The perimeter and beyond

Residential Estate Security Handbook 2017 Editor's Choice, Perimeter Security, Alarms & Intruder Detection

The concept of setting up security in layers is not new, it has been one of the integral aspects of security since castles had moats with a drawbridge as the only entrance. The idea that layers are necessary came about as people realised that one layer is never enough. No matter how secure you think a particular layer is, there is always someone who will figure out a way past it, which is why we need other layers to deter them from further incursion.

In the residential estate environment, the perimeter is normally the first layer of security designed to keep people safe. In reality, there should be an external layer made up of community safety efforts and law enforcement, but this is often a missing link in the local environment.

Today an electric fence is seen as a standard accessory for the perimeter, and many will say this isn’t even enough. Over the years, technology has improved the ability to protect the perimeter and Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a few experts how today’s estate can more effectively protect itself.

Start with a wall

Maurice Williamson, CEO, Stafix Electric Fence Centre confirms that conventional walls and fences provide a physical barrier to would-be intruders and that they may in fact even deflect some, but a determined intrude will ultimately scale a wall or cut his way through the fence. To deal with this, walls can be built higher and have obstructions along the top of them (broken glass, spikes etc.) and fences may be barbed, but ultimately, on their own, they can both be breached with no warning given to those inside.

Williamson also warns that these measures could also cause physical injury to an intruder and, as strange as it seems, this may lead to expensive litigation.

“The only system that can be added to walls or fences that really offers both a strong deterrence as well as detection is a monitored electric security fence,” Williamson says. “One only has to drive through the streets of our cities and towns to see the proliferation of what was formally an agricultural management tool that has been adapted for security purposes, to appreciate the popularity of this system of perimeter security.”

Like every system, electric fencing has its detractors and its weaknesses. They can be shorted out, cut or bridged, but as criminals have become smarter, so too have electric fences. He explains that modern fences can detect cuts, shorts or heavy loading by monitoring the voltage or amperage along the fence line, and now even a change in resistance on the fence line can be detected, making bridging all that more difficult.

“Monitored electric fences can also be sectorised into multiple sectors, facilitating accurate and speedy response.”

When addressing perimeter fencing, Cliff Rose, MD of Modular Communications says physical fencing technology has seen enormous change over the past five years. The market has seen an increase in the use of welded mesh panel products which are marketed as ‘high security’ fencing options.

“In fact,” says Rose, “the market has found that it is possible to climb over or cut through these mesh panels, it just takes a little longer. Where the market has changed dramatically is in the electronic detection technology with complementary applications to the above-mentioned mesh security panels. Detection systems which listen to what is happening on your fence and give an early warning is becoming the norm for the layered approach to security on the perimeter.”

Alarm, location and image

It’s not only fencing technologies that have advanced. Today there are other technologies that complement these solutions, adding additional security to the boundary. “We have seen the emergence of thermal imaging cameras in this area as the technology has become more affordable for such applications,” notes David Montague, EMEA sales director for security at FLIR Systems.

“Thermal offers several key advantages for perimeter security. You can achieve detection of an intruder in the day and at night, and in most weather conditions. They can theoretically detect a man up to 20 km, but all lens options provide extended detection distances in comparison to visual cameras. This also means the installation cost can be considerably less than other solutions as fewer cameras are needed.

“With an uncooled thermal camera, there is little or no maintenance and hardly any moving parts, which reduces the risk of failure.”

Another adherent to the idea of having cameras as a critical component of your perimeter security is Charles Harrison, MD of Secu-Exports.

“Traditionally, securing a perimeter is done using static cameras. We have recognised a weakness in these systems in that once the intruder has breached the barrier, it is impossible to know where they are and to successfully track them. We recommend using PTZ (pan tilt zoom) long-range thermal cameras on high sites that allow you to get a 360-degree view that covers not only the perimeter, but also the internal and external areas.”

Harrison calls this wide-area situational awareness as it helps security operatives not only detect a breach of the perimeter, but provides the ability to track the target as they move around.

The costing issue

Not only are perimeters long, especially in the larger estates, but securing them is expensive – simply consider the costs of erecting a wire-mesh fence over a few kilometres. However, the question of costs comes down to the value estate management places on its occupants and their security.

“Electric fencing pricing can be tailored to fit an estate’s budget, starting with a simple high voltage single zone, single sector monitored fence going right through to sophisticated multi zone, multi sector installations. In general, electric security fences are very economical and effective,” says Williamson.

Rose adds that AcoustAlert is also an option as it is a versatile product and has applications on various types of fences and walls, as well as below the fence line to detect under-digging. For larger perimeters (greater than 600 metres), multiple field processors are required around the perimeter and these need to communicate alarm conditions back to the central or off-site control room.

However, if the estate also has surveillance cameras around the perimeter, it could include the AcoustAlert field processors and sensor cable onto the perimeter fence, or the estate can integrate the CCTV onto the AcoustAlert LAN.

Of course, cameras are somewhat more expensive to use on the perimeter, but as noted above, they provide additional secur-ity over and above other technologies. Montague notes, however, that justifying the use of thermal cameras on the perimeter is easier today because of the significant decrease in the prices of these devices. “Some of the benefits of thermals are that the initial purchase price is affordable for most, the failure rate is very low, you tend to need fewer cameras compared with other solutions as the distance viewed is greater. In addition, Flir offers an advanced replacement programme, if needed, and a local repair facility.”

Adding to the cost benefits one can derive from thermals, Harrison says Secu-Export’s systems can be solar powered and run independently of your power infrastructure, and a wireless data link can be used if there is no fibre optic cabling. He adds that the software can be integrated into “just about any existing VMS backbone”. Secu-Exports can also offer a rent-to-buy option.

After the breach

It is in the ability to track suspects after they have breached the perimeter that Harrison believes Secu-Systems comes into its own. “Our long range PTZ thermal camera, supported by software analytics, allows you to track the target. Depending on the camera used, we can pick up targets well before they reach a critical area.”

Montague agrees, noting that Flir is seeing “a significant uptake in the detection and tracking”. He suggests using a fixed thermal camera to view down a fence line that hands off to a PTZ multi-sensor system when a person breaches the boundary line, which will then track the target.

Rose adds that while AcoustAlert is primarily a detection system used on the perimeter for the specific purpose of early warning, CCTV cameras should be used to track intruders, firstly at the point of intrusion (which is identified by AcoustAlert) and then to see where they may have gone.

The concept of tracking is also fraught with difficulty in residential estates as there is always the potential to be accused of invasion of privacy. The important issue, he says is to know as soon as possible when you have a potential intrusion or violation of your perimeter security. “This highlights the importance of the layered security approach which should include your earliest warning systems.”

An electric fence on its own can’t track an intruder, but can identify a breach and provide the security team with the location of the incident. Williamson explains that for further security, Stafix also distributes the Roboguard and Askari outdoor beam systems and the CP-Plus range of cameras, “both of which, strategically sited, can track an intruder’s progress.”

Best greenfields advice

Existing estates have the advantage, or some may say the disadvantage of having some form of perimeter security in place. This will play a strategic role in deciding how to further enhance their perimeter security, either by adding or enhancing the current installation. In greenfields (new) projects, those responsible for security can look at all the options and decide on what the best solution is to start with, and plan to enhance this over time.

When it comes to new projects, Williamson advises starting with a multi strand, multi zone, multi sectored monitored electric security fence, which can be added to a well-constructed wall or mesh type fence. Furthermore, he suggests this should be integrated via a JVA Perimeter Patrol system to the camera surveillance system, all of which is monitored in the guard house as well as at the monitoring security company’s headquarters.

“I’d also recommend installing outdoor beams at more vulnerable areas. The whole system should be managed by a competent and reputable security reaction company.”

After the physical fence is in place, Montague says you can plan for thermal security. Flir offers a design tool at (short URL:*flir17a) where one can upload a site location and set out the cameras. Following that, the estate can consider the analytics that will produce the best results, whether resident on the camera or remotely.

“Following this you would need to think about the video management system where there are many options to consider.

“Once you have created a detection system, consideration should be given to the actions following an alarm, what will you do with the alarm and what will be the response: armed response, drones, etc.”

As far as Rose is concerned, if consulted for a greenfields project he would specify the following perimeter solution as a minimum:

1. A high security mesh panel fence system of at least 2.4 metres high.

2. A concrete under-dig which includes an AcoustAlert detection cable.

3. A five or six strand electric fence above the 2.4 metre fence, split into manageable detection zones.

4. AcoustAlert as your fence detection to protect the mesh panel fence and to be your early warning for intrusion or interference on the fence line.

5. Fixed thermal CCTV cameras to verify and validate any alarms.

6. Lighting that switches on in vicinity of the violated detection zone.

7. Audible warning via a distributed speaker system to give a verbal warning to intruders.

Besides the above, the most important consideration will be:

1. How do we respond as quickly as possible to the intrusion, and

2. How quickly can the threat be neutralised.

“If you have difficulties with these two questions you may need to revisit your perimeter detection, deterrent and delay principles in order to mitigate the risk at hand.”

Harrison advises estates to plan for the installation of a control room where an operator can monitor the perimeter cameras and respond accordingly. He adds, “Detect, respond and arrest. Don’t respond and hopefully detect and arrest.”

For more information contact:

• Flir Systems, or refer to the for SA distributors.

• Modular Communications SA, +27 (0)83 456 9542,

• Ndlovu Fencing T/A Stafix Electric Fence Centre, +27 (0)33 342 6727,,

• Secu-Systems, +27 (0)11 794 7834,,


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