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Chapter 4

Protective Barriers

Protective barriers are used to define the physical limits of an installation, activity, or area. Barriers restrict, channel, or impede access and are fully integrated to form a continuous obstacle around the installation. They are designed to deter the worst-case threat. The barriers should be focused on providing assets with an acceptable level of protection against a threat.


4-1. Protective barriers form the perimeter of controlled, limited, and exclusion areas. Utility areas (such as water sources, transformer banks, commercial power and fuel connections, heating and power plants, or air-conditioning units) may require these barriers for safety standards. Protective barriers consist of two major categories—natural and structural.

  • Natural protective barriers are mountains and deserts, cliffs and ditches, water obstacles, or other terrain features that are difficult to traverse.
  • Structural protective barriers are man-made devices (such as fences, walls, floors, roofs, grills, bars, roadblocks, signs, or other construction) used to restrict, channel, or impede access.

4-2. Barriers offer important benefits to a physical-security posture. They create a psychological deterrent for anyone thinking of unauthorized entry. They may delay or even prevent passage through them. This is especially true of barriers against forced entry and vehicles. Barriers have a direct impact on the number of security posts needed and on the frequency of use for each post.

4-3. Barriers cannot be designed for all situations. Considerations for protective structural barriers include the following:

  • Weighing the cost of completely enclosing large tracts of land with significant structural barriers against the threat and the cost of alternate security precautions (such as patrols, MWD teams, ground sensors, electronic surveillance, and airborne sensors).
  • Sizing a restricted area based on the degree of compartmentalization required and the area's complexity. As a rule, size should be kept to a minimum consistent with operational efficiency. A restricted area's size may be driven by the likelihood of an aggressor's use of certain tactics. For example, protecting assets from a vehicle bomb often calls for a substantial explosives standoff distance. In these cases, mitigating the vehicle bomb would often be more important than minimizing the restricted area to the extent necessary for operational efficiency. Protective barriers should be established for—
    • Controlling vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow.
    • Providing entry-control points where ID can be checked.
    • Defining a buffer zone for more highly classified areas.
    • Precluding visual compromise by unauthorized individuals.
    • Delaying forced entry.
    • Protecting individual assets.

4-4. If a secured area requires a limited or exclusion area on a temporary or infrequent basis, it may not be possible to use physical structural barriers. A temporary limited or exclusion area may be established where the lack of proper physical barriers is compensated for by additional security posts, patrols, and other security measures during the period of restriction. Temporary barriers (including temporary fences, coiled concertina wire, and vehicles) may be used. Barriers are not the only restrictive element, and they may not always be necessary. They may not be ideal when working with limited or exclusion areas or when integrated with other controls.

4-5. Because barriers can be compromised through breaching (cutting a hole through a fence) or by nature (berms eroded by the wind and rain), they should be inspected and maintained at least weekly. Guard-force personnel should look for deliberate breaches, holes in and under barriers, sand dunes building up against barriers, and the proper functioning of locks.


4-6. Three types of fencing are authorized for use in protecting restricted areas—chain link, barbed wire, and barbed tape or concertina. The type used for construction depends primarily on the threat and the degree of permanence. It may also depend on the availability of materials and the time available for construction. Fencing may be erected for other uses besides impeding personnel access. It can impede observation, can serve as a means to defeat standoff-weapon systems (such as rocket-propelled grenades [RPGs]), and can serve as a barrier to hand-thrown weapons (such as grenades and firebombs).

4-7. Generally, chain-link fencing will be used for protecting permanent limited and exclusion areas. All three types of fencing may be used to augment or increase the security of existing fences that protect restricted areas. Examples would be to create an additional barrier line, to increase existing fence height, or to provide other methods that effectively add to physical security. It is important to recognize that fencing provides very little delay when it comes to motivated aggressors, but it can act as a psychological deterrent.

Chain link

4-8. Chain-link fence (including gates) must be constructed of 6-foot material, excluding the top guard. Fence heights for conventional arms and ammunition security must be 6 feet for standard chain-link, wire-mesh fencing. Chain-link fences must be constructed with 9-gauge or heavier wire. They must be galvanized with mesh openings not larger than 2 inches per side and have twisted and barbed selvages at the top and the bottom. The wire must be taut and securely fastened to rigid metal or reinforced-concrete posts set in concrete. It must reach within 2 inches of hard ground or pavement. On soft ground, it must reach below the surface deep enough to compensate for shifting soil or sand. Materials and construction must meet with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) guide specifications shown in the USACE Standard (STD) 872-90 series. Weaknesses in the chain-link fence occur as a result of weather (rusting) or failure to keep it fastened to the post that affects the desired tightness. Damage to the fence and fence fabric may be the result of allowing vegetation and trees to grow on or near the fence. The interaction between the fence and the overgrowth often leads to fence damage and reduces the integrity and continuity of the fence as a perimeter boundary and barrier. The perimeter fence is the most obvious protective measure. A well-maintained fence indicates that the asset owner is dedicated to physical security.

Barbed Wire

4-9. Standard barbed wire is twisted, double-strand, 13.5-gauge wire, with four-point barbs spaced an equal distance apart. Barbed-wire fencing (including gates) intended to prevent human trespassing should not be less than 6 feet high and must be affixed firmly to posts not more than 6 feet apart. The distance between strands should not exceed 6 inches, and at least one wire should be interlaced vertically and midway between posts. The ends must be staggered or fastened together, and the base wire must be picketed to the ground.


4-10. A barbed-taped obstacle (BTO) is fabricated from 0.025-inch stainless steel and is available in 24-, 30-, 40-, and 60-inch-diameter coils. The barbs shall have a minimum length of 1.2 inches, and the barb cluster's width shall be 1.21 inches. A BTO deploys tangle-free for fast installation. It may be recovered and used again. Fifty feet (plus or minus 2 inches) can be covered by 101 coil loops. Handling barbed tape requires the use of heavy barbed-tape gauntlets instead of standard barbed-wire gauntlets.

Barbed-Tape Concertina

4-11. Barbed-tape concertina (standard concertina barbed tape) is a commercially manufactured wire coil of high-strength-steel barbed wire that is clipped together at intervals to form a cylinder. When opened, it is 50 feet long and 3 feet in diameter. When used as the perimeter barrier for a restricted area, the concertina must be laid between poles with one roll on top of another or in a pyramid arrangement (with a minimum of three rolls).

4-12. Reinforced barbed-tape concertina consists of a single strand of spring-steel wire and a single strand of barbed tape. The sections between barbs of the barbed tape are securely clinched around the wire. Each coil is about 37 1/2 inches in diameter and consists of 55 spiral turns connected by steel clips to form a cylindrical diamond pattern when extended to a coil length of 50 feet. One end turn is fitted with four bundling wires for securing the coil when closed and each end turn is fitted with two steel carrying loops. The concertina extends to 50 feet without permanent distortion. When released, it can be retracted into a closed coil.

4-13. When possible, a top guard should be constructed on all perimeter fences and may be added on interior enclosures for additional protection. A top guard is an overhang of barbed wire or tape along the top of a fence, facing outward and upward at about a 45-degree angle. Placing barbed wire or tape above it can further enhance the top guard. Top-guard supporting arms will be permanently affixed to the top of fence posts to increase the overall height of the fence by at least 1 foot. (Due to liability issues in some locations, the top guards will not be allowed to face outward where the fence is adjacent to public areas.) Three strands of barbed wire spaced 6 inches apart must be installed on the supporting arms. The number of strands of wire or tape may be increased when required. The top guard of fencing adjoining gates may range from a vertical height of 18 inches to the normal 45-degree outward protection but only for sufficient distance along the fence to open the gates adequately. Bottom and top tension wires should be used in lieu of fence rails. A concrete sill may be cast at the bottom of the fence to protect against soil erosion. A bottom rail is used on high-security fences to prevent intruders from lifting the fence.

Gates and Entrances

4-14. The number of gates and perimeter entrances must be the minimum required for safe and efficient operation of the facility. Active perimeter entrances must be designed so that the guard force maintains full control. Semiactive entrances, such as infrequently used vehicular gates, must be locked on the inside when not in use. When closed, gates and entrances must provide a barrier structurally comparable to their associated barriers. Care must be afforded against the ability to crawl under gates. Top guards, which may be vertical, are required for all gates.

Triple-Standard Concertina (TSC) Wire

4-15. This type of fence uses three rolls of stacked concertina. One roll will be stacked on top of two rolls that run parallel to each other while resting on the ground, forming a pyramid. In many situations, this fence has been used effectively in place of a chain-link fence. (If perimeter fencing consists of TSC, a top guard is not feasible.)

Tangle-Foot Wire

4-16. Barbed wire or tape may be used in appropriate situations to construct a tangle-foot obstruction either outside a single perimeter fence or in the area between double fences to provide an additional deterrent to intruders. The wire or tape should be supported on short metal or wooden pickets spaced at irregular intervals of 3 to 10 feet and at heights between 6 and 12 inches. The wire or tape should be crisscrossed to provide a more effective obstacle. The space and materials available govern the depth of the field.

Aircraft Cable

4-17. Although not used very often, aircraft cable can be used as a temporary barrier. Refer to FM 5-34 for information required for determining the barrier's strength. The barrier is created using wire rope. Clips are spaced six times the diameter of the wire rope. Aircraft cable (deployed as described above or attached to a chain-link fence) can also be made to act as a barrier to moving vehicles. To do so, the cable must be anchored into the ground at both ends at about 200-foot intervals (see TM 5-853-1).

Utility Openings

4-18. Sewers, air and water intakes and exhausts, and other utility openings of 10 inches or more in diameter that pass through perimeter barriers must have security measures equivalent to that of the perimeter (see TM 5-820-4). Specific requirements of various openings are discussed below:

  • Manhole covers 10 inches or more in diameter must be secured to prevent unauthorized opening. They may be secured with locks and hasps, by welding them shut, or by bolting them to their frame. Ensure that hasps, locks, and bolts are made of materials that resist corrosion. Keyed bolts (which make removal by unauthorized personnel more difficult) are also available.
  • Drainage ditches, culverts, vents, ducts, and other openings that pass through a perimeter and that have a cross-sectional area greater than 96 square inches and whose smallest dimension is greater than 6 inches will be protected by securely fastened welded bar grilles (refer to TM 5-853-3, Figure 8-1). As an alternative, drainage structures may be constructed of multiple pipes, with each pipe having a diameter of 10 inches or less. Multiple pipes of this diameter may also be placed and secured in the inflow end of a drainage culvert to prevent intrusion into the area. Ensure that any addition of grilles or pipes to culverts or other drainage structures is coordinated with the engineers so that they can compensate for the diminished flow capacity and additional maintenance that will result from the installation.

Other Perimeter Barriers

4-19. Buildings less than two stories high that form part of a perimeter must have a top guard along the outside edge to deny access to the roof. When using masonry walls as part of a perimeter barrier, they must be at least 7 feet high and have a barbed-wire top guard. The top guard should be sloped outward at a 45-degree angle and carry at least three strands of barbed wire. This will increase the vertical height of the barrier by at least 1 foot.

4-20. Protect windows, active doors, and other designated openings by securely fastening bars, grilles, or chain-link screens. Fasten window barriers from the inside. If hinged, the hinges and locks must be on the inside. Building elements that provide delay against forced entry have stringent requirements. These elements should be designed according to TM 5-853-1.

Security TowerS

4-21. It is not acceptable to observe a perimeter from towers only. However, all towers should be located to provide maximum observation and should be constructed for protection from small-arms fire.

4-22. Mobile towers are useful in some temporary situations such as a large, open storage area where receiving and storing activities take place. All facilities using towers must have a support force available for emergencies. Tower personnel should be rotated at frequent intervals.

4-23. The height of a tower increases the range of observation during daylight hours and at night with artificial illumination. However, during inclement weather and during a blackout, towers lose this advantage and must be supplemented by on-ground observation.

4-24. The following considerations should be made when planning for the use of towers:

  • Hardening the tower against small-arms effects by using sandbags, salvaged armor, or commercially fabricated bullet-resistant construction. This may require strengthening the tower supports, which should be performed only under the supervision of an engineer. The level of protection required must equate to the threat level identified during the IPB or the military decision-making process (MDMP). The best approach is to design for the worst identified threat rather than to try and modify the tower at a later date on short notice.
  • Installing communications and alarm systems, both audible and visual (primary and alternate).
  • Using appropriate surveillance, target-acquisition, and night-observation (STANO) equipment with the tower and perimeter barriers being surveilled. Infrared (IR) items may be especially valuable. Considerations for the selection and use of STANO equipment must be made while evaluating the effects of perimeter protective lighting.
  • Providing security lighting for route protection to the tower. Security lighting also allows for support of the guard force entering or exiting the perimeter.
  • Ensuring that the tower's height is determined according to the area of observation.
  • Ensuring that towers have overlapping, mutually supporting fields of observation and fire.
  • Providing towers with a backup fortified defensive fighting position, as appropriate.

Installation Entrances

4-25. The number of installation or activity gates and perimeter entrances in active use should be limited to the minimum number required for safe and efficient operations. When necessary, install vehicle barriers in front of vehicle gates. Security lighting should be considered at entry points (see Chapter 5). Refer to TM 5-853-1 for the application and selection of these barriers.

4-26. Plans to use guards for controlling entry to an installation or activity must be predetermined based on the threat conditions (THREATCON). The construction of the guard post must be included in the security plan.

Perimeter Entrances

4-27. Active perimeter entrances should be designated so that security forces maintain full control without an unnecessary delay in traffic. This is accomplished by having sufficient entrances to accommodate the peak flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic and having adequate lighting for rapid and efficient inspection. When gates are not operational during nonduty hours, they should be securely locked, illuminated during hours of darkness, and inspected periodically by a roving patrol. Additionally, warning signs should be used to warn drivers when gates are closed. Doors and windows on buildings that form a part of the perimeter should be locked, lighted, and inspected.

Entry-Control Stations

4-28. Entry-control stations should be provided at main perimeter entrances where security personnel are present. Considerations for construction and use should be based on the information outlined in USACE STD 872-50-01.

4-29. Entry-control stations should be located as close as practical to the perimeter entrance to permit personnel inside the station to maintain constant surveillance over the entrance and its approaches. Additional considerations at entry-control stations include—

  • Establishing a holding area for unauthorized vehicles or those to be inspected further. A turnaround area should be provided to keep from impeding other traffic.
  • Establishing control measures such as displaying a decal on the window or having a specially marked vehicle.

4-30. Entry-control stations that are manned 24 hours each day should have interior and exterior lighting, interior heating (where appropriate), and a sufficient glassed area to afford adequate observation for personnel inside. Where appropriate, entry-control stations should be designed for optimum personnel ID and movement control. Each station should also include a telephone, a radio, and badge racks (if required).

4-31. Signs should be erected to assist in controlling authorized entry, to deter unauthorized entry, and to preclude accidental entry. Signs should be plainly displayed and be legible from any approach to the perimeter from a reasonable distance. The size and coloring of a sign, its letters, and the interval of posting must be appropriate to each situation.

4-32. Entry-control stations should be hardened against attacks according to the type of threat. The methods of hardening may include—

  • Reinforced concrete or masonry.
  • Steel plating.
  • Bullet-resistant glass.
  • Sandbags, two layers in depth.
  • Commercially fabricated, bullet-resistant building components or assemblies.

Warning Signs

4-33. A significant amount of warning signs should be erected to ensure that possible intruders are aware of entry into restricted areas. Warning signs augment control signs. They warn intruders that the area is restricted and that trespassing may result in the use of deadly force.

4-34. Warning signs should be installed along the limited area's physical barriers and at each entry point where they can be seen readily and understood by anyone approaching the perimeter. In areas where English is one of two or more languages commonly spoken, warning signs must contain the local language in addition to English. The wording on the signs will denote warning of a restricted area. The signs should be posted at intervals of no more than 100 feet. They must not be mounted on fences equipped with intrusion-detection equipment. Additionally, the warning signs prescribed in AR 190-13 should be posted at all entrances to limited, controlled, and exclusion areas. See Chapter 7 for more details.

Other Signs

4-35. Signs setting forth the conditions of entry to an installation or area should be plainly posted at all principal entrances. The signs should be legible under normal conditions at a distance not less than 50 feet from the point of entry. Such signs should inform the entrant of the provisions (search of the person, the vehicle, packages, and so forth) or prohibitions (such as against cameras, matches, and lighters and entry for reasons other than official business) that may be prescribed by the installation commander.

4-36. Signs or notices legibly setting forth the designation of restricted areas and provisions of entry should be plainly posted at all entrances and at other points along the perimeter line as necessary. The wording of these signs or notices is prescribed in AR 190-13.

Installation Perimeter Roads and Clear Zones

4-37. When the perimeter barrier encloses a large area, an interior all-weather perimeter road should be provided for security-patrol vehicles. Clear zones should be maintained on both sides of the perimeter barrier to provide an unobstructed view of the barrier and the ground adjacent to it. Roads within the clear zone should be as close to the perimeter barrier as possible without interfering with it. The roads should be constructed to allow effective road barriers to deter motor movement of unauthorized personnel during mobilization periods.

4-38. Clear zones should be kept clear of weeds, rubbish, or other material capable of offering concealment or assistance to an intruder attempting to breach the barrier. A clear zone of 20 feet or more should exist between the perimeter barrier and exterior structures, parking areas, and natural or man-made features. When possible, a clear zone of 50 feet or more should exist between the perimeter barrier and structures within the protected area, except when a building's wall constitutes part of the perimeter barrier. Ammunition supply points (ASPs) will have clear zones 12 feet outside of the ASP and 30 feet inside, and the vegetation will not exceed 8 inches (4 inches for high-threat and highly controlled areas). Refer to AR 190-11 and DOD 0-2000.12-H, Appendix EE, for further information.

4-39. When it is impossible to have adequate clear zones because of property lines or natural or man-made features, it may be necessary to increase the height of the perimeter barrier, increase security-patrol coverage, add more security lighting, or install an intrusion-detection device along that portion of the perimeter.

4-40. When considering the construction of a new site or perimeter, ensure that the plans include a fence located well inside the property line, thus permitting control of enough space outside the fence to maintain at least a minimal clear zone. The following considerations apply:

  • On a large installation (such as a proving ground), it is unreasonable to construct an expensive perimeter fence and keep it under constant observation. Such an installation is usually established in a sparsely inhabited area. Its comparative isolation and the depth of the installation give reasonable perimeter protection. Under these circumstances, it is usually sufficient to post warning signs or notices, reduce access roads to a minimum, and periodically patrol the area between the outer perimeter and the conventionally protected vital area of the installation.
  • An alternative to erecting new or replacing old chain-link fence involving an entire installation perimeter is to relocate or isolate the sensitive area or item by—
    • Relocating the item within a safe perimeter.
    • Consolidating the item with other items.
    • Erecting a chain-link fence (regulations permitting) around individual assets rather than the installation's perimeter.

Arms-Facility Structural Standards

4-41. It is next to impossible to build a protective barrier that cannot be penetrated by a human or heavy armor. Therefore, as opposed to protecting a facility using only one barrier, enhance security by using a combination of barriers to increase delay. Multiple barriers also cause aggressors to expend more energy trying to breach all of the barriers. They also provide the appearance of additional security and may further deter some aggressors.

4-42. The interest of security must be kept in mind when constructing walls, ceilings, floors, and roofs. Facilities that house arms and ammunition are constructed as security barriers in the interest of deterring and delaying penetration. Construction guidelines for arms facilities are outlined in AR 190-11. AR 190-11 requires coordination with the engineer office, the safety office, the provost marshal office (PMO), or the security-force office when definitive drawings and specifications for new construction or upgrades or modifications of AA&E storage structures are proposed. This coordinated effort ensures that safety and physical-security requirements are met. AR 190-11 also addresses waivers and exceptions for AA&E storage structures, as well as the requirements for a tactical (training or operational) or shipboard environment. Waivers and exceptions are not discussed in this manual. The following guidelines are provided for securing AA&E in tactical and shipboard environments:

  • The criteria and standards for protecting AA&E will be developed by the major Army command (MACOM) according to AR 190-11.
  • The deploying commander will establish and enforce procedures for securing deployed AA&E based on the assessment of the threat, the objectives, the location, and the duration of the deployment.
  • The AA&E in the tactical environment will be secured at all times.
  • The AA&E will be under continuous positive control.
  • Persons charged with the custody of AA&E will have the capability to sound the alarm if a forceful theft is attempted.
  • A response force will be available to protect the AA&E.
  • A system of supervisory checks will be established to ensure that all personnel comply with security measures. Supervisory checks of the AA&E holding area will be made to ensure that the AA&E being guarded have not been tampered with.
  • All officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), or civilian equivalents will closely monitor the control of ammunition and explosives during field training or range firing.
  • Selection of personnel to perform guard duties at AA&E holding areas will be closely monitored by commanders to ensure that only responsible individuals are assigned duties.

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