For security dealers and integrators, protection of large facilities and areas starts at the perimeter — deploying a combination of technologies that not only provide a barrier to entry of a facility, but also provide real-time situational awareness.
When the perimeter of a major facility is breached, it makes news. Two men at airports more than 2,000 miles apart were arrested on Christmas Day in 2013 after both breached high-security fences and ran onto the tarmacs in separate incidents in Newark, N.J. and Phoenix, Ariz. Perhaps you remember the much-publicized perimeter breach by protesters at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The bottom line is, a proper perimeter intrusion detection system is vitally important for a wide range of facilities; thus, it is vital for you to know about the latest advancements in the types of technology used to accomplish the task.
SD&I magazine recently caught up with Rob Broomfield, the CEO of Future Fibre Technologies (FFT), to discuss the advancements from his firm’s point of view (to request more information about FFT, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10213726):
SD&I: What’s the difference between a fiber optic-based intrusion detection system and other alternatives, and what makes fiber optics the preferred choice for perimeter protection?
Broomfield: Historically, fence-mounted Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems (PIDS) were based on using copper cable as a distributed sensor, or had vibration sensors that were connected by copper cable that supply power and communications. Copper cable is a clearly a conductor of electricity, and these system are susceptible to lightning damage and require additional protection to mitigate lightning strikes. In addition, the installation infrastructure can be significant, especially on larger perimeters, because you need to supply power and communications components along the entire perimeter.
Fiber optic cable, on the other hand, cannot conduct electricity, so it is effectively immune from lightning strikes. For oil and gas facilities, it also intrinsically safe as it cannot carry sufficient energy to ignite any gases. Most fiber optic based system are easy and quick to install as they are simply attached to the fence by cable ties, and they can easily be modified at minimal cost if a perimeter configuration changes in the future.
Additionally, fiber optic solutions built around ‘single mode’ optical fiber can be extremely sensitive, and when combined with analytic software that can minimize of potential nuisance alarms, they can be deployed effectively on a large range of fence types. While they have been preferred for larger perimeters in recent years, there are now a range of fiber optic solutions that can bring the same performance benefits and competitive costs to very small perimeters as manufacturers continue to simplify the installation requirements.
There have been a few high-profile perimeter security breaches (as noted above). Were there technology failures in these circumstances, and could fiber optic-based systems have prevented them?
It is impossible to comment on any specific incident as many factors can contribute to a breach. But it is important for any security system to be well designed and integrated into the physical barriers and sensors, and they are well maintained and supported. Fiber optic solutions are low-maintenance. With the continued improvement and sophistication of software to deal with nuisance alarms, these systems can be integrated with command-and-control systems to make them very suitable as part of an effective total security solution.
It seems like many places like airports, government and military facilities already have fences and perimeter intrusion detection systems in place. Are you seeing a lot of perimeter security upgrade or retrofit projects in these markets, and if so, how are the systems being improved?