A secure parking area for police vehicles is an important aspect of any police station. It is critical to consider various components when providing a safe parking lot for a police station, but this article will focus on the access control gate. The access control gate can be the “Achilles heel” of an effective and secure parking lot.
Characteristics of Secure Parking Gates
The access control for vehicles entering and exiting the police facility's secure parking area can be a weak link in the facility's overall security if improperly designed. The important factors to consider when designing and choosing a gate for secure police parking lots are as follows:
The Number of Gates and Location
Two controlled access points should be provided into the parking lot. This way, the other can be used if one access point is blocked. Automatic gates should control both access points.
The best place to put the gate should be determined based on the traffic on both the police grounds and the surrounding public roads, with the goal of providing the most convenient access to major roads while reducing the chances of congestion. This can include considering the direction of traffic flow, the number of lanes leading to the gate, and the positioning of the gate relative to nearby roads and intersections.
The gate should be visible from a distance to approaching drivers for security purposes and to ensure safe driving conditions. Police personnel should be able to see unauthorized individuals near the gate, and adequate lighting should allow for clear visibility during gate operation.
Electronic Access Control
The gates should be operated by an electronic control device, such as a card reader, radio frequency transmitter, camera and intercom system, operated from the facility’s main central control post, license plate reader, or similar secure access control system.
It’s also possible that a combination of these could be used, such as an audio-visual intercom mounted on a stanchion at the gate entrance that can allow known visitors to be identified by the personnel in the central control post who would allow them access.
The integration with the control post can also allow the doors to be locked down or held open if needed, depending on the circumstances.
Choose the appropriate materials for the gate, such as steel or aluminum. The material should be strong, durable, and resistant to weathering and corrosion. Choose a securely constructed gate with reinforced frames, tamper-proof hinges, and locks.
No more than six inches of clearance should be between the gate and the entrance drive to prevent an unauthorized individual from entering the secure parking area under the gate. Also, ensure that there is no vertical gap an intruder could squeeze through where the secure parking lot’s perimeter fence meets the gate.
Speed of Operation
The gates should have an open and close cycle time of seven seconds or less. The less time a gate needs to remain open, the less likely unauthorized individuals could gain access to the secure areas of the police facility by tailgating.
There are three main types of fence gates for providing secure access to a parking area. The first is the sliding or rolling gate. These gates automatically slide open perpendicular to the vehicle’s path of travel. These are usually not fast-acting; one opening and closing cycle can take 30 seconds or more.
The second type is the swinging gate, composed of one or two gates that swing inward or outward. These gates are also not fast acting and usually require a lot of clear swing space during operation.
The third type, which I recommend, is the high-speed bifold gate. Manufacturers of bi-folding gates have models that meet the high-speed operation required by police facilities and other places where secure parking is required. In addition, their four-panel bifold design requires less swing space than a traditional swinging gate.
Advantages of High-Speed Gates and Best Practices
Police officers need to be able to respond quickly to emergencies, and high-speed gates can help with that. The fast opening and closing of the gates allow officers to get in and out of the parking area quickly, reducing response times.
High-speed gates can help reduce congestion in police parking areas. The gate's fast opening and closing cycle means that officers can enter and exit the area quickly, reducing the time they spend waiting in line to enter or exit the area.
High-speed gates can improve the security of police parking areas by preventing unauthorized access. "Piggybacking" is following another person or vehicle closely to gain access to a secure area without proper authorization.
Piggybacking can create a dangerous security breach. The fast opening and closing of the gates ensures that only authorized personnel are granted access.
A best practice is to have a policy that only one vehicle at a time should be allowed through the gate upon each cycle of operation. This ensures that every vehicle using the gate is authorized to do so.
This policy can be adjusted to allow multiple vehicles to exit at once for emergencies requiring a quick response from police personnel. That leads to another best practice: having a system where the gate could be left open to allow multiple vehicles to exit. This could be done by an operator in the central control room or potentially using radio frequency transmitters in the vehicles.
Lighting and Security Cameras
As mentioned, the area around the gate should be well-lit for safe operation for approaching vehicles and to see potential intruders. In addition to lighting, security cameras should be able to clearly see the area around that gate, with infrared technologies for night use.
A maintenance contract with a door installer or manufacturer is vital to ensure that the gate continues to operate effectively, maintain response times, and ensure the safety of personnel and property.
The image below shows a schematic layout of a typical secure installation of a high-speed bi-folding gate with adequate site lighting, security cameras, and electronic access control devices.
Schematic Gate Layout
An Inadequate Gate is a Weak Link in Facility Security
In my experience assessing police facilities, I have seen some examples of inadequate gates or gate installations that can adversely impact the secure and effective operation of a police facility. I’ve seen gates that remained open too long or with gaps that allow intruders to access secure areas, gates that were too short, didn’t have adequate security camera coverage, or didn’t have the operational flexibility to allow for a quick response from multiple vehicles.
High-speed gates ensure fast, reliable, and secure access control for police vehicles to secure parking lots. High-speed gates help achieve a safe and secure environment for all police and law enforcement personnel.