The old adage “good fences make for good neighbors” holds true for businesses, as fences can play a strong role in a company’s security policies. So, it is not surprising that the nonresidential fencing market is projected to provide some of the best opportunities for growth, accounting for one-third of the forecast increases. Installations at institutional buildings will spur growth in the market as demographic trends drive the construction of new health care and educational facilities.

It is incidents like the recent security breaches at two Kalamazoo, Mich. water storage tanks led the local Homeland Security office to notify cities in West Michigan and brought renewed calls for vigilance in protecting the local water supply. The vandals cut a hole in the perimeter’s fence to access the water tank’s hatch, which was stolen. Or the case in Wendell, North Carolina, where a man broke into a John Deere dealership by cutting the brackets on a chain-link fence and took four lawn tractors valued at $15,096.

As a result of events like these, a report from Freedonia Group indicates that U.S. demand for fencing will reach 935 million linear feet in 2012. Plastic and composite fencing will be the fastest growing materials. Metal fencing accounts for two-thirds of the fencing in value terms. Metal fencing’s prominence stems from its popularity in the nonresidential building and nonbuilding markets where metal fencing – particularly chain link – is commonly used to secure property. Although chain link fencing is the most frequently installed metal product, ornamental metal fencing generates the majority of the segment’s market value.

A Safety Mission

In the aftermath of 9/11, protecting valuable assets and people has become particularly critical to The U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN), which serves as the United States’ delegation to the United Nations. In 1947, the Mission was created by Congress to assist in conducting United States policy at the United Nations. Today, USUN has approximately 150 people on staff and is located in its permanent offices across the street from United Nations Headquarters.

As part of that rebuilding, stainless steel bollards are being installed to secure the perimeter. The State Department has installed hydraulic bollards in applications around the world to prevent vehicles from crashing into buildings. In April 2010, Delta Scientific barricades were put in at the United State Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, which helped retain the attackers. The barricades prevented the bomber’s vehicle from crashing past the pedestrian gates and forced the attacker to detonate the truck bomb far from the building. 

In the case of the Mission, electric bollards are being used, which Michael Black, senior project manager for the Domestic Building Branch at the State Department, says are rated similar to hydraulic bollards but require less maintenance. The bollard system is designed to destroy the front suspension system, steering linkage, engine crank case and portions of the drive train of any 15,000 pound non-armored or non-tracked vehicle hitting the bollards. The bollards are raised and lowered into the guard position by a remotely controlled precision hydraulic power unit or a precision pneumatic electrical power system. Under emergency conditions, the bollards can be raised in less than two seconds. 

“Before 9/11, it was not common to see bollards in New York City,” says Black. “There was way more flower pots used in front of locations to act as a deterrent. Now, not only the U.S. Mission will have bollards, but so will the entire city block on which it resides.”

Dictated By Need

Residing on 225 acres in the city of High Point, North Carolina, the campus is spacious and open. High PointUniversityis a four-year, coeducational, liberal arts university related to The United Methodist Church. The campus is nestled in a residential neighborhood that was once perceived as undesirable. “This surrounding area is an extension of our campus and students traverse these paths and side streets,” says Jeff Karpovich, chief of security and director of transportation at High Point University. “We use lighting and fencing to ensure our students are protected outside of our defined campus perimeter.”

Just as the student body at High Point is diverse, so too are the fencing types in place around the campus. Composite, laminated chain link, decorative iron fencing and a brick and mortar signature fence make up the myriad of systems in use. “Our need in a particular part of the campus will determine the type of fence used,” says Karpovich. For instance, the signature fencing around the edge of the campus proper defines the campus for visitors and welcomes them. “Our goal with this fence was to give visitors the same ‘Wow’ feeling they get when they enter Disney World,” says Karpovich.

The Trex opaque composite fence is used for privacy. Karpovich explains that the university purchased property next to a high school. The fence provides privacy for students on both sides of the fence. “We don’t want the high school students distracted by our students when they are recreating,” he says.

No matter what the fence, Karpovich says none of them are scalable. In some cases, the fences are also not too aesthetically pleasing, such as the eight-foot cyclone black link fence around a remote campus parking lot, but in that case it was more about security than aesthetics.

Eighty percent of the university’s fencing is the brick-and-mortar signature fence and the other 20 percent makes up the rest. And that 80 percent is definitely the most costly of the fencing systems in place at the university. “We are a private school and we do watch our spending,” says Karpovich. “But when it’s appropriate, we opted for the signature fence because it defines our location and is very public. We do what is right and necessary while still being prudent by selecting the right product for the right application without cutting corners.”

Layers of Security

Detecting and preventing intrusion and theft are something that Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. (GVEC) of Gonzales, Tex.takes very seriously. The electrical co-op services 66,000 accounts across 3,700 square miles in south Central Texas. Essential to GVEC’s operations are its 37 substations, some of which are located in very remote locations. Protecting these substations has become more critical than ever because of recent federal government sanctions requiring documented controls and access to these assets. “As a result, we have implemented layers of security, starting with fencing,” says Bernie Acre, information services division manager for GVEC.

Beneath every substation is a grid of copper wire for grounding and to provide a conduit in the event of a lightning strike. While the copper is critical to GVEC, it is also enticing to thieves who steal and sell the copper. About two years ago, GVEC began using chain link fences with razor wire and “smart” fiber around the perimeter to deter potential thieves. The fiber is linked to GVEC’s computer system and alerts the central station to activity around the perimeter. “And we’ve been able to adjust the sensitivity of the fiber to minimize false alarms,” says Acre.

While Acre says that since installing the chain and fiber wire defense, theft has been almost eliminated from GVEC. However, the company still relies on more sophisticated perimeter detection measures at the fence, such as infrared curtains and both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom cameras at entry points and inside substation houses.

“Before implementing these layers of security, we had a simple chain link fence and barbed wire. If an event took place, no one knew until the next trip to a substation or is reported to us,” says Acre. “Adding visibility to our control center gives us eyes on the ground for 24-hour surveillance.”

These security experts agree that securing assets doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive and that fencing is a cost-effective security measure that any business can implement. Like a computer’s firewall, fencing can be a company’s first lines of defense against elicit behavior. While there is no deterrent that will prevent someone from breaking through it they want to badly enough, Acre stands behind GVEC’s motto: Good security practices always include a strong front gate.