Q&A: Baruck Koren, Detekion Security Systems Inc.


Baruch Koren has been involved in the design and installation of more than 100 perimeter security and intrusion detection systems at correctional facilities while serving as vice president at Detekion Security Systems Inc. He is a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces and served seven years with the security division of the Israeli Foreign Office.

Koren spoke with Correctional News via telephone about the perimeter security market, trends and technology and issues in the corrections market.

Q: How has the perimeter security market changed in the past 10 to 15 years?

A: From the perspective of operational design, we’ve seen a major move away from watchtowers, which are manpower intensive, to more flexible and less staff-intensive electronic solutions. New prisons and jails are far more likely to be built with perimeter intrusion detention systems than a string of watchtowers.

Today, when watchtowers are incorporated, they tend to be located at the main entrance or sally port, where staff can directly monitor facility access and inmate movement during the day. Staffing levels can be reduced at night when inmates return to housing units. The watchtower functions as a central control station from which staff monitor and manage a perimeter security system that combines PIDS, integrated surveillance and lighting systems, and mobile patrols and response teams.

With approximately five staff, at say $50,000 per officer per year, required to man each tower, moving from a watchtower-based system to one that relies on electronic solutions can generate significant annual operational savings through lower staffing costs. 

Q: How has the technology for perimeter security changed?

Five essential sensor technology factors:

Topography/Occlusions: Line-of-sight microwave sensors function best in terrain that is flat and clear of obstacles. A terrain-following sensor is designed to work in uneven terrain.

Volumetric/Line Mode: Sensors in volumetric mode detect intruders in a defined volume of space or zone above or below ground. The zone of detection for sensors in line mode is confined to a defined line or plane, such as a fence or wall.

Active/Passive: Active sensors transmit energy and detect a change in received energy entering a field or perimeter space. Passive sensors detect the vibration, pressure and heat of an intruder’s presence and movement.

Overt/Covert: Sensors can be installed above or below ground, fence- or wall-mounted, or free standing. Readily accessible, visible sensors act as a deterrent and are easy to install and maintain, but are more susceptible to tampering and defeat. Difficult to detect and defeat, hidden or embedded sensors are more difficult to install and maintain.

True-False Alarm Rate: The rate of nuisance and false alarms generally pulls in the opposite direction to the probability of detection. This inversely proportional relationship between rates of true-positive and false-positive alarms should inform the facility needs assessment and perimeter security evaluation as part of a cost-benefit analysis.

A: As a result of progress on the technology side and in increased processing power, we’ve seen the systems become more reliable with a significant reduction in false and nuisance alarm rates.

In the 1970s, technology was an alien concept and most staff were reluctant to rely on it to guarantee facility safety and security. Today, security operations and maintenance staff are more knowledgeable and comfortable with using technology. There was a definite trend toward integrating as much technology as possible and systems got very complex. Not every technology is the right fit for every facility or project. In my opinion, the simplest approach is always best.

Q: What about equipment changes on the technology side?

A: One more recent change has been a trend toward the integration of electronic intrusion detection systems on both the inner and outer perimeters to enhance the detection and delay functions of the system.

Most facilities integrate a PIDS on the primary or inner fence with the secondary outer perimeter consisting of a barbed or razor wire fence without any electronic component. The inner fence detects a breach and activates the alarm and the outer fence acts to delay the escape attempt.

However, the secondary perimeter can be breached and the delay function defeated from the outside without activating the primary perimeter’s detection and alarm functions. Integrating electronic intrusion detection measures on the outer fence or between the primary and secondary perimeters creates built-in system redundancy and inward and outward oriented detection and delay capacity that increases system effectiveness.

Employing different types of intrusion detection measures on the inner and outer perimeter also reduces the probability of a breach successfully circumventing both perimeters without detection and delay.

Q: What’s the secret to creating the best perimeter security system?

A: There isn’t one universal solution for every problem. The key to creating the best perimeter security system is evaluating facility requirements and constraints and defining the right combination of manpower and electronics to meet those needs.

It is imperative to assess each facility in terms of needs and constraints. Evaluate potential solutions and deploy a system that is right for the facility, one that will do what the owner wants and expects.

Q: What should a facility owner consider when evaluating perimeter security systems?

A: Systems should fulfill the five essential functions of perimeter security: deterrence, detection, delay, assessment and response. Owners need to ensure that systems perform in each of these areas because security staff will not have confidence in a system that fails to deliver consistently in any of these areas. A system that does not inspire the confidence of your staff is worthless.

Q: What other factors are important to consider in evaluating a system?

Mission-critical functions of perimeter security

Deterrence: A perimeter security system should establish, secure and discourage breaches of a well-defined protected area.

Detection: Solutions should integrate intrusion detection capabilities to provide real-time detection, location and notification of unauthorized breaches of perimeter security.

Delay: System architecture should incorporate measures that delay intruders or escapees and allow security personnel to reach the detected breach.

Assessment: Systems should have the capacity to reliably and consistently assess and confirm the validity, source and type of perimeter breach to deliver a high degree of true-positive and low degree of false-positive detection.

Response: A perimeter security system should facilitate an immediate, efficient, directed response from security personnel by providing the location and vector of validated perimeter breaches.

A: The system needs to be matched to the type of facility, the surrounding environment, its proximity to population centers and the general public, and the type and security level of inmates. Different solutions and systems are better suited to different facility types and security levels.

Owners also need to take account of system compatibility, flexibility and scalability. Look out for proprietary issues and factor the projected life cycle and maintenance and operational costs into the evaluation and decision-making process. It is important to clearly understand and define facility needs, evaluating the consequences of a breach and developing a precise specification for the system, from the outset.

A clear, well-defined, detailed specification will get an owner what he wants, but a loose specification will never meet facility requirements.

Q: What should facility owners look at when considering different technologies?

A: System performance is also affected by environmental conditions — topography, grading flow of water, lines of sight, prevailing climatic conditions and seasonal weather patterns. Different sensors are more or less suited to different environmental conditions.

In terms of system performance and sensitivity, the probability of detection and false alarm and nuisance alarm rates pull in opposite directions. Each sensor has its particular strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages. From this perspective, it is imperative that owners take the time to do research.

Vendors often discuss system performance in terms of specified rates of detection and false and nuisance alarms, but such statements are founded on a ceteris paribus scenario, where many factors are held to be constant. Attending tradeshows and talking to vendors, manufacturers, industry professionals and other owners is a great way to get valuable information about particular systems and technologies.

Facility owners need to consider what kind of facility they have, where it is located and what they want the system to do. Ideally, owners should test the system in the field before full deployment in their facility.

Q: What trends are you seeing in perimeter security?

A: As with all aspects of design, construction and operations, the bottom line and financial considerations are ever present. Many departments and jurisdictions have begun to use inmates to install their perimeter security systems in order to reduce costs.

The project tends to take a little longer to complete but can generate significant cost savings depending on the technology — the more labor- intensive the system and installation, the greater the cost savings. Some jurisdictions now have dedicated inmate installation and maintenance crews that have developed a great deal of experience, which speeds project completion times.

From a security standpoint, all the programming and installation work tasks for field termination points, head-end components and system control functions are performed by facility staff or private contractors, rather than inmates. The issues and concerns are generally outweighed by the economics and the benefit for the inmates.

Q: How is the technology changing?

A: Some of the newer systems coming on line now achieve a greater integration across facility systems, such as with surveillance cameras and lighting. Incorporating more advanced neural technologies and logarithms, systems offer increasing refinement and display resolution capabilities with regard to the point of alarm and classification or method of breach.

Systems are increasingly able to differentiate between events, such as a sawing action and a wind gust, which increases system accuracy and performance and minimizes nuisance alarms.

Q: Are there innovations in the application of existing technologies?

A: Existing technology is also being refined in terms of configuration with a marked trend toward the deployment of hybrid systems that combine two different technologies — where one technology is better at detecting one kind of breach, such as climbing, and the other technology is better at detecting a different kind of breach, such as cutting — on one perimeter fence.

For example, microphonic sensor cables and taut wire systems can both detect cutting and climbing, but we can calibrate the taught wire component to detect only climbing and deploy it only on the upper portion of the perimeter fence and outrigger. At the same time, we can calibrate the microphonic sensor component to detect only cutting and deploy it only on the lower portion of the perimeter.

Q: What is the benefit of such a hybrid system compared to single-technology systems?

A: Taut wire systems have a low nuisance alarm rate and high detection probability but are very costly. Microphonic sensor systems are relatively inexpensive but have a higher nuisance alarm rate due to wind susceptibility.

Combining the two technologies creates a system that is less expensive than a full taught wire system but offers a higher probability of detection and lower nuisance alarm rate than a system that relies solely on microphonic sensors.

Q: What other trends are impacting the industry, systems and performance?

A: Current trends in the market include the redesign of systems to locate as much of the electronics as possible inside and to isolate system power requirements from other electronic components.

Systems are also being designed to provide uninterruptible power supply for the control room or watch tower and system power components are being located in facility equipment or building systems spaces.

Fiberoptics are increasingly replacing traditional copper wiring, which is susceptible to power surge damage from lightning strikes, to transmit alarm and sensor data back to the control room.

Q: Are there any new technologies on the horizon?

A: Our industry is constantly striving to refine existing technology and systems to further reduce nuisance alarm rates and to increase accuracy in pinpointing the location and type of breach event.

System processors are key in this regard and overall system performance and reliability will continue to improve as processing power and capacity develops. In terms of future trends, there is a new sensor system in development that uses solid-state electronics with no moving parts and technology similar to an automobile airbag, which should provide more robust performance in the field.

Detekion Security Systems Inc.