EXCLUSIVE: The balancing act for perimeter security

Broken fence - perimeter security

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Raffaele De Astis, President and Executive Managing Director at CIAS Security Inc. discusses how choice of system, integration capability and cost inform what perimeter security technologies to deploy.  

Being anti-intrusion

Ensuring an effective and highly reliable perimeter security and anti-intrusion solution in high-risk environments can be the ultimate challenge for physical security and IT professionals.

While daytime protection in favorable lighting and weather conditions is relatively easy, nighttime conditions, unfavorable weather like heavy rain, snow, fog or high winds and remote locations with minimal power supply present a much more complex challenge.

Add to that the capability for intercommunication between multiple technologies and cost considerations and it begs the question: what is the most effective solution for a high-risk site?

This article explores what to look for in choosing the best system for your facility, some limitations of technologies and the basic language of the physical security world.

In short, no one technology alone can protect a high-risk perimeter in totality – it requires a layered approach, with systems that work together seamlessly.

What to understand – the language of physical and perimeter security

There are six basic values in physical and perimeter security that should be taken into consideration to grant maximum protection.

Security and IT professionals should ask the manufacturer or integrator how the technology being recommended measures up to the following:

  1. False alarm rate (FAR): number of alarms caused by unknown events – how susceptible is the system to false alarms and as the security manager, how many will you tolerate per month?
  2. Nuisance alarm rate (NAR): number of alarms caused by the environment (wind, heavy rain, snow, etc.) How vulnerable is the system/technology being deployed to these alarms and how many are to be expected per month?
  3. Probability of detection (PoD): how “probable” or likely will the system detect an actual (true) alarm? What is the percentage reliability indicating the probability of detection?
  4. Vulnerability to defeat (VD): this value indicates the possibility of being bypassed or tampered. You should know how vulnerable the system is to these external influences
  5. Mean time between failures (MTBF): average time between the occurrence of one failure to the next. Ask your manufacturer this value
  6. Mean time to repair (MTTR): What is the average time to repair? This will impact cost as well

When considering a new technology or upgrade for perimeter security, these values are important to be aware of, although every technology will have “some” false /nuisance alarms; you want to find the solution that minimizes that number.

What to avoid and what to be aware of

While we cannot predict or manage environmental conditions, security managers need to be aware of the system’s performance in extreme environmental conditions.

For example, in heavy rainfall, laser and infrared systems are not as stable or efficient as technologies unaffected by these conditions like microwaves that, by their physical and technical nature, are immune to fog, heavy rain, hail and extreme temperature changes.

Small animals are often the cause of false alarms for perimeter security systems.

If your site is frequently visited by small animals, you should avoid or at least be aware of the limitations of basic systems/technologies with binary logic analysis versus fuzzy logic analysis.

The advantage of fuzzy logic analysis is its ability to compare intrusions with behavior patterns and automatically assign the appropriate value of response time before getting a real alarm.

Fuzzy logic analysis enables the evaluation of small signals (rain, wind, vibrations from vehicular traffic, small accidental impacts) and large signals (climbing, cutting, crossing, lifting, stripping) by comparing them to (256) behavior models (that correspond to environmental factors and intrusion type parameters) studied in the past.

This will reduce perimeter security false alarm rate significantly and keep the probability of detection very high at the same time.

Thermal cameras and infrared barriers have their place in perimeter security and protection, however being aware of their limitations will serve you best in choosing a system.

Working with an integrator/manufacturer to conduct an all-inclusive site design based on the environment is essential.

Microwave technologies have a number of advantages over linear, infrared systems as they offer volumetric detection that covers a larger volume of space (up to 600 feet/200 meters) over linear technology and they are much more difficult to defeat. Intrusions inside the transmitter-receiver’s volumetric field are more sensitive.

Microwave systems with fuzzy logic technology can actually rule out certain intrusions and therefore unwanted alarms.

This analysis drastically reduces false alarm rates because “small signals” are ruled out as an intrusion event and “large signals” are deemed a real event or intrusion.

Fuzzy logic analysis is not a technology deployed by all manufacturers but has a proven track record in reducing the number of unwanted alarms and increasing the probability of detection.

There are multiple fence-mounted intrusion detection systems on the market and the specific requirements of a site and application will determine the best choice in technology.

Choices include microphonic, fiber, shaker, piezo dynamic accelerometer and micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based technologies.

MEMS is a technology that continuously measures the acceleration on three axes (X, Y, Z). This technology allows you to “see” changes in spatial positioning, then detect movement or changes on a fence or wall.

As it is based on acceleration, disturbances like wind, rain and small impacts are eliminated. MEMS technology analyzes extreme and precise measurement of changes in the three axes with ultimate stability in any environmental condition.

This platform has the ability to collect a massive number of signals with advanced analysis. Coupled with distributed intelligence between sensors along the fence line, the classification of true alarms for perimeter security is enhanced.

Finally, alarm management is another factor to understand and close communication between physical security professionals and their IT counterparts is critical to determining alarm collection (relay, wireless, hard wired) and management.

For a complete picture of the total solution cost and its return on investment (ROI), understanding the general operating costs and management of alarms, future maintenance and/or upgrades as well as labor beyond the initial installation is key to the decision.

How to choose the right solution(s)

There’s no simple answer. In short, one size does not fit all for perimeter security and every site is unique.

Therefore, it is critical to conduct a detailed analysis of the site/situation, alongside a comprehensive technical and economic assessment of the risks and advantages different technologies can lend to a perimeter’s protection.

Budget is also a driving factor for most security managers looking for the best possible solution for perimeter security; therefore, a cost to performance ratio must also be considered.

In our experience, the optimal approach is a synergistic integration of technologies in terms of service continuity and minimal unwanted alarms. A few things to ask your integrator or system manufacturer:

  1. Will the system/technology easily integrate/communicate with the existing video management system (VMS)? If not, does the manufacturer offer a software development kit (SDK) to make integration possible? Who pays?
  2. Can you try the system before you buy it? Manufacturers that are confident in their technologies’ capability can offer evaluation systems for you to test before purchase
  3. In what sites similar to yours is the system/technology deployed? Ask to speak with references
  4. How many years will the product be supported under warranty and what is the product’s life cycle?
  5. Whether software or hardware, what is the upgrade policy of the manufacturer and is there a cost for software upgrades?
  6. How robust is the manufacturer’s technical support team and what is their level of service?

While there are multiple aspects in perimeter security to consider, having the knowledge in asking the right questions will result in making the right decision.

About the author

Raffaele De Astis is the President and Executive Managing Director of CIAS Security Inc.

For more than 50 years, CIAS – the Italian-based manufacturer of perimeter security detection systems – has been designing, manufacturing and deploying physical security systems for nuclear sites, correctional facilities, airports and other critical infrastructure installations.

Raffaele is the President of Assosicurezza – the Italian Security Association and has received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Governor for his participation in implementing the perimeter security system for the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

This article was originally published in the November edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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