The first thing a designer should consider about an access point to a military facility is that it is not likely to be a point at all, but rather an entry area with a visitor center. The old paradigm of a single sentry at a gatehouse is obsolete.The core functions of the guard at the gate have expanded from simple permission to enter a facility to a variety of anti-terrorism/force protection (AT/FP) functions. Land parallel and perpendicular to the actual gate will often have to be set aside to accomplish all these functions.

Traffic Control
Consider the simple matter of checking the documentation of those who wish to enter a facility. Inevitably, there will be people who do not have their documents or who have come to the wrong gate, necessitating an area where these people can turn around and leave—"rejection routes" suitable for U-turns. There are other valid entrants who are at the proper entry point, but don't have all their paperwork in order—relatives, civilian technical workers and others who need some kind of decal, visitor's pass, or other document. There must be a secure place for such entrants to receive assistance from personnel.

Designers must also provide for a separate area to inspect vehicles—trucks, vans and other delivery vehicles—as well as vehicles belonging to civilians who provide commercial or technical services. Once again, this inspection area will need its own rejection route for those refused entry. All these requirements mean devoting a sizeable piece of land near each entry point, plus logical planning and appropriate personnel. There may even be a need for an indoor inspection facility to ensure vehicles receive proper scrutiny even when raining or snowing.

Another important aspect to consider is signage that will try to channel certain types of people and vehicles to the appropriate gates-construction vehicles, visitors to on-base museums and air shows, relatives of service personnel, Federal Express vans, pizza delivery trucks, etc. The better the signs, the fewer personnel will have to be involved in directing and rerouting visitors.

Then there's lighting—will the visitor's center be used after dark? How much lighting will your parking area require?

Some facilities must even be designed with turnstile gates for foot traffic similar to boarding an aircraft. Again, there must be some provision for taking a person off to the side as necessary.

As these varied needs make clear, a thorough usage survey will be necessary before access points are designed or redesigned. Questions to ask include not just numbers and types of vehicles expected daily and on special occasions, but whether monitored cameras can take over some of the security functions in certain areas, and whether and when certain gates or entries are closed and locked.

 

Emergency Situations
In extreme instances, an access control point must be able to withstand a hostile attack—a vehicle trying to drive straight in at speed, for example. Active vehicle barriers are needed so that with the push of a single emergency button, hydraulically-controlled devices spring up from the road and make the route impassable. Again, there are human and logistical matters to consider: Does the sentry have enough time to react and activate the barrier? Is there some sort of fence so the vehicle cannot simply drive around the barrier?

And what about the visitor's center? Is it a likely point of attack, and how can it be defended? Budget constraints will probably mean that a visitor's center will be all on one floor, at ground level. There is usually not room for a separate, multi-level parking structure, but if there is, designing it to withstand potential attack will be another concern.

Upgrading existing facilities may be the most problematic of design situations. Many facilities were not originally designed with today's security needs in mind; others will have changed over the years as functions and configurations changed, areas of the facility were downsized or added to or repurposed. The streets, highways, entrance and exit ramps leading to the facility may not be easily altered. Still, it is paramount that old and new facilities live up to the most modern standards of safety and security.

For both old and new facilities, the basics are the same: Let in those who need to come in and excluding possible threats. The starting point is the same: A good, well-designed usage study. After that, redesigning older facilities may take more ingenuity to incorporate technology, functions and considerations they were never designed for.
Flexibility in thinking may be called for, and education of base personnel and visitors will certainly be needed, before everyone gets used to new traffic patterns, facilities and procedures. But at the end of the process, a facility will be more accessible and accommodating to the people who need to use it, as well as better defended from those who would do it harm.

Direction Control and Rejection Paths
The Beaufort, S.C., Marine Corp Air Station needed a new sentry post, visitor center and vehicle inspection area. The new facilities were to be located outside the existing gate, ensuring that persons or vehicles could be routed through a rejection path before they entered the facility. This strategy is now commonly used, as it ensures that only those who have legitimate business inside the facility are allowed to enter. Others are rerouted to receive assistance or to be denied entry as appropriate.

Because the new visitor center was outside the entry gate, one concern was vehicles that tried to circumvent the sentry point. Sentry posts are usually outside the gate to give the sentry time to react to a threat and deploy active vehicle barriers should a vehicle try to drive at high speed through the entry area. The active vehicle barriers can be complemented with adjacent fencing reinforced by vehicle arresting cables.

The design for the facility at Beaufort included one-way directionality for control. One important piece of the strategy was a device familiar to anyone who has rented a car at an airport—a tire shredder. Tire shredders work well at low speeds and do not present any risk to people --only to their tires. Signage informed visitors that the tire shredders had been installed and warned them not to back up. In essence, visitors are routed through a "cattle chute" that steers them either to the visitor center, the vehicle inspection area, a return to the sentry post, or the rejection path, whichever is appropriate.


David Parker is Lead Civil Engineer, Mason & Hanger; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or 859-252-9980.