Protecting staff, patients and visitors from vehicle assault

Aug. 24, 2020
Bollards are the most used permanent solutions used on hospital campuses

A Mercedes-Benz SUV crashed into another vehicle and ricocheted through the lobby of Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital’s emergency room in June (2020). One person died and four were hurt. Jane Bailey spent 30 days in a rehabilitation facility to receive treatment for injuries she sustained in the incident. She was at Piedmont that day waiting on a friend whom she had taken to the ER.

Jane Lamberti, an attorney with The Cochran Firm, who represents Bailey, said the law firm is conducting its own investigation into the collision and could file a claim against both the hospital and the driver who caused the crash. Bailey and her attorney both raised questions about the safety of the hospital and suggested Piedmont should install security posts or bollards to protect people.

"An emergency room is a high-traffic area," Lamberti explained. "You are going to have people who are driving up that may be ill or confused. It's foreseeable that they're going to lose control of the car. At the same time, you have patients and pedestrians going in and out of the emergency room. You know this situation is going to be there and you must take steps to protect the pedestrians and the patients." 

A Variety of Bollards to Meet Any Circumstance

Bollards are the most used permanent solutions used on hospital campuses. For instance, at Stanford University, the primary use of permanent pneumatically operated bollards is to restrict vehicular traffic from entering the campus via maintenance roads. They are lowered to allow access to maintenance vehicles and raised immediately. Fixed post bollards protect the perimeter of buildings at Boston University Medical Center.

In designing a bollard system in which the bollard stays in the "up position to block automobiles from entering and lower to let vehicles through, you must also consider whether to use a passive or active system. Normally, an active moveable system keeps the barrier in the up position. It must be deactivated to permit access. Active systems are preferable to ones that must be initiated to prevent access because they are more secure.

The fixed bollard, which does not go up and down, provides a significant blocking device solution that continues to challenge security directors faced with threats such as stopping a vehicle from plowing into the hospital's pharmacy to keeping vehicles on the other side of the campus perimeter. They let facility managers meet a long-standing challenge - how to easily install bollards on shallow substrates, including those that are not level or have turned. No longer do locations, such as curves on hills, the upper levels of parking structures, and other unprotected locales have to use unsightly ‘make-do’ solutions to stop car bombers or wayward drivers.     

Fixed post bollards are available to secure the sides of roadways with the same crash rating and appearance as their moveable cousins. Versus cement barriers such as posts and pots, many campuses prefer fixed post bollards for several reasons. First of all, when hit, cement posts and pots can explode, literally spreading shrapnel throughout the crowd, potentially creating numerous injuries. Shallow foundation bollards can be installed within sidewalks or on top of concrete deck truss bridges as well as conform to the inclines and turns of a locale. They also meet the one-meter clearance regulations mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Bollard systems operate individually or in groups up to ten and are used for intermediate level security applications. Individual bollards are up to 12.75 inches in diameter, up to 35 inches high, and are usually mounted on 3-5-foot centers. They are tested to stop and destroy an attacking vehicle weighing 10,000 pounds moving at 65 miles per hour or a 20,000-pound vehicle moving at 46 miles per hour.

A common planning deficiency occurs when designers choose non-certified bollards. Certified equipment has been tested and proven to work under extreme conditions, giving planners the confidence, they rely on. Without adequate testing, there is no assurance that the barrier will resist the threat. Testing is normally done by an independent testing company or government agency, such as the Department of State (DOS) and the military. Comprehensive reports of test results are issued and are available from the testing agency or manufacturer.

A High School Physics Reminder

To evaluate the security risk for a given facility, pay attention to the weights and velocities of vehicles that could be used to penetrate your facility.  A vehicle moving towards a bollard has a certain kinetic energy, which is the major measure of how much "hitting power" it possesses. Mathematically, kinetic energy is derived from vehicle velocity and its weight (mass). On impact, some of this energy is converted to heat, sound and permanent deformation of the vehicle. The bollard must absorb the remainder of this energy if the vehicle is to be stopped.

The amount of remaining energy varies on many factors, primarily the velocity of the vehicle at the moment of impact. The amount of kinetic energy changes as the square of its velocity. For example, a vehicle moving at 50 mph has 25 times as much kinetic energy as it would at 10 mph. Thus, an armored car weighing 30 times as much as a Toyota Corolla and moving at 10 mph would have less hitting power than the Toyota moving at 60 mph.

Because of this, every effort must be made to force a vehicle to slow down before it reaches the bollard. The most frequently used technique is to require a sharp turn immediately in front of the bollard. When the vehicle speed is reduced by 50 percent, the "hitting power" is reduced by four times. If the speed is reduced by two-thirds, the force of impact will be reduced by nine-times.

Upon designing a way to slow down the vehicle approach, precautions should also be taken that the attacking car cannot make a "corner cutting shot" at the bollard.  Often, only a light post defines a turning point and a speeding car can take it out and not even hesitate. Knolls and other impediments should be considered. If the approach to the facility is long, it's best to create curves along the access roads as a natural obstacle to speeding cars or trucks.

Bollards Improve the Looks of Hospital Facilities

One final area that should not be overlooked is aesthetics. With today's smart designs, it's no longer necessary to choose between form and function. You can have them both. Designers are creating secure environments with more compatible and aesthetically pleasing architectural elements.

With bollards, you can create the look you want. Ranging from faceted, fluted, tapered, rings and ripples, colors, pillars, to shields, emblems and logos, bollards are aesthetically pleasing and versatile. You can specify ornamental steel trim attached directly to the bollard or select cast aluminum sleeves, which slip right over the crash tube. Bollards can be galvanized for corrosion resistance, fitted with an internal warning light for increased visibility and engineered to suit high traffic volume. If damaged, simply slip off the old and slip on the new.

Decorative bollards come in different series – traditional, silhouette, sculptured and others. Levels of protection all meet or exceed the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State certifications. They can even hold the highest ratings ever given to bollard systems.

Today, there is no reason to face threats of injury to people at your hospital or the added nightmares of follow-up judicial procedures from vehicle dangers. There is a bollard solution available to eliminate such concerns at hospitals and other locales where vehicles can cause damage.

About the Author: 

Greg Hamm is the Vice-President of Marketing and Sales for Delta Scientific.