Call to Action to Protect Government Facilities

The attacks of 2001 may be in the past, but efforts to fortify government facilities against terrorist acts continue.

A crucial turning point came for the United States on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. It was then that the people of the U.S. realized that terrorist acts can and do happen on our home soil, and not just at obscure overseas locations.

Since then, facilities across the country have been working to protect their facilities from the possibility of terrorist acts of all kinds.

Systems integrators are now in the limelight. End-users want to know what products are available that can fulfill their need to protect the infrastructure.

At naval bases and the country’s borders, sophisticated radar and fiber optic systems have been set up as early warning devices to alert of potential attacks. Government entities have installed biometrics or other sophisticated access control products. Intrusion detection sensors line the corridors of public buildings. Cameras provide 24-hour recording and surveillance, and the ability to trigger an alarm should an event occur. Security has become a way of life, and that trend is destined to continue. On national, state and local fronts, government facilities have heeded the call to beef up protection at their venues—and they are turning to systems integrators for their suggestions.

Systems integrators and electrical contractors who become well-versed on what the government wants and where, as well as how to meet the stipulations of its contracts, will certainly gain more business.

Many technological areas are particularly attractive to the federal government, and one of those areas is the deployment of access control and biometrics. According to the International Biometrics Group (IBG), New York, finger scan continues to be the leading biometric technology with a 48.8 percent installed market share. Facial scanning technology systems carry 15.4 percent of the market, according to the IBG.

Total solution

These systems and others are being integrated in a turnkey systems approach. For example, Sensormatic Electronics Corp. recently partnered with Biocentric Solutions to provide biometric solutions that can be integrated with its security management system. When a smart card is inserted, Biometric Solutions’ scanner reads the information and compares it to a fingerprint that is imaged on the reader finger pad.

Confirmation of a match is indicated on the unit’s display window, providing a higher level of security than what card technology alone provides.

This summer, the Federal Government will issue a multi-million-dollar request for proposals (RFP) for biometric identification systems. The Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and other agencies prepared to issue an RFP in mid-June 2003 for biometric ID technologies in border control use. The Enhanced Border and Visa Security Act of 2002 mandates that every person coming into the United States using a visa must have a multiple biometric machine-readable visa by October 2004.

“The U.S. is looking at building a massively scalable system,” said Oliver Tattan, CEO of Daon of New York City, which makes a scalable biometric network database. “I think you’ll see it in a number of ports of entry, along with a number of embassies.”

So far, there has been only one pilot program involving a biometric card for border entry. Immigration officials and the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in 2002 tested cards that included fingerprint data and a digital photo at entry points at the Atlanta and Los Angeles Airports and at several border crossings in Texas and California.

Hot spots for integrators

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced that nearly $1.5 billion has been made available to the states, localities and U.S. territories through the Office of Domestic Preparedness. Of that amount, $200 million has specifically been designated to reimburse the costs incurred by the state and cities to protect critical infrastructures during this heightened threat period. These funds have a base-plus-population formula and each state must pass 50 percent of their allocated funds to localities.

Earlier this year, a federal interagency group that evaluates anti-terrorism technology solicited the homeland security industry for its best ideas for possible funding. The Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) is based in the Pentagon but also serves the needs of the new Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Ideas included detecting explosives; rendering explosives harmless; protecting power plants, water supplies and other critical infrastructures; protecting personnel; maintaining physical security; and conducting tactical operations support.

TSWG is also looking for new ideas to:

• Screen people entering buildings

• Protect perimeters

• Rapidly deploy wire barriers

• Build portable floodlights that don’t use the visible light spectrum.

Systems integrator Newtech E.C.I. in Joliet, Ill., was called on to install an integrated system as a direct result of the terrorist attacks and homeland security. According to Bill Bryan, president of Newtech, his contractors installed a perimeter security system, including closed-circuit television and perimeter detection at a nuclear storage facility at a Joliet power plant. Bryan said the end-user was looking for a “high-technology, low-false-alarm system capable of detecting any breach that was easy to use and provided quality performance.”

At the perimeter, Newtech installed the Intelli-FIELD Electrostatic Field Disturbance Sensor manufactured by Senstar-Stellar Inc. in Fremont, Calif. IntelliFIELD is a terrain-following volumetric sensor that creates an electrostatic field between parallel field and sense wires. The resulting zone of detection is high and narrow and surrounds the wire. Typically, a four-wire system is used with wires mounted on free-standing posts or on a fence, adjacent to or between physical barriers. In controlled applications, the wire spacing may be altered and the wires may be mounted on walls, roofs and other structures.

The Intelli-FIELD processor analyzes a compound signal consisting of an amplitude change (mass of the intruder), rate of change (movement of the intruder), and the time the intruder is in the detection field. When these changes occur with specified limits, an intrusion alarm is activated.

Bryan says he selected the fiber-optic-based system because of its reliability and resistance to false alarms, important criteria in successfully garnering government and sensitive accounts.

Systems integrator Ener-Tel of San Angelo, Texas, has been working on several high-profile industrial jobs post-Sept. 11, including the protection of a municipal water-treatment facility and security for a local river authority. According to Jon Allen Richardson, Ener-Tel operations, many applications have surfaced that focus on a facility’s perimeter.

“We use fence detectors and outdoor microwave-dual technology sensors and pan-tilt-zoom cameras, often coupled with a connection to a remote network for surveillance or supervision,” he added.

In fact, manufacturers in the industry are taking the next step in being able to provide what the government wants, outlining parameters for the manufacture of security and integrated systems products.

The Security Industry Association (SIA), Alexandria, Va., recently sponsored a symposium at the International Security Conference & Exposition West in Las Vegas focusing on providing credible product performance data to the government in their efforts to make informed product decisions.

“The Need for Standardized Information for Security Equipment” was led by the TSWG, an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense Combating Terrorism Technology Support Office (CTTSO) in conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories in partnership with Underwriters Laboratories and SIA.

“A critical problem identified by government agencies that comprise the U.S. federal and local government bodies is the lack of credible product performance data to base their purchase decisions on,” said Mike Benson, Sandia National Laboratories program manager. In essence, the development of a set of standards for the products used in Homeland Security will enable security equipment producers to access the government procurement process, he added.

SIA will serve as a Standards Developer and the SIA End-Users and Specifiers Subcommittee will provide the vehicle for government participation in the standards development process, said Keith Kushner, vice president of TRC Engineered Automation Systems Inc., Irvine, Calif., who heads SIA’s end-users group.

Sandia says the standards will not be traditional minimum performance pass/fail requirements, but rather, test protocols that yield specific performance numbers.

For the installer, the bottom line is that they will be able to go specifically to a manufacturer’s product to see if it meets or exceeds Homeland Security criteria.

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


About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer
Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at

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