There are a range of security bollards out there—from K-rated to the breakaways you see approaching an onramp. Effective protection requires knowing more about the how's and why's of the barriers you use. Understanding the difference can help avoid drawing up huge costs and/or creating unnecessary structural congestion.
Impact protection isn't the only factor to consider. Perimeter barriers should protect while avoiding unwanted clutter and inconvenience for visitors. Unlike other types of barriers, such as fences and long concrete blocks, security bollards restrict vehicle access while allowing unobstructed pedestrian flow.
In this post, we'll look at a how to assess a building or property in terms of some common risk factors. We'll also consider more comprehensive design strategies that take into account surrounding aesthetics and access requirements.
What are your security needs?
Security barriers create physical and psychological deterrents to unauthorized entry. When planning effective building safety, it's important to assess the scope of risks and vulnerabilities. Put another way, make sure to know what you're protecting, what you're guarding against and what areas are most vulnerable.
Threat factors to consider
When we're looking at crash protection, we're typically looking to protect against vehicle collisions. It's important to look at the surrounding driving environment to get a sense of how a building and its people may be threatened.
- Access and proximity to traffic. How close do vehicles get to your building or other sensitive areas? Consider both public streets and onsite roads or parking lots.
- Frequency and speed of nearby traffic. Is your site located in a high-traffic area with vehicles moving at high speeds? Greater vehicle activity can increase the likelihood of an accident. Speed is a major factor for two reasons: 1) higher speeds reduce driver reaction times, and 2) it increases vehicle momentum, which in turn, increases the damage potential.
- Types of traffic. There are many types of vehicles out there. Most municipalities classify bicycles as a vehicle. But, there's a big difference in the amount of damage two wheels can do compared to 18 wheels. Mass is a big factor here. Even a one-ton truck can have several times the mass than a small compact car.
- Building and road orientations. Consider the whereabouts and direction of nearby traffic. Does it traverse alongside your building or property? Or does it flow directly at your storefront entrance. Long, unobstructed run-ups can increase risk, as they allow vehicles to build up more speed. Downhill trajectories can also reduce braking effectiveness. And, it's not just roads that can be a potential hazard. Nose-in, or front-in, parking orientations can be dangerous, as simple (but often disastrous) pedal or shifting errors can send vehicles flying into buildings. It's, in fact, a more common occurrence than you'd think.
- Driver behavior. Are drivers typically in a rush when they're near your building? What does the surrounding environment look like? Is it busy and full of distractions? Seasonality can also be a factor here. A beachfront restaurant will see a lot more traffic during the summer, while slippery road conditions can be a hazard at drive-throughs.
It may sound far-fetched—like something out of the movies—but vehicle ram-raids can be a reality for vulnerable storefronts. With these kinds of invasions, thieves drive a vehicle (usually stolen) directly into a building to gain access. They'll take whatever merchandise and cash they can before driving off in a separate getaway vehicle.
Terrorist attacks can also be a threat for high-profile buildings and locations—specifically government- or financial-related buildings, or buildings that accommodate large amounts of people. According to the NYPD, proximity to these types of locations can also increase risk.
Risk and vulnerability—what's at stake?
Once you get a sense of what the potential threats are, you can connect these to what needs protecting. Look for unprotected areas on your site. Large storefront windows and entrances are key areas to evaluate. When unprotected, they can be especially vulnerable to oncoming traffic.
Building corners and other external structures—such as utility boxes, fire hydrants and storage areas—are often overlooked.
Site security is often building-oriented. What should not be overlooked, however, are the people who occupy them. This includes occupants and visitors. Employees and customers. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where you could have prevented harm to a mother, father, son or daughter but didn't.
Finally, a note on merchandise and the building itself. Insurance might cover the financials of a building crash, but there are many inconveniences to consider. When a vehicle collides with a building, it's often a shock, and the amount of damage and disruption that results can be a major headache to repair—both for building owners and those who work there or visit the location.
Crash bollards for perimeter protection: Rated vs un-rated
Once you've got a better sense of what you're trying to protect, and what you need to protect yourself from, it's time to put together your perimeter security plan. Your plan should take into account what needs to be protected—and it should distinguish what type of barriers you'll use.
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For high-security applications, or in locations where there are both high-risk and high-threat factors to consider, crash-rated bollards may be needed. For products to be certified under one of these rating systems, they must be live tested at an independent crash test facility under specific and controlled conditions. There are two industry standards for crash ratings.
Security bollards with cast iron decorative covers
- K-ratings. K-rated standards were originally developed by the US Department of State (DoS) in 1985 and then revised by the DoS and the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2003. For bollards to pass live testing, they need to withstand an impact from a 15,000-lb payload without exceeding set penetration distances. Bollards are rated based on the vehicle speeds they can stop: K12, K8 and K4 for 50 mph, 40 mph and 30 mph respectively.
- ASTM standards. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has developed its own standard, based on DoS and DoD criteria, that incorporates different vehicle types and ratings based on vehicle penetration. It has created separate standards for small passenger cars (2,430 lbs), pickup trucks (5,070 lbs), medium-duty trucks (15,000 lbs) and heavy goods vehicles (65,000 lbs).
Crash-rated barriers provide the most secure protection, but they come at a much higher price to purchase and install. The most basic crash-rated installations can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Other features, such as retractability and automatic deployment also require ongoing maintenance and care to ensure barriers remain operational.
Un-rated crash bollards
Un-rated barriers provide a more cost-effective solution than crash-rated products, while still providing significant impact protection.
Steel pipe security posts offer the most basic form of impact protection. Often referred to as "bumper posts," they should be embedded deep in ground and reinforced with concrete to provide a high level of impact protection. A basic installation for a set of steel pipe security bollards can cost as little as a few hundred dollars.
Security bollards with protective plastic covers
For locations where design and aesthetics are important, even the most basic steel pipe security posts can be covered with either cost-effective plastic sleeves or premium ornamental covers—not only to enhance their visual quality, but to protect from wear and corrosion. Effective security should not come at the expense of functionality or design. Instead, they should be complementary.
It's worth noting that while not evaluated to the application-specific parameters of rated bollards, all bollards (rated or not) create distinct visual barriers—to better identify sensitive areas for vehicles and to deter ram-raid invasions. For areas with lower risk factors, a range of bollards—from simple bolt-down products to decorative or removable posts—are often used to encourage slower, more responsible driving.
In this post, we've looked at how to assess security needs and the range of options that are available—from precisely measured impact resistance to more economical options, as well as other factors such as traffic control and aesthetic design.
The most effective security installations will include a range of potential stakeholders and knowledgeable experts to assess the needs of a specific site and to find the most optimal solutions. Improper planning can lead to poor functionality, which can be costly—or near-impossible—to fix or replace. And the consequences of a failed barrier can be disastrous.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and does not purport to address all, if any, safety concerns associated with the use of the mentioned security products. Anyone planning to implement a security barrier device should consult a professional security expert and/or engineer to ascertain the suitability of a product for any intended use prior to installation.
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- ASTM International. Standard Test Method for Vehicle Crash Testing of Perimeter Barriers. August 2007.
- Bloomberg, Michael R., Richard A. Falkenrath, and Raymond W. Kelly. Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings. The City of New York and the New York City Police Department. 2009.
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- Headquarters, Department of the Army. "Appendix A: Force Protection." Field Manual 5-114: Engineer Operations Short of War. U.S. Army. 1992.
- Iqbal, Mohammad. "A Rational Method to Design Vehicular Barriers." Structure Magazine (September 2010).
- Oakes, Charles G. "The Bollard: Crash- and Attack-Resistant Models." Whole Building Design Guide. National Institute of Building Sciences.
- Oakes, Charles G. "The Bollard: Non-Crash and Non-Attack-Resistant Models." Whole Building Design Guide. National Institute of Building Sciences.
- National Counterterrorism Center. "Bomb Threat Stand-Off Distances." Counterterrorism 2014 Calendar.
- Rabkin, Mathew, Robert Brodesky, Frank Ford, Marsha Haines, Jordan Karp, Kristin Lovejoy, Terry Regan, Linda Sharpe, and Margaret Zirker. Transit Security Design Considerations. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration. November 2004.
- U.S. General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service. The Site Security Design Guide. U.S. General Services Administration. June 2007.
- Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) Functional / Operational Committee. "Functional / Operational." Whole Building Design Guide. National Institute of Building Sciences.