Perimeter risks and solutions

Residential Security Handbook 2022: SMART Living Editor's Choice

It can be said that estate security starts way beyond the perimeter, in the communities and surrounding areas that border on or lead up to the fence. While this is true, securing an estate beyond the perimeter is a human effort in cooperating, collecting and sharing intelligence, and the technologies involved are often based more on digital access and personal interaction and information exchange.

When it comes to things in the control of the estate security and management team, the perimeter is the first and most important layer to secure. Once upon a time, a fence or wall was considered security, and if it, or parts of it, were electrified then that was seen as ‘high security’; add a guard patrol and you were set. Of course, those days have passed and today estates have a variety of solutions, human and technical, in use to secure those long perimeters.

Thermal radar is one such solution (as noted in another article in this handbook), but there are more. Most importantly, the ‘old stuff’ like an electric fence is still an important part of the perimeter solution for an estate.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked three local providers of perimeter security solutions for their input on what the risks and solutions are that estates are using, or could be using, in defending their residents today. Our questions went to:

• Devtron: Phillip Krinsky.

• Nemtek: Jason De Freitas.

• Stafix Electric Fence and Security Centres: Shaun Williamson and Brian Wynberger.

• XtraVision: Nick Grange and Theuns van Schalkwyk.

Since some questions were answered by more than one person from the companies concerned, we will simply attribute the answers to the respective companies.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: When designing a perimeter security solution for an estate (ignoring budgets and any existing products), what would you say are the critical components the home owners’ association (HOA) needs to consider?

Devtron: In a premeditated attack, criminals will target the weakest point to gain entry. The main point of adequate security is to identify when and where a breach is happening and respond timeously. Security technology, a vital part of estate security, cannot protect itself; for example, cameras can be targeted by bricks. For this reason, physical barriers like an electric fence need to in place to safeguard technological security equipment such as cameras, thermal cameras and radar. In an opportunistic attack, criminals will target estates that have poorer security – a strong physical barrier will tend to act as a disincentive.

Generally, the more layers you can add to perimeter security the safer you will be, but you still need to start with a smart physical barrier and then add on technical signalling devices. Further on, we discuss the importance of durable kiosks that will enable the concept of layering effectively.

The final step would be ensuring longevity and optimal performance of all critical components through maintenance and the use of durable components.

Stafix: With increased integration and various security products available, having good power and communications along the boundary is an important consideration. A good communications ring such as fibre means equipment can easily and reliably talk back to the control room. The more established power points there are on the perimeter, the easier it is to add in various types of equipment, and the closer the power points, the easier it is to manage monitoring and zoning, as products do not have to work at the limits of their capabilities.

The HOA needs to look very carefully at the easy access points, such as where vegetation is close to the perimeter, as a perpetrator can use these to breach the perimeter. Also, consideration needs to be taken into account for rivers where criminals can simply swim in underwater. Sewerage drains also act as easy access points. It is paramount that the correct technology and/or physical barriers are used for these possible access points. A ‘walk around’ the estate perimeter with a security professional will quickly identify these weaknesses.

XtraVision: The first point would be to conduct a risk assessment to determine threats, and the levels of urgency and impact on the community. Look at appointing a reputable guarding company which has a good management system in place and makes use of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Our first recommendation would be to consider implementing a good head-end system that can grow to accommodate all the technological requirements to secure and help run the estate. We would recommend you start at the entrances and exits to the estate in order to control the coming and going of owners, contractors and visitors – this includes a visitor management system

Thereafter, one can consider deploying cameras at strategic areas and vulnerable points. If budget is of no concern, then you can look at securing the entire perimeter, as many estates have done. This could include the following technologies, or a combination of them:

• Thermal or AI cameras.

• Electric fencing.

• Fibre intruder detection systems.

• Audio and lighting systems.

A good, comprehensive, centralised control system such as Arteco, with great alarm event management, is a good idea to incorporate the above recommendations. These systems can be monitored offsite, onsite or via a hybrid model of both, and are used by the onsite guarding company as a tool to help ensure the safety of all residents.

Nemtek: When designing a perimeter security solution, the most important thing to consider is the actual design of the fence and optimising it to make sure it does its job and keeps intruders out. We would take the actual wall design as well as any fixtures into account and then decide on the best type of fence. There are wall top, piggyback and free-standing options to choose from.

Depending on the size of the estate, we would need to divide the fence into zones to enable effective and easy monitoring. The overall design of the solution is to make it as hard as possible for the intruder to enter, and if he does try, to notify the response team of the potential intrusion, and then to delay them as long as possible to enable to the response team to react. Our Dual Action Tension Sensors (DATS) help with just this and will notify of the potential intrusion by monitoring the separation or parting of the wires. By using energizers and DATS we maximise the effectiveness of the perimeter security.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: While fences or walls are meant to act as a deterrent and delay intruders, the size of some estates means that even when an alarm is raised, by the time security arrives on the scene the criminals are gone, either into the estate or hopefully away. What options are there to firstly delay them as long as possible, and secondly to track them past the fence/wall?

Devtron: Perimeters can cover large areas, and any signalling device needs to ascertain the point of entry/attack. By introducing control points at manageable distances, it’s possible to get an appropriate response team in place. A 2 km fence is unmanageable, but a 2 km fence that has control points every 100 m is much easier to manage.

Having a security zone and patrol road/corridor around an estate helps security to control the area. Some estates forget to build this around the estate. In these cases, the security team needs to negotiate with private home owners to inspect properties for possible breaches; this practice dramatically reduces the possibility of criminals finding blind perimeter spots. Additionally, it makes maintenance of the fence much easier when accessible, and less intrusive on residents if access control to the area is already established, rather than always asking for permission.

One more thing to note: quick and nimble response teams, such as those equipped with motorbikes or quadbikes, help security teams to get to a fence breach much faster.

Stafix: This is becoming a larger problem, with criminals being prepared to accept detection based on the likelihood that they can smash and grab in the complex and get out fast with some high-value items such as laptops and phones, before their location in the estate is detected. For me, on large complexes it is important that the estate has electric fence zones rather than sectors. Zones are independently powered by energisers networked and situated around the perimeter. Multi-sector energisers are fine for small complexes, but in larger complexes they are easily confused and security is sent in the wrong direction. A sector system will never have better benefits than an energiser per zone, if the zones are small. This is why it’s important to have many power locations on the boundary, and a good communications ring.

On the CCTV side, thermal sounds great, but it gives little information during and after events. Cameras close together (30 m) give far better details and better analytics, as distances are short and wall angles and changes can be dealt with easily. Location is also pinpointed, making it easier to respond.

Old-school spikes are also returning to popularity as they slow the perpetrator. The electric fence can be hacked through and CCTV does not in any way delay the perpetrator. A high wall with many strands and spikes on top will slow the perpetrator, providing sufficient time for the CCTV analytics to output an alarm, and for the guards to view what’s happening live and deploy while the perpetrator is busy cutting his way through the fence.

Delay tactics such as Active Deterrence from Dahua Technology is available in its TiOC range (Three-in-One-Camera). Using SMD (Smart Motion Detection), the camera can identify vehicles and people to a high degree of accuracy in a given field of view (such as the perimeter of an estate). Once a detection is made, the camera will trigger red and blue flashing lights. This can be accompanied by an audio clip made to dissuade the potential criminal from entering the property. There is also two-way audio so a conversation can be had.

A further feature of this TiOC range from Dahua is the full-colour capability, as the camera image can be in full colour under any circumstances. This is achieved by using white light as opposed to infrared at night. This may not fully deter the criminal but should delay them. An alarm with visual verification can be sent to the control room or patrolling guards, so they will be able to attend to the threat more effectively.

XtraVision: Electric fences are a good aggressive deterrent but should be combined with a static or PTZ surveillance system with analytics or AI. This allows the control room operator to immediately see and visually verify what caused the alarm, and adds a second tier of protection.

Fibre intruder detection systems are also a good alternative when combined with a static or PTZ surveillance system with analytics or AI. These systems can be deployed on existing fences or before the fence line to pick up intruders before they reach the fence line.

Nemtek: Nemtek has designed many products to detect, deter and delay. The first option to look at for larger estates is to divide it up into smaller zones so it is easier to identify exactly where they are trying to get in. Our Dual Action Tension Sensors (DATS) were created for early warning. You will be notified if they even try part the wires, and you can react before they even enter the estate. Our perimeter alarm light system is great for easy identification of the zone that has been triggered and speeds up response times. It is great for easy identification at night. By using our IO8 relay cards, outputs can be configured as triggers for cameras to pan and tilt into the area they are trying to penetrate.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: There are, naturally, many options and technologies one can use on the perimeter, such as more secure fencing, electrified fences, visual and thermal cameras, and even radar, but budget is always an issue. What are the critical perimeter security solutions that are non-negotiable for the HOA on a budget?

Devtron: The most effective budget should aim to build a well-planned security site with the possibility to expand as and when resources become available. The main stay-behind for any security system is kiosks which house the technical equipment required to run the cameras and electric fences. Build your kiosks large and durable so you can add onto them in future.

The next option for the budget must be quality battery or solar installations to maintain electrical supply during brownouts or our inevitable national load shedding. Thus, having a spacious and heavy-duty kiosk will give the estate the space and capacity to install these add-ons effectively.

Beware of security systems that rely heavily on all-in-one solutions. They may feel like cost savings for the estate, but when they fail, all the security systems fail at the same time and the estate is left completely blind to possible threats. There are many different technologies with different strengths and systems that can be added on; these are more robust than systems which make all other systems obsolete. Systems that work together tend to act as failsafes and provide the estate with various means to ensure safety on site.

Electric fences need to be maintained in order to be effective – they work 24/7 in all weather conditions, so it’s unrealistic to expect a fence to withstand the forces of nature. Maintenance and quality fence equipment is not only key to an active fence with a long lifespan, but also critical for quality surveillance.

The electric fence is a physical barrier with an electronic edge, in that vital information from fence triggers can help to ascertain potential threats. To have informative fence diagnostics is vital for maintenance of fences as well as timeous identification of possible threats. By far the biggest security risk on an electric fence is that it’s turned off intentionally, with or without the knowledge of the HOA. Active real-time diagnostics and regular fence testing and maintenance will ensure that fences remain on continuously and at optimal performance.

Visuals are always helpful. A fence alarm that can be supported by visuals, radar or thermal imaging can increase rapid identification of the types of threats. These are all welcomed add-ons to the essential physical barrier.

Stafix: Number one is an electric fence. It is the cheapest perimeter monitor that provides physical security as well. The better the fence is constructed, the better the security. Spacing lower wires 50 mm apart, having many strands (12 and above), and having strong straining posts and intermediate posts 3 m apart at most will all improve protection.

Furthermore, I would prefer a bipolar (all-live) fence as all wires shock and monitor, and false alarms are reduced. If not, a normal zoned high-voltage fence will do. Energisers need to be as close as possible, and for any large estate, a perimeter patrol software management system managing and recording all fence activities is necessary. This system can then be linked to cameras that can be added to the system. These cameras can be programmed to do a ‘screen pop’ on any given alarm. This then gives the guard a visual verification of what is happening on the ground, and whether it is a real or false alarm. This can also be done for vehicle or foot patrols. – a video clip can be sent to them on a mobile device with pre- and post-recordings.

XtraVision: Some sort of detection system is mandatory to monitor entrances and exits from the estate and the control room. Also vital is a good detection system on the perimeter, such as one or more of the below solutions:

• Surveillance systems – either thermal or IP cameras – with built-in analytics reporting events to the control room (most critically, to visually verify alarms).

• Electric fencing solutions (can be used with surveillance detection systems).

• Radar systems (can be used with surveillance detection systems).

• Fibre intruder detection systems (can be used with surveillance detection systems).

Nemtek: Electric fencing is still one of the most cost-effective options to protect estates. Non-networkable energizers are still able to protect zones and notify you where and when penetration occurs. With electric fencing there are layers, the more layers the more levels of protection. Your standard electric fence with energizers to monitor the zones is great as a first level of deterrence. Add DATS and you’ve kicked it up a notch. Network the energizers and you have gone up yet another notch in communication. You can scale your perimeter security to match your budget easily.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Are we seeing a reduction in the number of human guards employed in estates, with a greater reliance on technology?

Devtron: Technical security solutions which promise a reduction in staff, rather than better management of perimeter issues, should be treated with caution as they tend to blame failures on people/security staff rather than poorly designed security teams and their equipment.

The question of how many onsite guards are needed to maintain adequate security depends on what level of safety you are trying to build into your site. A site ranked 5-stars may have gate personnel, security technicians, Internet and Wi-Fi technicians, control rooms and roving guards, or all of it may be outsourced to a third party, or even worse, it may be practically non-existent.

However, as we have no professional security ranking system, any estate can advertise its security prowess and the tenants will have no idea how correct or incorrect that premise really is. Therefore “How many security staff is enough?” is not the question to ask, but rather “How can I effectively mobilise employed staff and contractors to work together to create the most secure environment on this estate?”

The focus on staff should be on how well they are working together with each other and with the available technology, and whether there are\areas where there is too much or too little surveillance. If everyone thinks someone else is dealing with a problem, then in practice no-one is dealing with it.

Devtron offers training on its systems to onsite or offsite staff – from understanding the electric fence, to the energiser, to the software itself – that will help the onsite guards or offsite controllers understand what they are responding to and effectively relay the message to an onsite responder. Devtron’s software is merely a messenger of perimeter problems, and an onsite guard is merely a responder to the events. With clear identification of alarms, voltage readings, detailed reports and live reaction to problems, we are handing the estate the power to proactively deal with issues. This also gives the HOA an understanding of the number of staff required onsite or offsite to respond and deal with issues as they arise.

Stafix: Definitely. Technology all over the world is being used to reduce the reliance on guards and also increase the capacity and operational efficiencies of the remaining guards.

With the increased use of technologies such as UAVs (drones), these can complement the use of guards. However, these vehicles will need one or more operators. So even though physical guards are reduced, there are employment opportunities for other positions. This also goes for the reduced cost of technologies such as CCTV. With the cost reduction (and increase in quality) this means many more cameras, and better ones, can be placed in the field. These need to be monitored, so an increase in the number of viewing stations and operators is a result.

XtraVision: Yes, we are. There is, however, a breakeven point beyond which you will not be able to further reduce the number of guards. Technology works 24 hours a day and needs no breaks, and it’s also a lot more reliable from a time and performance perspective.

Nemtek: The thing with technology is you generally still need a human to monitor it. Sure, it could be a homeowner, but generally it is the human guard. The role of the security guard seems to be evolving from the guard of old days that walked around and physically looked at everything, to a guard that requires a bit more technical training, who sits in a control room setup monitoring the entire estate from one screen, being able to detect an issue and respond much quicker than before.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Has the ‘as-a-service’ economy taken off in perimeter security? In other words, where customers pay a set monthly fee for the contract period that includes products, installations and repairs/maintenance?

Devtron: Security can be specialised, and many estates do not have the expertise to deal with the level of qualifications or resources required to manage control rooms, IT communications, specialised camera equipment and fence maintenance as required by PSIRA regulations. There are advantages to outsourcing control rooms and technical surveillance equipment. It may seem more expensive to outsource aspects of security, but there are so many hidden costs in maintaining large security information systems that initial estimates never consider. The result, in many cases, is unhappy HOA members, wasteful and obsolete systems, and consultants blaming each other for problems that arise.

The advantage of ‘as-a-service’ is that independent parties can monitor security information through independent control rooms. Control rooms can notify the onsite security staff of potential threats in real time. This method can better utilise resources in that there is not an overkill of surveillance systems, and the ground staff work more as a physical security response.

We have a tendency to build ‘James Bond’ secured control rooms to protect estates, while our criminals are not that sophisticated yet they are still a threat. So, when using ‘as-a-service’ there is a real potential to use security staff more effectively and have complete oversite.

Providers of ‘as-a-service’ solutions can maintain their own equipment and that will help reduce downtime in system maintenance, as any system downtime is a threat to the estate.

Stafix: Definitely. Larger providers can provide an all-in-one fence, CCTV and access control package at a monthly rate. For a housing complex to come up with R1 400 000 for a new fence involves savings or a special levy of R4700 each if there are 300 houses. They will still also need monthly operating and maintenance budget.

There are providers who can offer a solution for, say, R40 000 a month for 5 years. This will include the new fence and full management over the period. On paper, this equates to around R2 400 000, but in reality most residents are happier to pay R130 towards the fence in monthly levies than a special levy. It also means things like cameras, access control and guarding can all be added in on monthly payments. In the end, this means you can live in a high-security estate with top-level CCTV, electric fencing, guarding and access control, with the security portion of your monthly levy costing roughly the same as a normal home alarm response service (+/-R700).

The use of VSaaS (Video Surveillance-as-a-Service) has not really taken off in South Africa. Bandwidth and cost are still the main barriers to entry. Market research reports are showing a growth of around 15% year-on-year, which is small as this segment is coming off a low base already.

Access Control-as-a-service (ACaaS) has received much more traction as it is not bandwidth hungry and thus more cost-effective and practical regarding data transfer limits. Many of the access control market players in South Africa have adopted this technology and it is probably already a necessity as opposed to a ‘nice to have’.

XtraVision: Yes, there are a number of companies that offer these services.

Nemtek: There are installation companies that offer this option and have done very well, but not all estates/communities like to be tied down to one service provider. This is still a divided market.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What products/solutions/services does your company offer to the residential market?

Devtron: Devtron offers an online real-time diagnostic system for electric fence energisers that can help identify problems and possible threats on the electric fence or physical barrier. Being cloud-based, our diagnostic information can be managed over a multitude of network options, such as cellular or GSM networks and also local fibre networks, Wi-Fi and the Internet.

Devtron offers a unique failover system that allows the energisers to communicate via the local network as well as the GSM network in the case that any primary equipment failures happen. Thus, the estate will still have access to the fence information even if every other technical security system is down.

We have an elite model with full energiser communications that we use in the large security estates. These products are supported live and 24/7 in real time, and are backed up by an additional second server as a failsafe. Moreover, we take live readings and scheduled readings of voltages. Devtron maintains that understanding the nature of supply and battery voltage to the energiser is imperative to run the electric fence effectively.

We have recently developed a home security market offering which has a cellphone app with energiser communication. This provides the individual home owner with peace of mind. Our home product competes with other devices of this nature in terms of price and services. Additionally, this product connects to the local home Wi-Fi and is therefore inexpensive, user friendly and easy to install.

Devtron is a local product which is adaptable to, and can be configured to work with, other manufacturers’ products and systems. Most importantly, we like to work with the client to take existing or non-existing options and layer on alternative systems, which can act as a failsafe for all other security systems.

Stafix: We offer high-level JVA Perimeter Patrol integration software that can manage your fence perimeter. Individual energisers can be switched on and off, voltages monitored, all conditions logged, etc. Cameras and access control can be linked to the software.

We offer a range of high-quality security zoned energisers with varying output energy that can be standard or bipolar. We also have multi-sector units for smaller complexes and low-voltage fence monitors for areas like parks and carparks where children may come close to the fence. In the JVA range we also have fence tension monitors and vibration sensors, and monitors to detect digging and climbing.

Stafix Security Centres is an official Dahua Technology distributor in the region, so we can offer the company’s full suite of products. This includes surveillance (CCTV), thermal, radar, access control, mobile and traffic, display and control, drone-to-network and storage products and solutions.

Stafix Security Centres also now carries the ZKTeco access control product range through our 28 branches nationwide. Our initial product offering will mainly include biometric and entrance control for both people and vehicles.

Stafix Security Centres, besides being the manufacturer and distributor of JVA electric security fence systems, provides access control, automation and CCTV solutions. We are also distributors for Roboguard perimeter beams, Centurion Systems automation, Dahua CCTV, ZKTeco access control, IDS alarm systems and others. We also have a substantial range of accessories and sundries to support these products.

XtraVision: We offer a range of systems and solutions, including:

• Surveillance solutions, both thermal and IP, with built-in analytics and AI functions.

• Event video management systems.

• Radar solutions.

• Electric fencing solutions.

• Access control solutions including visitor management.

• Fibre detection systems.

• Fence cable detection systems.

• Intrusion alarm systems.

• Cabling and accessories.

Nemtek: You want a brand you can trust with a wide range of products and services that are cost effective, quick to install and easy to use. Nemtek has been an innovative and reliable force in the electric fence industry for over 30 years. Manufacturing a full range of energizers and fencing hardware, Nemtek uses its in-house knowledge and expertise to deliver applications in agricultural animal management and industrial, commercial and residential security fencing. Whether you’re starting from scratch or upgrading an existing electric fence system, we have the perfect solution for your security needs.

For more information contact:

• Devtron, +27 21 919 5321, [email protected],

• Nemtek, +27 11 462 8283, [email protected],

• Stafix Electric Fence and Security Centres, +27 11 397 3507, [email protected],


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