There is an interesting story over at FoxNews.com about a recent anti-nuke protest in Washington. It seems that five senior citizen protestors penetrated three successive security fences at a nuclear weapon storage facility on the Kitsap Naval Base before they were apprehended by security personnel; hours after they entered the perimeter and within yards of a weapons bunker. This penetration exercise by people in their 60’s and 80’s brings security measures into question at yet another nuclear weapons facility. It also provides a good object lesson in security measures; fences do not stop penetration.
Now, anyone with infantry training already knows this. One of the first lessons one learns in planning and executing a defensive operation is that a barrier plan must include provisions for observation and cover fires. Concertina wire and even minefields must be covered by direct and indirect fire weapons to be effective. Without such coverage, attackers are slowed some what, but not stopped. Even with such coverage, military history is replete with costly yet successful attacks on well prepared defenses.
Security Fence Observation
First rule of security fencing: there is no such thing as an impenetrable fence. The standard industrial security fence, a six-foot chain link fence even with an 18” barbwire outrigger takes just seconds for a trained person to go over or through. It does mark the legal perimeter and keeps honest people out, but it does little to stop a deliberate penetration. Even ‘unclimbable’ fences can be scaled or penetrated by trained personnel.
To be an effective part of a ‘deter, detect, and delay’ security plan a perimeter fence must be kept under continuous and obvious observation. Periodic observation is not effective because a trained attacker will just conduct their penetration during a time when there is no observation. The reason for ‘obvious observation’ is less, well, obvious. If the perimeter fence is obviously under continuous observation it will deter most attackers; sending them to easier to penetrate targets.
Actually the observation plan for a security fence should include both obvious and hidden means of observing the perimeter. The obvious method will help to deter most attackers and the hidden will make it harder to bypass observation. A readily visible video camera system backed up by some sort of motion sensor system would be example of such a dual system.
Care should be taken to ensure that the two systems cannot be countered by a single measure. For example, cutting a single power feed should not disable both systems. Nor should loss of perimeter lighting defeat both systems. The whole point is to make it as difficult as possible for an intruder to penetrate the perimeter without detection.
When the breach of a perimeter fence is detected, there must be some sort of security response. The most obvious response is to send security personnel to detain or apprehend the intruder. There is a legal difference between ‘detaining’ and ‘apprehending’ with subtle variations in the distinction in different jurisdictions. The security plan must take these differences into account and the security force needs to be well trained in their allowed role.
The physical response of security personnel to a perimeter penetration is an integral part of the ‘deter’ portion of a security plan. A well trained terrorist will make efforts to determine the facility response to a perimeter penetration as part of their planning efforts. If there is a timely and effective response, it will help to lessen the chance of an actual attack on the facility. If there is no, or an ineffective, response, the terrorist is likely to be emboldened.
An effective security plan will have additional responses to a perimeter penetration that are not obvious or visible from outside the facility. This will help to ensure that an attacker can not design counter measures to all of the security responses. This could include things like activation of other countermeasures, process shutdowns and the isolation of critical facilities and chemicals. At a very minimum, the high-risk chemical facility would have procedures in place for notification of local police, emergency response and the FBI.
A perimeter fence is only a minor part of a security plan for the protection of high-risk chemical facilities from terrorist attack. To be effective it must be tied into the entire plan and backed up with observation and response. Without this integration the security fence is not even a barrier to penetration by octogenarian activists.
I spent 15 years in the US Army as an Infantry NCO. After getting out of the Army I started working in the chemical industry, getting my BSc Chemistry degree while working as a technician. I spent 12 years working as a process chemist in a specialty chemical company. Most recently I worked as a QA/R&D Manager in a specialty chemical manufacturing facility. Currently I am working as a freelance writer.