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Defencell plays important role in public building security

J & S Franklin : 15 September, 2008  (Technical Article)
Effective in blast mitigation and easy to store and deploy, Defencell offers a solution to protecting vehicular approaches to important buildings
Public Building Security - the very title causes headaches for planners, architects, governments, security agencies and security personal alike.

How can any area or building, designed to be accessed, either by public vehicles or pedestrians, be a totally secure?

Of course the real answer is, it can't! So the challenge is not to eliminate risk but to manage risk. That is, to allow the lawful movement of people, vehicles, goods and services whilst reducing the risk of the terrorist or criminal, using that freedom to mount some form of attack.

Where vehicles have direct access to public buildings poses a particular challenge, because the vehicle bomb is the weapon of choice of the modern international terrorist.

Why, because a vehicle allows the terrorist to drive the large quantities of explosives direct to the target. This means less time on target and therefore less time for security personnel to identify the perpetrators or the risk. The vehicle can be driven at speed if necessary to crash conventional barriers, cordons, etc.

The acquisition of both vehicle and explosives are less likely to attract the attention of the security forces during the planning and preparation stage of the terrorist operation which may be hundreds of miles from the intended target.

Truck bombs in particular have key benefits to the terrorist; the larger load capacity means they are able to use less sophisticated explosives, like the infamous fertiliser bomb, the key component of which is cheap, readily available and less traceable than other explosives.

Truck bombs can either be used as a 'parked bomb' or as a 'suicide bomb'. Either way they are used to devastating effect almost weekly in terrorist hotspots like Iraq and in the West most recently when a 4 x 4 vehicle packed with explosives was driven into the Terminal Building at Glasgow International Airport. Luckily on this occasion no one other than the perpetrators were injured - it could so easily have been a different story.

So the challenge for the security officer is to allow as much free movement of people and vehicles as possible but be able to respond to raised threat or risk levels quickly and effectively.

To do this it is necessary to have a variety of flexible tools available to respond to the different threat levels. One such tool is a product called DefenCell, a rapid deployment temporary vehicle barrier and blast wall designed by UK companies, J & S Franklin and Terram, made in UK and USA, and supplied by Franklin.

DefenCell is made of a geotextile material which when stored lays flat but when deployed opens out into a cellular or honeycomb shape, which gives it strength and structural integrity. Each cellular section is then filled with locally available aggregate type material, including sand, ballast or earth.

Additional layers of cells can be placed on top of one another and filled to create a barrier or wall to the required height and length. In Afghanistan the British Army have used the system to create 1000m of walls or berms 4m high to protect vulnerable ammunition dumps.

DefenCell, which was recently installed at Gatwick Airport in the UK, can be used as a vehicle barrier on the key approaches to a building to slow and control traffic or directly outside a building as a vehicle and blast mitigation barrier. It is ideal for rapid deployment during time of raised threat levels or for more medium term use when threat levels are uncertain but do not warrant more permanent barriers. In this case DefenCell can be 'landscaped' and made to look less obvious by the planting of flowers and shrubs etc, while still retaining its protective capabilities.

The deployment process is quick and simple and requires minimal training. A small team using a small digger can do it in a matter of minutes - a 5m long barrier, 1.5m high can be deployed in less than an hour, but if necessary it can even be carried and deployed by a lone individual using nothing more than a shovel and a wheel-barrow. A similar size wall would take over 900 sandbags.

Once threat levels have again reduced the barriers and walls can be quickly removed and the aggregate or ballast re-used.

It terms of storage, a room with a floor space of only 10sqm with DefenCell stacked up to 2m high could hold enough DefenCell to build a wall 1.5m high and 1.35m wide and 500m long.

It also provides a number of significant logistical advantages over other comparable systems being up to 5 times less weight and transport volume, man portable as well as air-droppable. DefenCell is non metallic, with no cages or hinges, so there is no risk of secondary shrapnel or communications interference.

Jeremy Milton of distributors J&S Franklin said, 'DefenCell is ideal for the protection of public buildings because it combines strength and stopping power with simplicity, versatility, ease and speed of deployment and a very low logistic footprint. The same system can be deployed in a wide variety of roles including flood barriers, force protection, construction and can be filled with locally
available materials such as sand or earth'.

DefenCell has undergone rigorous crash and blast testing and is compliant to US Department of State K12 anti-ram certification, where it stopped a 15,000lb truck at 50mph with no penetration. It also successfully completed vehicle crash tests by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory, stopping a 7.5-ton truck as well as blast mitigation and ballistic tests with Advantica and HP White.

Other customers include the UK MoD in Afghanistan, the Irish Defence Forces in Chad and the US Army.
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