A bird’s eye view on security at the London Games
Richard Jackson, CEO
One of the biggest issues facing the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) in the development and building of new venues and infrastructure for the 2012 London Games is keeping the area secure and safe - from the construction phase to when the sites are finally in use.
Active protest, vandalism, theft and threats of terrorism are issues facing every major city today, more so when hosting such a prestigious and high profile, global event. In fact the 2004 Athens Games was one of the biggest non-military security operations ever put in place, with more than US$ 1.5 billion spent on protecting the first post-9/11 games.
Safety and security are top priorities.
Plans for keeping the London Games safe and secure are well underway. The ODA has set up the Olympic Security Directorate (OSD), a dedicated intelligence unit created within the Metropolitan police’s command to police the Games, and security measures such as electronic surveillance will no doubt be incorporated into the designs for the Olympic park and surrounding infrastructure.
However, as we’ve seen with the incidents at Heathrow Airport, the Channel Tunnel and of course during the Olympic Torch Relay, surveillance alone cannot stop determined individuals from accessing a site. The only practical answer is to consider physical perimeter security as the first line of defence.
Perimeter security does not simply mean putting up a few fences and some barbed wire in the hope that trespassers will keep out. In today’s climate of threat, a multitude of factors need to be a considered to achieve a well-designed solution that acts as both a visual deterrent and physical barrier. This would include the management of access and flow of pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles with fencing, access gates, turnstiles, barriers, bollards and blockers all integrated with perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDS) capable of activating other security devices including lighting, VMD, CCTV and at the same time providing accurate, reliable intelligence to control units.
The level and types of security solutions to be employed during the build and eventual use of the Olympic Park, other stadia, surrounding redevelopment, new homes and transport links, will vary from site to site. For example, during construction, which began this summer, the emphasis for most sites will be keeping unauthorised people out for a number of reasons from public safety, to reducing the risk of devices being planted within the infrastructure to limiting the theft of materials. The Home Office estimate that losses from building site theft are at around £43m a year - and with the rising cost of steel, that figure is set to increase.
With so many building sites springing up around East London over the next four years, keeping people out and materials secure will be a key issue for both the ODA and the contractors. This will also be the case once venues are in use, with the level of threat increasing and the nature of threats changing, as the games get under way. That is why an effective security solution should begin with the installation of a secure barrier that both completely surrounds and is appropriate to the site, with strategically located access points for entrances and exits to effectively manage the flow of spectators, athletes, the media, staff, VIP’s, security and emergency services.
High security perimeter barriers, of the type suitable for the Olympic project, are typically made from steel for strength, rigidity and durability. However other materials including timber can be equally effective in applications where legacy is a consideration. Whether the barrier is a vertical bar, mesh or solid panel, it should be free from hand or footholds to prevent the barrier being climbed or easily scaled. For instance our Securi-Mesh is designed with closely spaced vertical and horizontal wires so apertures are small, making it difficult for objects to be passed through and at a typical height of between 3 – 5m, almost impossible to climb.
A secure barrier should also avoid having any obvious rivets or joints that can be forced or popped out, one of the most common methods of gaining access illegally.
A seamless panel construction, such as our Barbican and Sentry ranges, which feature a fully welded, tubular pale-through-rail construction, offers a more secure barrier than a generic palisade fence, as the vulnerable points that compromise the effectiveness of a fence, like exposed post fixings and rivets, have been designed out.
The use of spikes, barbed tape or electric fence topping is also likely to be a common sight around highly secure areas, such as the Olympic village. These security extras provide an effective deterrent to would-be trespassers; however such a visually imposing solution may not prove to be suitable for all sites.
With the construction of the Olympic park and surrounding venues taking place, often within an established London community, a more subtle security solution may be necessary for some sites, particularly after the Games.
Solutions that adapt to changing needs.
It should be recognised that effective site security isn’t a one size fits all solution, it is important to have a range of perimeter systems that meet a variety of needs. We have developed a range of new solutions that can be simply adapted from providing high security before and during the Games to something less visually imposing when the threat level changes after the Games. The benefits of having this ability to adapt products to changing needs are clear, not only can the fencing and gates remain in place without the requirement and additional costs to scrap and replace them, there’s the savings in energy and transport costs to consider and not least it means that disruption to the local community will also be minimised.
Our standard portfolio includes products which are idea for permanent sites bordering residential areas, for instance, our Barbican Defender Xtreme panels. The curved pales of the Defender Xtreme are designed to prevent intruders from climbing or scaling the fence whichever side it is approached, but have a slightly softer aesthetic. . For areas where the development will create a lasting legacy for London, even more subtle but equally secure solutions, such as EuroGuard Combi with its steel mesh frame incorporating heavy timber slats, could be employed to blend in with its surroundings.
Shhh... Keeping noise pollution down.
Noise will also be an issue for some local residents close to building sites and high traffic areas before and during the games. In this case an acoustic barrier such as our Jakoustic system, which can reduce industrial and residential noise levels by as much as 32 decibels, is an ideal solution. Acoustic barriers could help the ODA win the support of local residents to allow longer working hours on site. Depending on the level and type of threat assessed, Jakoustic barriers could also provide a sufficient level of security so that a steel fence is not required, which would in places, better compliment the new public spaces being created.
Sustainability and the environment.
Finally, with sustainability and the environment featuring heavily in London’s successful Olympic bid, any perimeter barrier erected will need to reflect these ideals. Systems should therefore be easily installed and maintained, and adaptable enough to secure an area as its use changes over time. This will not only reduce the volume of materials and energy used but with the 2012 deadline looming, will help keep the project on target. We offer a 25 year Jakcure guarantee on all of our timber products and a 25 year Service Life guarantee on our steel products because we consider the lifetime cost, sustainability and durability of our products to be key to their overall effectiveness.
Joined-up thinking. Joined-up solutions.
Once a good perimeter barrier is chosen, it should ideally be supported by active deterrent and detection systems such as CCTV and a Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS). Our Jaktronic intruder detection system with its class leading +/- 10m detection resolution and low False Alarm Rate (FAR) was chosen for the Athens Games to protect the perimeter fence of the Olympic Village. This combines a vibration activated fence sensor system with fully integrated site management software to trigger other security devices on site including CCTV, alarms and lighting in the event of an attempted breach. A solution like Jaktronic reinforces the effectiveness of the perimeter barrier as well as providing security staff with the intelligence they need to assess and respond appropriately and safely to threats. It significantly enhances a good physical barrier.
Of course, when the Games begin, the ODA will face a different mix of challenges beyond just keeping unauthorised people out. The level of threat facing the teams representing different nations will vary and need to be managed on an individual basis within a holistic context. However, that could prove to be the least of the problems. With so many people needing to access the sites, during the Games and beyond, a great deal of consideration will need to be given to how the perimeter security system allows people in and out of these crowded venues safely and securely. This means balancing the need to provide entrances for the emergency services and exits that will allow the rapid, controlled evacuation of a large number of people. Unless these are designed-in to meet likely threats, they could become a weak link in the integrity of the security system and at worst, hinder safe egress from the site in the event of an incident.
There is a range of high quality automated gates, traffic barriers, turnstiles for pedestrians and cyclists, guardhouses and other access solutions on the market today, which can meet a variety of needs. For instance we offer an access solution to match each of our perimeter fence ranges that retain the security features of the main barrier. These include sliding and swing gates ranging from decorative and secure, to crash rated designs, which can all be controlled remotely for effective site security and management.
There’s no doubt a joined-up approach to integrated perimeter security will not only reduce risks to the 2012 Games but also leave a legacy the nation and the ODA can take pride in.