of manual control, human intervention is not possible. In some isolated cases, this could mean the injury or death of an innocent person facing a perpetrator at the gate.

There are several ways to accomplish the communicative function at the gate. The first is that of a simple audio intercom system, which security can use to interact with someone at a perimeter portal.

First, there must be a means whereby someone can signal security. Communication to the individual at the gate should be hands-free, allowing them greater mobility while affording security maximum control.

Secondly, bi-directional communication should be made possible between both parties. This entails the use of some type of audio transducer, which usually serves as both the speaker and microphone. The transducer and call button are usually contained within the same housing — either mounted on a drive-up, window-high pedestal or face level at a pedestrian gate.

In either case, two-way audio communication allows security to talk to the person at the gate to ascertain their need.

Another aspect of audio communication involves the use of emergency kiosks, such as the product manufactured by Code Blue of Holland, Mich., where someone can go for help in case of an emergency. These kiosks usually include a means of signaling, a means of audio communications and a means of local audible/visual annunciation, such as a siren and a flashing light atop the kiosk.

Whether Fixed or Pan-and-tilt, Cameras Can Verify Visitors
Audio communication is not always enough when security is tasked with the release of a vehicular or pedestrian gate. In this instance, a video image of the person requesting access will provide the additional assurance that security requires.

At the same time, video also allows security to determine if the person in question is unauthorized to enter, such as a former employee who left the firm under hostile circumstances.

There are assortments of cameras that security can use for this task. They are stationary (fixed) and mobile (pan-and-tilt). Fixed cameras are positioned so they look at a particular scene all the time. A pan-and-tilt camera, on the other hand, allows security personnel to move the camera up and down, back and forth.

Fixed c
ameras are often used for two reasons: They are cheaper to buy and they afford a dedicated view of a particular area, greatly increasing the likelihood that security will see an event when it occurs.

Pan-and-tilt models maximize security’s visual reach at various remote locations throughout the site and at remote locations.

Each type of camera has its advantages in certain applications. However, fixed cameras afford the best protection as long as security is allocated a sufficient budget to install enough fixed cameras to provide a comprehensive view of all pertinent areas.

Another consideration that security must address is that of the outdoor elements. Because these cameras are usually subjected to direct rain, snow, acidic condensation, intense heat and other elements, outdoor cameras are usually placed within environmental housings that help to protect them.

Some housings are hermetically sealed from the outside air using a gas while others contain blowers and heaters. Blowers serve to keep the electronics of a camera within these housings cooler during summer months. Heaters help to keep condensation from forming on the camera lens and the housing’s glass window.

Other options include a sunshield to keep the sunlight from directly striking the light-sensitive target inside the camera. Some models also contain a window wiper that could clear the housing window of raindrops and other debris that can interfere with reliable, continued use by security.

Inside the security room, multiple video monitors enable security personnel to visually monitor each and every portal. Of course, no one can watch each monitor simultaneously, and that is where video motion detection and manual signaling at the gate come in.

Joystick controllers are provided so security can reposition pan-and-tilt cameras at a moment’s notice. This enables security to verify the needs, wants and actions of individuals and motor vehicles within security’s area of influence.

Integration Is the Answer When Security Budgets are Tight

Today’s corporate security departments are challenged and pressed to do more with less human resources because of budgetary constraints. When it comes time to slash money from the oncoming year’s budget, security is among the first casualties.

Like it or not, security managers are tasked to perform more duties on and off site with less money. This is where system integration comes in.

System integration allows security dealers to automate certain aspects of facility protection. For example, when someone at an on- or off-site portal presses an emergency button at an emergency kiosk, a host of things can be made to happen. Some possible actions include:

  • Establishing audible communications between the person that requires help and a security officer.
  • Moving the nearest camera so security can see what is happening at that particular location.
  • Signaling mobile security personnel on patrol that an emergency condition is in progress.
  • Establishing communications with mobile security to relay the gate location, either verbally or via onboard computer.

There are other conditions that commonly occur at remote gates that lend themselves to system integration. One of them involves the use of access control. For example, when a user attempts to enter the wrong portal – or the time/day criteria differs from that of when access is required – an integrated system will call up the nearest pan-and-tilt camera, automatically adjust the motorized zoom lens and establish an audio connection.

Integrated solutions include video badging and imaging. Video badging entails security’s ability to incorporate a video picture of each authorized person on a badge, which each user must display while on site. Badging usually lies within the scheme of the same network that controls gate access control, video surveillance, audio communications and other aspects of site security.

Using video imaging as part of an integrated security system, security personnel are able to compare the real-time video image of a user to that of a stored digital photograph taken when the actual authorized user joined the company. In this manner, security is able to immediately tell whether a particular user is valid or is an impostor.

Stopping Determined Criminals Before They Can Get inside

Without a doubt, there will always be those who cannot take “no” for an answer when security denies them access. One of the most common problems encountered by security at a perimeter gate is that of a breach by sheer force.

Most of the time, motorized gates are enough to discourage people who are not authorized to enter a complex. In most cases, a closed gate and the word “no” is enough to turn them around so they do not proceed any further. However, there will always be those individuals who are determined enough to drive their motor vehicle through the physical barrier before them.

One way that security commonly deals with this sort of threat is through the use of mechanical security devices that act to stop a motor vehicle before it can proceed. This is accomplished through the use of vehicle blockers and bollards.

Vehicle blockers are essentially a mechanized plate assembly that can be made to rise out of the roadway, preventing a motor vehicle from proceeding into the facility. These devices are usually controlled electrically and hydraulically and can be inserted directly into the roadway or on top using a fanfold arrangement.

Another way to prevent a motor vehicle from proceeding into the heart of a facility is that of a bollard system. A bollard is made of steel or some other heavy metal, measures approximately 12 inches in diameter and can be retracted during normal conditions. Should a motor vehicle fail to stop when ordered not to proceed, security can raise bollards out of the roadway and prevent forward motion.

There are two fundamental ways to deal with the control of both vehicle barriers and bollards. One method relies on the use of a centralized hydraulic system that feeds power and hydraulic fluid to each of the bollards employed on site. Another variation is the use of a hydraulic cylinder inside each bollard assembly.

No matter which flavor of gate control, video surveillance, audio communications and access control you use, there is little doubt that the future of security hinges on high-tech solutions. Unless security dealers embrace system integration and all that goes with it today, there is little doubt of their ultimate fate tomorrow.

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