THE MAGAZINE

Rise of the Anti-Ram Vehicle Barrier

By Sonny Sharmin, CPP

Enviromental Concerns: The vehicle barrier must be protected from rain, dirt, debris or run-off by ensuring proper drainage. The drain system must be continuously maintained to ensure adequate removal of water during rain fall. Any water accumulation may impact the operation of the barrier. In colder climates, standing water may freeze, hindering the barrier’s movement. Many barrier products offer below-ground heaters embedded in concrete to keep the ground surface at above freezing temperatures and prevent ice build-up. Also, cooling systems to keep the equipment at cool temperatures should be considered when barriers are installed in hot environments.

Maintenance: Vehicle barriers must be capable of operating continuously with minimal failures. Once barriers are installed, the manufacturer must provide all installation, electrical, and wiring diagrams, along with a warranty. Included should also be the barrier’s maintenance schedule and instructions for the system. At the very least, the maintenance program should include recommendations for how often maintenance should occur, a detailed checklist of what to do, trouble shooting guidelines, and basic repair procedures.

Lighting: Another area of importance is lighting. Depending on the proximity of the checkpoint to the target and inspection protocols, adequate lighting is required to provide visibility for security personnel to inspect the vehicle and cargo prior to granting access. Lighting should be evenly distributed to allow drivers a clear view of the check point without creating a glare, which may interfere with the driver’s view of the checkpoint. The most common type of lighting is continuous lighting. The lighting should also be sufficient to provide a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system with a clear look at the checkpoint.

Security Cameras and Alarms: To prevent tampering with the barrier on remote sites or during nonoperational times, facilities may want to install CCTV equipment and alarm points on the vehicle barrier. The CCTV equipment will provide continuous coverage of the checkpoint from a remote site. An intrusion detection system should also be considered to protect against unauthorized access into the control shack where the barrier equipment controller is located.

The threat of terrorists ramming explosive-laden vehicles into buildings has made anti-ram vehicle barriers an important consideration for organizations building new facilities in high-risk areas. By thoroughly assessing the threats that face a particular building from the beginning of the design phase, organizations and their design team can factor in the particular anti-ram barriers that can provide the necessary protection, without unnecessarily making the building’s surrounding look like a warzone. By minimizing the reach of a threat, anti-ram barriers can make it harder for terrorists or other adversaries to get close enough to do significant harm to a facility and the people who occupy it.


Sonny Sharmin, CPP, CLSD, CHS, is the lead force protection specialist with the U.S. Capitol Police. He is responsible for overseeing perimeter security protection assets around the Capitol complex and the Library of Congress.

♦ Photo by Matthew Harwood/Security Management

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