Effective physical security protection starts on the outside and perimeter of a facility and is part of an integrated solution. Here, gates and gate-control operators are definitely a deterrent and can be used to limit who and what comes and goes into the protected premises.

Gates come in a variety of styles and are used in a host of applications. In addition to commercial properties, they're essential in private residential communities. Builders can pick from simple arm gates, higher-security swing, slide and overhead gates, and products for high-traffic environments. Magnetic and other locking devices add strength. In addition, gates handle the extremes Mother Nature dishes out. For example, some products have dual motors that operate separately to open and close the gate, which helps control electrical overheating, something crucial in the desert and other hot environments.

Gates are simple but effective, providing a visual deterrent and often a signal that more security levels are present inside the premises.

Just how important are these devices in overall physical perimeter security? "It's your first line of defense and an integral part of perimeter-access management," said Rick Sedivy, marketing director of DoorKing Inc. in Inglewood, Calif. "First and foremost, they create a method to control traffic into a facility. But it's a combination of products that work together to create effective barriers."

As with many other low-voltage and security products, integration is a given, and such is the case with gates and gate-operating systems.

These products are only one small part of the total protection package. More often than not, an adjacent guard booth, telephone entry system, keypads, access control or closed-circuit television surveillance may accompany these hardware devices--all in a solution custom designed for the application and customer. Access control, too, has stepped up a notch, with proximity and even biometric technologies taking center stage at outdoor and perimeter locations.

Sedivy concurred that most perimeter controls involve a variety of methods. And these methods can also provide important facility-management information for the end user. For example, access control used with gate control can record the exact date and time someone entered a facility and even when the person left. There are also "anti-passback" features with access control, which means that users cannot give their cards to other users. In essence, the system has to "see" the user leave the facility before anyone can gain access through the gate with that same card. Finally, many perimeter controls are coupled with CCTV, so a user can be verified visually and spoken to via telephone entry systems.

One particularly popular trend in gate control is its deployment in closed or private communities, especially in Southern and Western states. Residents of these gated communities, and the builders and developers, want to add another measure of security and provide peace of mind to their customers, said Adolph Fraidany, marketing and advertising spokesman for Elite Access Systems Inc. in Lake Forest, Calif.

"Builders have a number of reasons for offering gated and secured communities. For buyers, they want and expect the peace of mind. The fact that vehicles can't just get inside the property is a big plus," Fraidany said, adding that gate systems are increasingly moving to integrated systems. "A couple of decades ago, you might just have a gate with telephone entry. Now, it's been integrated to include state-of-the-art gate openers and a host of other devices."

Up a notch

Gate control with CCTV and access control is becoming the norm. In access control, the lower cost and convenience of proximity is pushing its use to new heights. Proximity allows a user to touch on or near the reader with a card or other device. This same unit can be used within other areas of the facility as well.

"Within larger companies and in the campus environment, end users are starting to request a single card that can manage applications beyond physical access control," said Debra Spitler, marketing vice president of ASSA ABLOY Identification Technology Group. "We are also seeing a great deal of interest in biometric technology. In the future, cards will be used beyond physical access control. It will become a credential for the user and store a host of information and data."

For the electrical contractor, what you install is totally up to you and your customers. You can tailor a package to meet their needs, and even specify one that you can upgrade as their requirements grow. Talk to your distributor about what's available and what they know about the market. Best of all, gates and perimeter and physical security controls are applicable for both new and existing customers.

O'MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@flash.net.