Using physical barriers

July 2009 Access Control & Identity Management

Physical barriers play a key role in integrated security systems in the retail arena, often fulfilling the function of first line of defence against criminal activity. The quality of those barriers takes on heightened importance in emergencies. It is too late to find out that the barrier was not designed to withstand a concerted attack when customers and staff are being held at gunpoint or an unruly crowd is on the point of breaking through.

Poor quality barriers will not be able to resist a determined attack for any length of time. Areas such as the lock, top and bottom tracks are easily damaged, allowing criminals to invade the premises. High quality physical barriers resist attack for far longer, exposing perpetrators to extreme risk of discovery. They will either give up or face the danger of arrest by your armed response, security guards or police.

Good quality security barriers act as visible deterrents to criminals and provide reassurance to customers and staff that their safety is catered for. They allow you to control who enters or leaves the outlet and are ideal for crowd control. Barriers can be closed quickly in emergencies and can be integrated into security plans and early warning systems. With forward planning they can be incorporated into the outlet’s design so that they are out of sight during opening hours.

Trellis-style security barriers are ideal for doorways requiring a clear reveal, such as fire escapes; internal doors where access must be restricted eg, change rooms, storage areas, offices; external doors to stop unwanted intrusion; and situations where people wanting to enter are clearly visible behind the security gate.

The range of products available is fairly wide and confusing since they can look similar. There are vast differences between brands in terms of quality. This may not be important if barriers are installed simply as a deterrent. But if they are expected to control unruly crowds, block off access to restricted areas, or protect valuable merchandise after hours, the barrier should be engineered to withstand physical attack.

Make very sure you know what you are buying. Products specifically designed to do this type of protection job have added features such as state-of-the-art locks that resist tampering or levering; strengthened uprights and links; and cover plates protecting the tracks. At the same time these security doors need to be light enough to operate quickly and smoothly in an emergency.

Roller shutters are ideal for stores where window-shopping is desirable and there is no fixed front door. They perform the dual functions of door and security barrier when closed. They protect the entrances to retail outlets in malls countrywide as well as motor showrooms, food outlets, dispatch areas and internal parking lots. During the day they roll up out of sight into a bulkhead and at night they secure the opening and everything within the store.

Retail and chain stores often need an aesthetically pleasing product and opt for high visibility designs that allow merchandise to be viewed after hours without risking ‘smash and grab’ incidents. Operation is automated so the roller shutters are quick and easy to open and close, and staff do not struggle to operate them under pressure. There are solid door designs available for when visibility is not an issue.

Roller shutters exposed to the elements are obviously treated differently to those inside a shopping centre. We need to look at tampering factors, weather conditions and ease of operation. There are even roller shutters that can withstand extreme coastal winds, seal the premises if fire breaks out, protect against petrol bomb attack or gas leaks, or cope with high frequency operation such as parking garages.

The choice of security barrier depends on the unique circumstances of the retail outlet, so the best advice I can give is to consult the experts. The barriers will then be custom made for best fit and should give many years of protection to customers, staff and merchandise.

For more information contact Charlene Erasmus, brand and PR manager, Trellicor Group, +27 (0)31 508 0800,

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