By far, the most common anti-terror security barrier is the bollard, a short, extremely reinforced, vertical post. Originally, bollards referred only to the post on a boat or dock for attaching a mooring rope. Today, bollards refer to steel or cement posts engineered to prevent cars and trucks from intentionally or unintentionally entering or breaching retail structures or pedestrian areas like open-air markets and promenades.
Bollard pipes or cylinders are highly visible structural steel pipes anchored in the ground so as to provide protection from moving vehicles and car-ramming attacks, often called hostile vehicle attacks (HVAs) or vehicle as a weapon attacks.
Bollard posts, sometimes called pipe bollards, are available in several materials, including cement, metal and composites. Some bollard suppliers offer steel bollard poles filled with cement for additional stopping power. Lighted bollards are illuminated for safety precautions and easy detection at night, especially where vehicle traffic is present and collision interactions are possible.
Bollard systems range from raw looking steel pipes or cement pillars that you might find at a loading dock where the primary goal is to protect the store’s infrastructure to extremely attractive polished metals and alloys that can house aesthetic and safety lighting. The high-end bollards often adorn the front entrance to a five-star hotel or prestigious government building like the UN.
More finished outer coverings can be achieved inexpensively using a variety of sleeve materials including ionized metal, polished alloys and plastics. Sleeves are both protective and visually enhancing. Think of a sleeve like you would a veneer for your tooth or dental implant. The key is a pleasing appearance overlaid on an incredibly strong protective structure. Unlike veneers, bollard sleeves come in a multitude of colors to match exterior building designs.
Bollards are typically permanently fixed in place but some manufacturers offer arrays of removable bollards engineered for quick roadway/sidewalk installation in controlling vehicular traffic and pedestrian migrations during special events like parades, marches, protests as well as access to park and recreational area entrances. Street bollards by design allow pedestrian access while preventing vehicular incursion. These are frequently seen in retail districts with heavy vehicular traffic proximate to pedestrian populations. Even more convenient are retractable bollards, sometimes called pop-up bollards, that can be automatically raised and lowered to accomodate events and traffic.
Similar to these traffic products are road safety bollards that can warn or corral cars and trucks away from dangerous roadway hazards like construction, drop-offs, cliff edges or waterways. These are often made of plastic and are designed more as a warning visual alarm rather than a protective barrier. For this reason, road workers often install cement crash barriers, like K-rails and Jersey barriers.
One of the main reasons bollards for sale are so ever present in the protective design industry is that vehicle crashes into buildings occur approximately 60 times a day, causing nearly 500 deaths and 3600 injuries annually. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, most of the locations for these crashes are retail stores, restaurants, and business or office spaces. Many incidents are accidental, but a growing number are deliberate as was seen recently at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.
Given the frequency and severity of these accidents, bollards offer an extremely affordable security solution to protect pedestrians and property like storefronts. These protective bollards mitigate building damage by preventing vehicles from reaching or breaching the storefront perimeter. Most importantly, the lower cost, high impact absorption of bollards makes saving lives effective and efficient.
The pace of attacks using motor vehicles, whether carrying explosives or not, is accelerating. These tragic incidents have increased dramatically in the years following the September 11th attack and became a favorite mechanism of terror for groups like ISIS as heightened security measures have systematically disrupted and prevented terrorists from gaining access to explosives and airliners.
With most terrorist organizations being tracked and hunted down, centralized leadership is giving way to local or regional “lone wolf” actors or Internet recruits. Because most of these homegrown terrorists lack expertise and financing, vehicles are an all too viable a solution as a delivery instrument of destruction. They are easy to find and operate with little training necessary. Additionally, innocent pedestrians are high value public targets that do not typically attract a lot of security, making successful HVAs or vehicle as a weapon (VAW) attacks easier.
Law enforcement and counter terrorism cannot be everywhere at all times. Public safety must rely on strategic uses of protective resources like bollards and other vehicle barriers. Architects and engineers must be constantly aware of soft target vulnerabilities in order to better protect pedestrian areas like open-air markets, parks, and plazas. Bollards are the most cost effective, easiest way to deter or prevent HVA/VAW attacks.
While the leading causes of vehicle crashes into buildings are operator error, vehicle malfunction, DUIs and traffic accidents, in the past 10 years there has been an alarming increase in deliberate attacks on civilians and military personnel. These assaults are called Hostile Vehicle attacks (HVA) or Vehicle as a Weapon (VAW) attacks. In the case where the terrorist vehicle (car/truck) is carrying a bomb, it is described as a “vehicle borne improvised explosive device” (VBIED) attack.
Among the first VBIED attacks were the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983 that killed 241 US soldiers. Ten years later, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing (1995) claimed another 174 lives and injured more than 1000 people.
Following the Oklahoma City bombing and especially the 9/11 attacks, government agencies focused more and more on designing systems to "target harden" facilities that terrorists would likely want to attack. Bollard arrays can efficiently and effectively help with perimeter security and increase “standoff distance”, the distance between the placement and detonation of the explosives and the building itself, without producing a militarized, bunker-like environment.
In 2001, a terrorist from Gaza rammed a bus into Israeli soldiers, killing eight. On Bastille Day in 2016, a large cargo truck rammed and mowed down pedestrians in Nice, France, killing 86 and injuring 434. It was one of the worst VAW incidents in history. The 2016 Berlin Christmas Market tragedy left 12 dead, while a 2017 attack in Manhattan killed eight.
In December of 2020, an assailant deliberately used his car to kill one Capitol Police officer and injure another. This was followed in 2021, by another deadlier VAW incident – the Waukesha, Wisconsin Christmas Parade tragedy that killed six people and injured 62.
The unfortunate fact is law enforcement and DHS indicate that terrorist VAW and VBIED attacks will continue to increase in the coming years and this is why protective design professionals need to incorporate effective strategies to mitigate or prevent vehicle incursions.
Whether you are creating pedestrian or storefront safety or protecting strategic buildings as part of a perimeter security design, bollards are among the most affordable and aesthetically pleasing solutions. They can be installed individually as a single steel bollard post or in arrays to cover larger distances. And in each security scenario, there are specific anti-ram ratings that fit the mandated safety requirements for your construction project. To protect against vehicle as a weapon and VBIED terror attacks, bollards must be appropriately rated and tested. Among the most prevalent anti-ram crash ratings are ASTM F2656, DoD K ratings or PAS 68 for speeds of 30, 40 and 50 mph. For road, storefront and parking lot safety, there are low speed ASTM F3016 and PAS 170 ratings that test vehicle speeds from 10-30 mph.
Depending on options like materials, finishes, lighting and vehicle crash rating, steel bollard prices vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. For this very reason, Protogetic simplifies your search with our Comparison Tool, which performs a side-by-side comparison of all the selected bollards that fit your project requirements. And once you have narrowed down your choice, Protogetic creates a direct on-site communication link with the manufacturer so you can effortlessly determine the cost and lead time of your selected safety bollard. You can even begin direct messaging with a vendor representative.
Protective design engineers can assess the needs of your project and make recommendations on the appropriate ratings for bollards as well as other types of vehicle barriers, protective wall systems or high security gates. Just finding the right rated product is an enormously time-consuming process, forcing you to comb through Internet brochures and manufacturer websites. At Protogetic, we've made things much easier.
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