Fear and misconception in perimeter: the case for energized fences

Wednesday, Oct 10, 2018

Monitored pulse fence | Gallagher

Energized fencing can be a touchy subject (pun fully intended). In particular, commercial operations often fear potential harm and/or litigation from using energized fencing to secure their perimeter. It’s one of my biggest frustrations, knowing how misplaced that fear is, and that businesses are missing out on the benefits of a truly secure perimeter because of it.

Legal and HR decision-makers are often the first to reject energized fencing. “An electric fence will hurt someone,” is something I commonly hear. The irony is, unlike hostile fence toppings, energized fencing is designed to be safe. I can’t say the same for the damage done by razor and barbed wire (I’ll spare you the photos).

International safety standards and well-defined operational controls mean energized fences are made with protection, not harm, in mind. It’s not pleasant, and no-one has ever said ‘let’s grab that electric fence again’, but it’s also a very tightly controlled, measured system that is configured to ensure safety as well as security.

Energized fences play on basic human psychology to create strong deterrence. We’re conditioned from an early age not to touch electricity and the warning signs on an energized fence will often stop an intruder before they’ve begun. It’s about prevention, or proactive security, stopping the intruder before they’ve even come on site. Compare that to other, reactive, security solutions where the deterrence is lower. Throwing a jacket over a stretch of barbed wire, or putting on a balaclava to minimize identification on CCTV footage are all common ways to get around basic perimeter security. It also means breaches are dealt with after the fact, when damage has already been done.

Camera and barbed wire security

A great example of how effective energized fencing can be comes from a boating and outdoors business that had huge problems with intruders and theft. The business installed an energized fence around their perimeter and the break-ins all but stopped. The few breach attempts that have occurred since have been detected and deterred, and theft is no longer a problem. Energized fencing is that effective – and the only thing hurt was the intruder’s pride.

Intruders aren’t the only people deterred by energized fencing. Accidental access by the community can also be eliminated, ensuring safety for them and business continuity for the organization. Let me give you an example.

There are a lot of processing plants around the world, such as water treatment or chemical processing plants, that have outdoor tanks containing dangerous chemicals. Often these are in-ground tanks with strong rubber covers to protect them from objects – or even worse, people – falling in. But these plants are generally located in low socio-economic areas, where local kids don’t often have a trampoline at home...kids enjoy jumping on anything that looks like a trampoline...I’ll let you make the connection. A simple chainlink fence with barbed wire on top doesn’t prevent someone entering a site and a camera will only watch them do it. So I ask this: what is the value of a life? Because that is what you are protecting. There are multiple examples of exactly this around the world, where lives and communities were protected, and operational risk reduced, by installing an energized fence.

Energized fencing

Even with all the benefits spelled out, the cost of energized fencing can still be a factor. A well-installed energized fence is always going to be more expensive than running three strands of barbed or razor wire across the perimeter fence. But while the upfront cost is more, the effectiveness of the security solution is also significantly higher. What’s the investment worth if your intruder problem completely goes away, or you effectively protect the community from accidental harm?

Gallagher perimeter fence

It all boils down to this: energized fencing is designed to be safe. It complies to international as well as local safety standards and can be operationally controlled to suit the specific needs of a site. While deterrence is a huge factor, it also provides detection with almost no false alarms, and the added benefit of delay allowing time to respond to the alarm generated. It’s time we all stopped dismissing energized fencing as a harmful option and started talking to those HR and management people about the wide-ranging benefits of truly protecting a site, staff and the community.

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