Find a Security Clearance Job!


Chapter 5

Physical-Security Lighting

Security lighting allows security personnel to maintain visual-assessment capability during darkness. When security-lighting provisions are impractical, additional security posts, patrols, MWD patrols, NVDs, or other security means are necessary.


5-1. Security lighting should not be used as a psychological deterrent only. It should also be used along perimeter fences when the situation dictates that the fence be under continuous or periodic observation.

5-2. Lighting is relatively inexpensive to maintain and, when properly used, may reduce the need for security forces. It may also enhance personal protection for forces by reducing the advantages of concealment and surprise for a determined intruder.

5-3. Security lighting is desirable for those sensitive areas or structures within the perimeter that are under observation. Such areas or structures include pier and dock areas, vital buildings, storage areas, motor pools, and vulnerable control points in communication and power- and water-distribution systems. In interior areas where night operations are conducted, adequate lighting facilitates the detection of unauthorized persons approaching or attempting malicious acts within the area. Security lighting has considerable value as a deterrent to thieves and vandals and may make the job of the saboteur more difficult. It is an essential element of an integrated physical-security program.

5-4. A secure auxiliary power source and power-distribution system for the facility should be installed to provide redundancy to critical security lighting and other security equipment. During deployed operations, primary power may not exist or may be subject to constraints or interruptions due to poor infrastructure or hostile activity. Auxiliary power sources must be available for critical electrical loads and must be secured against direct and indirect fires as well as sabotage. If automatic-transfer switches are not installed, security procedures must designate the responsibility for the manual start of the source.

Commander's Responsibility

5-5. Commanders determine perimeter lighting needs based on the threat, site conditions along the perimeter, surveillance capabilities, and available guard forces. Commanders ensure that security lighting is designed and used to discourage unauthorized entry and to facilitate the detection of intruders approaching or attempting to gain entry into protected areas.

Planning Considerations

5-6. Security lighting usually requires less intensity than working lights, except for ID and inspection at entry-control points. Each area of a facility presents its own unique set of considerations based on physical layout, terrain, atmospheric and climatic conditions, and security requirements. Information is available from the manufacturers of lighting equipment and from the installation's director of public works, who will assist in designing a lighting system. This information includes—

  • Descriptions, characteristics, and specifications of various lighting fixtures, arc, and gaseous-discharge lamps.
  • Lighting patterns of various fixtures.
  • Typical layouts showing the most efficient height and spacing of equipment.
  • Minimum levels of illumination and lighting uniformity required for various applications.

5-7. In planning a security-lighting system, the physical-security manager considers the—

  • Cost of replacing lamps and cleaning fixtures, as well as the cost of providing the required equipment (such as ladders and mechanical buckets) to perform this maintenance.
  • Provision of manual-override capability during a blackout, including photoelectric controls. These controls may be desirable in a peacetime situation but undesirable when a blackout is a possibility.
  • Effects of local weather conditions on lighting systems.
  • Fluctuating or erratic voltages in the primary power source.
  • Grounding requirements.
  • Provisions for rapid lamp replacement.
  • Use of lighting to support a CCTV system.
  • Limited and exclusion areas. Specific lighting requirements are referenced in AR 190-59 and TM 5-853-2. TM 5-853-4 provides guidance for facility applications that include CCTV cameras.
    • Lighting in these areas must be under the control of the guard force.
    • For critical areas (such as weapons storage areas), instantaneous lighting with a backup source is required. Any period without lighting in a critical area is unacceptable. Therefore, these areas generally have a requirement for backup power (such as diesel-engine generators, uninterrupted power supplies, and batteries) in case of power loss.
    • Security-lighting systems are operated continuously during hours of darkness.
    • Protective lights should be used so that the failure of one or more lights will not affect the operation of the remaining lights.
  • Lighting requirements for adjoining properties and activities.
  • Restrike time (the time required before the light will function properly after a brief power interruption).
  • Color accuracy.
  • Other facilities requiring lighting, such as parking areas.

Principles of Security Lighting

5-8. Security lighting enables guard-force personnel to observe activities around or inside an installation while minimizing their presence. An adequate level of illumination for all approaches to an installation will not discourage unauthorized entry; however, adequate lighting improves the ability of security personnel to assess visually and intervene on attempts at unauthorized entry. Lighting is used with other security measures (such as fixed security posts or patrols, fences, and ESSs) and should never be used alone. Other principles of security lighting include the following:

  • Optimum security lighting is achieved by adequate, even light on bordering areas; glaring lights in the eyes of an intruder; and little light on security-patrol routes. In addition to seeing long distances, security forces must be able to see low contrasts (such as indistinct outlines of silhouettes) and must be able to detect an intruder who may be exposed to view for only a few seconds. Higher levels of illumination improve these abilities.
  • High brightness contrast between an intruder and the background should be the first consideration when planning for security lighting. With predominantly dark, dirty surfaces or camouflage-type painted surfaces, more light is needed to produce the same brightness around installations and buildings than when clean concrete, light brick, and grass predominate. When the same amount of light falls on an object and its background, the observer must depend on contrasts in the amount of light reflected. His ability to distinguish poor contrasts is significantly improved by increasing the illumination level.
  • The observer primarily sees an outline or a silhouette when the intruder is darker than his background. Using light finishes on the lower parts of buildings and structures may expose an intruder who depends on dark clothing and darkened face and hands. Stripes on walls have also been used effectively, as they provide recognizable breaks in outlines or silhouettes. Providing broad-lighted areas around and within the installation against which intruders can be seen can also create good observation conditions.

5-9. To be effective, two basic systems or a combination of both may be used to provide practical and effective security lighting. The first method is to light the boundaries and approaches; the second is to light the area and structures within the property's general boundaries. Protective lighting should—

  • Discourage or deter attempts at entry by intruders. Proper illumination may lead a potential intruder to believe detection is inevitable.
  • Make detection likely if entry is attempted.
  • Prevent glare that may temporarily blind the guards.

Types of Lighting

5-10. The type of lighting system used depends on the installation's overall security requirements. Four types of lighting units are used for security-lighting systems—continuous, standby, movable (portable), and emergency.

5-11. Continuous lighting is the most common security-lighting system. It consists of a series of fixed lights arranged to flood a given area continuously during darkness with overlapping cones of light. Two primary methods of using continuous lighting are glare projection and controlled lighting.

  • The glare security-lighting method is used when the glare of lights directed across the surrounding territory will not be annoying nor interfere with adjacent operations. It is a strong deterrent to a potential intruder because it makes it difficult to see inside of the area. Guards are protected by being kept in comparative darkness and being able to observe intruders at a considerable distance beyond the perimeter.
  • Controlled lighting is best when it limits the width of the lighted strip outside the perimeter, such as along highways. In controlled lighting, the width of the lighted strip is controlled and adjusted to fit the particular need. This method of lighting may illuminate or silhouette security personnel.

5-12. Standby lighting has a layout similar to continuous lighting. However, the luminaries are not continuously lit but are either automatically or manually turned on when suspicious activity is detected or suspected by the security force or alarm systems.

5-13. Movable lighting consists of manually operated, movable searchlights that may be lit during hours of darkness or only as needed. The system normally is used to supplement continuous or standby lighting.

5-14. Emergency lighting is a system of lighting that may duplicate any or all of the above systems. Its use is limited to times of power failure or other emergencies that render the normal system inoperative. It depends on an alternative power source such as installed or portable generators or batteries.

Fenced Perimeters

5-15. Fenced perimeters require the lighting specifications indicated in TM 5-853-2. Specific lighting requirements are based on whether the perimeter is isolated, semi-isolated, or nonisolated.

  • Isolated fenced perimeters are fence lines around areas where the fence is 100 feet or more from buildings or operating areas. The approach area is clear of obstruction for 100 or more feet outside of the fence. Other personnel do not use the area. Use glare projection for these perimeters and keep patrol routes unlit.
  • Semi-isolated fenced perimeters are fence lines where approach areas are clear of obstruction for 60 to 100 feet outside of the fence. The general public or installation personnel seldom have reason to be in the area. Use controlled lighting for these perimeters and keep patrol routes in relative darkness.
  • Nonisolated fenced perimeters are fence lines immediately adjacent to operating areas. These areas may be within an installation or public thoroughfares. Outsiders or installation personnel may move about freely in this approach area. The width of the lighted strip depends on the clear zones inside and outside the fence. Use controlled lighting for these perimeters. It may not be practical to keep the patrol area dark.


5-16. Entrances for pedestrians will have two or more lighting units providing adequate illumination for recognition of persons and examination of credentials. Vehicle entrances will have two lighting units located to facilitate the complete inspection of passenger cars, trucks, and freight cars as well as their contents and passengers. Semiactive and inactive entrances will have the same degree of continuous lighting as the remainder of the perimeter, with standby lighting to be used when the entrance becomes active. Gatehouses at entrances should have a low level of interior illumination, enabling guards to see approaching pedestrians and vehicles.


5-17. Areas and structures within the installation's property line consist of yards; storage spaces; large, open working areas; piers; docks; and other sensitive areas and structures.

  • Open yards (unoccupied land only) and outdoor storage spaces (material storage areas, railroad sidings, motor pools, and parking areas) should be illuminated. An open yard adjacent to a perimeter (between guards and fences) will be illuminated according to the perimeter's illumination requirements. Where lighting is necessary in other open yards, illumination will not be less than 0.2 foot-candle at any point.
  • Lighting units are placed in outdoor storage spaces to provide an adequate distribution of light in aisles, passageways, and recesses to eliminate shadowed areas where unauthorized persons may hide.
  • Illuminating both water approaches and the pier area safeguards piers and docks located on an installation. Decks on open piers will be illuminated to at least 1 foot-candle and the water approaches (extending to a distance of 100 feet from the pier) to at least 0.5 foot-candle. The area beneath the pier floor will be lit with small wattage floodlights arranged on the piling. Movable lighting is recommended as a part of the protective lighting system for piers and docks. The lighting must not in any way violate marine rules and regulations (it must not be glaring to pilots). Consult the US Coast Guard (USCG) for approval of protective lighting adjacent to navigable waters.

Wiring Systems

5-18. The wiring circuit should be arranged so that failure of any one lamp will not leave a large portion of the perimeter line or a major segment of a critical or vulnerable position in darkness. Feeder lines will be placed underground (or sufficiently inside the perimeter in the case of overhead wiring) to minimize the possibility of sabotage or vandalism from outside the perimeter. Another advantage to underground wiring is reduced effects from adverse weather conditions.


5-19. Periodic inspections will be made of all electrical circuits to replace or repair worn parts, tighten connections, and check insulation. Keep fixtures clean and properly aimed.

Power Sources

5-20. Primary and alternate power sources must be identified. The following is a partial list of considerations:

  • The primary source is usually a local public utility.
  • An alternate source (standby batteries or diesel-fuel-driven generators may be used) is provided where required and should—
    • Start automatically upon failure of primary power.
    • Be adequate to power the entire lighting system.
    • Be equipped with adequate fuel storage and supply.
    • Be tested under load to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
    • Be located within a controlled area for additional security.

CCTV-Camera Lighting Requirements

5-21. TM 5-853-4 provides a detailed discussion of CCTV-camera lighting requirements and guidelines for minimum lighting levels and lighting uniformity. The following considerations apply when lighting systems are intended to support CCTV assessment or surveillance:

  • The camera's field of view.
  • Lighting intensity levels.
  • Maximum light-to-dark ratio.
  • Scene reflectance.
  • Daylight-to-darkness transitions.
  • Camera mounting systems relative to lighting.
  • The camera's spectral response.
  • The cold-start time.
  • The restrike time.

Join the mailing list

Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'