In the United States, as well as internationally, vehicle ramming attacks continue to rise. As of early October 2017, there had been a minimum of seven major attacks worldwide resulting in 24 people dead and another 153 injured. As a result of this recent trend, there is an increased interest in perimeter security for different applications beyond traditional government and military operations. From large cities to small municipalities, grade schools to universities, utility substations to corporate offices, many organizations are contemplating how to provide an increased measure of security within already tight budget constraints.

Given the abundance of products available on the market, and the fact that many security professionals are contemplating anti-ram barrier measures for the first time, it’s important to understand how to evaluate and select a perimeter security solution that best suits each unique application and budget. Beyond these considerations, working with a security professional is highly recommended to determine the appropriate threat type and level, help navigate the process, and provide a holistic approach to the entire project.


Understand How Physical Security Products are Rated

When researching anti-ram perimeter security barriers, serious thought should be given to how each system was designed and tested to ensure that it meets the applicable threat conditions. This process can sometimes be challenging with multiple published vehicle crash testing standards and numerous crash ratings within those standards. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) pioneered anti-ram vehicle barrier testing, and developed a rating system and test standard that was published in April 1985 (SD-STD-02.01), and later revised in 2003 (SD-STD-02.01 Rev A).

In 2009, the DOS retired SD-STD-02.01 Rev A and stated that all new barriers should be tested to ASTM International standards in order to be considered for embassy projects. ASTM F2656-15 is the most recent standard to which anti-ram vehicle barriers are tested.

ASTM ratings are assigned based on three variables – test vehicle type, vehicle speed and vehicle penetration distance. Test vehicles span six style and weight categories, from a small passenger car (2,430 pounds) to a heavy goods vehicle (65,000 pounds). Vehicles are impacted into the barrier at speeds ranging from 30 to 60 mph. Finally, the penetration distance of the vehicle into the barrier falls into one of three categories – from less than 1 meter (P1) up to 30 meters (P3).

While new barriers are typically crash tested to ASTM standards, the DOS SD-STD-02.01 Rev A ratings are still frequently used in project specifications. These ratings are assigned based on impact speed, similar to ASTM ratings, and are compared below. SD-STD-02.01 Rev A does not assign various penetration ratings, as every vehicle tested to Rev A must have a penetration of one meter or less to receive a “K” rating.


ASTM Impact Conditions

Test Vehicle Weight  Condition Designation Nominal Impact Velocity
6,800 kg (15,000 lbs.) M30 50 kph (30 mph)
  M40 65 kph (40 mph)
  M50 80 kph (50 mph)


ASTM Penetration Ratings

Designation Penetration
P1 ≤ 1m (3.3 ft)
P2 1.01m to 7m (3.31 ft to 23.0 ft)
P3 7.01m to 30m (23.1ft to 98.4 ft)


DOS Impact Conditions*

Test Vehicle Weight Condition Designation Nominal Impact Velocity
6,800 kg (15,000 lbs.) K4 50 kph (30 mph)
  K8 65 kph (40 mph)
  K12 80 kph (50 mph)

*This table shows data for one vehicle type only, a medium-duty truck, which is the most commonly used vehicle standard for government and military applications.


Assess Existing Site Conditions and How They Impact Solutions

Because each barrier design inherently has its own unique advantages and limitations, understanding and defining site conditions will help provide context when it comes to selecting the proper system.

Important Site Assessment Questions:

  • Are there any specific ground conditions involving the soil type, excessive elevations or high water tables?
  • Are there any underground utilities or structures that must be considered?
  • Does pedestrian access need to be stopped or allowed?
  • What aesthetic requirements must be considered?
  • If there is a vehicle entrance, how many vehicles are being processed at peak vs. non-peak times?
  • How will the site environment (temperature, sand, gravel, debris, salt water, snow, rain) affect operations and maintenance?


Consider Installation and Maintenance Costs

Purchasing perimeter security solutions is only half the financial battle to securing a property’s border – the installation and maintenance costs still loom. For products like perimeter fencing, installation prices of one system can cost twice as much as a similarly rated system. Contractors, architects and owners can realize significant savings by looking beyond the initial purchase price of the barrier system and exploring the steps, materials and equipment necessary to complete the project. Getting detailed installation estimates is key, as some barrier designs have significantly different requirements for foundation size, rebar, post spacing and more.

Furthermore, the required maintenance varies across products, even among similar types. This is a cost that should be considered during the purchasing process.

Important Maintenance Questions:

  • Who will maintain the perimeter security system? Will this be performed by employees or will it be contracted?
  • What grade of operating components are used to power the barrier?
  • Are the operating components below grade and how will that impact maintenance?
  • What type of finish is required to provide long-term protection?

Security leaders face a myriad of challenges and options when it comes to selecting an appropriate perimeter security solution. While working with an outside security consultant or design professional is valuable, and should considered, there’s no substitute for conducting your own research. By understanding vehicle crash ratings, identifying critical site requirements, and obtaining detailed installation costs, CSOs can more effectively choose the product that best suits their application – functionally, financially, as well as aesthetically.