Saturday, August 4, 2012

Security Fences Do Not Stop Old Nuns

There is an interesting story on about a nuclear protest at a nuclear weapons site in Oak Ridge, TN. This was a straight civil disobedience, throw-blood-on-the-walls ‘attack’. But the ‘attackers’ (including an 82-year old Nun according to the news report), were able to penetrate the boundary security-fence, walk past intrusion sensors, and get to buildings to paint anti-nuke graffiti and splatter blood on the walls before security personnel arrived to take them into custody.

This is very similar to an ‘attack’ on a nuclear-weapons storage facility at Kitsap Naval Base, WA three years ago. As was certainly the case then there will be a serious investigation. The Department of Energy does take their security seriously and lapses will surely be corrected.

This should remind security managers at any kind of facility that any sort of barrier will only, at best, slow down a determined attacker. The standard commercial six-foot chain-link fence with barbed wire outriggers (or even razor wire toppers) presents a limited climbing barrier, but it is easy to cut.

The real purpose of a barrier like this is to deter the casual trespasser and to provide a clear delineation of the restricted perimeter for prosecution purposes. To be an effective barrier the fence must have integral sensor to detect tampering or be under constant observation by security personnel through direct observation or video surveillance.

The best barrier fence in the world is worthless unless it is backed by a security response force that is able to respond quickly enough to interdict an interloper before they get to critical portions of the facility. The closer the fence is to those critical installations the faster the response force must be. For probably the bulk of high-risk chemical facilities, the fences will be too close to critical areas for the use of off-site reaction forces (including police) to be effective in preventing attackers from gaining access to storage of release threat chemicals of interest.

The security response force at this nuclear weapons facility was certainly lacking.

1 comment:

Edward said...

This is a great point which I wish many USCG and other federal government inspectors would better understand. The fence is no Panacea against attackers.

Recently when queried about making fence repairs, I told the client if you don't observe it, make it a lower priority, the threat has all day to break in anyway.

The anecdote I use to portray the importance of this is asking the client if they thought I could break into FT Knox with a screwdriver. They say no, but I say yes I could if the barriers were not observed. Moreover, if there is not an appropriate response, the fence and the detection methods are again moot.

With all of the academics discussing regional resiliency and other highly important subjects, it pains me that the journeymen of our industry still do not understand these basic tenants of industrial security.

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