In 2005, southern New York State was slammed with an extreme weather system. Multiple weeks of relentless, heavy rain resulted in severe flooding across the Southern Tier.
At the time, I designed and upgraded security and monitoring systems for 22 locations over 300 square miles including branch banks, high-rise executive office facilities, in-store branches and free-standing ATM locations. In my thirty years working in bank security, risk management and loss prevention, the 2005 storm season was some of the worst weather I had ever had to deal with.
As the rains came through the area, a branch bank located in the center of an upstate town sat in the middle of a green space and a fence I had installed. Surrounding the fence was a stream and two bridges on either side. Unbeknownst to any of us involved with the bank, trees had been uprooted for miles upstream. As they floated down, they became entangled within the bridges, flooding the stream over the embankments and washing out the fence and gates to the bank. The stream, however, did not stop rising for hours to come.
By the next morning, the water had risen 36” inside the walls of the bank and though it receded, the stream had deposited 18” of mud from the front door to the back door.
All electronic equipment and the ATM were destroyed. All paper money, coins and documents that were in floor safes had to be recovered and cleaned or replaced. Luckily there were no safety deposit boxes or customer property would also have been severely damaged.
Back then, protection for a privacy fence was not usually a consideration. The fence WAS the protection. However, had we had a fiber fence attached to the privacy fence when the perimeter started to come down, we would have been notified immediately, allowing us time to sandbag the entrances and remove the items from within. But instead of a messy clean up, we were faced with a costly disaster. The bank never reopened.
A few years later I was hired by the VP of Manufacturing at Fiber Instrument Sales, Inc., as Operations Manager. Throughout the subsequent years, I worked on a variety of projects at FIS and in 2015 was asked by President and CEO of Fiber Instrument Sales, Frank Giotto, to lead the revision and re-introduction of the Fiber Fence Security System™. Given my security background and the resources available at FIS, I was especially excited to amend the system and its applications from the ground up. An arrangement using glass and light instead of copper and electricity seemed boundless with security opportunity.
As I began to test and design the infrastructure, it became clear right away that fiber held tremendous security benefits over copper systems.
Unlike copper, a fiber optic cable does not have to break to activate an alarm. Any attenuation such as bends, twists, stretching and pulling can all set off the alarm before the fiber breaks, before the perimeter is even breached, giving first-responders a head-start.
Fiber comes with an exceptional monitoring range of up to ten miles or more. Distance is severely limited with electricity and copper wire, requiring an expensive re-amplification set up. This makes singlemode wavelength technology such as the Fiber Fence Security System perfect for farmland, wildlife enclosures, remote warehouses, water treatment centers, airfields, and municipal borders.
Also, one of fiber’s greatest attributes is its light weight. So when it comes to protecting long distances, fiber provides more versatility when selecting installation areas.
Fiber and light are, of course, both spark-free, even when the circuit is broken. Electricity is only used to power the Zone Control Units at the main console- not out on the fence- so fiber can be used in flammable and spark-free environments such as mine shafts, power plants, gas storage facilities, natural gas facilities and refineries.
The light passing through the fiber cannot be bypassed with a jumper cable. I remember thinking I wish I had had this twenty-five years earlier. There were countless times when I responded to an after-hours alarm at a bank facility to find that the problem was well underway or the damage had already been done. A lot can happen between the time the problem begins and the time when a copper wire breaks, activating an alarm switch. I knew other security managers who reported having copper systems bypassed altogether with a jumper wire and two alligator clips.
In my copper days, even false alarms were always hard to trace because we had to “follow the wire” to find the source of the problem. With the Fiber Fence Security System™, our Zone Control Units alert staff as to what part of the perimeter the problem stems from while fiber optic test equipment, specifically an OTDR, pinpoints the exact source of damage or intrusion.
When I started to redesign the Zone Control components, I wanted to use enhanced technology to simplify the devices and improve performance. We upgraded our Zone Control Units to be self-calibrating. This means once a system is installed, the flip of the power switch will calibrate the control unit to the conditions of the installation. The Fiber Fence Zone Control Unit will identify the amount of light passing through the fiber and determine the all-clear point. Once calibrated, if the fiber or sensors are disturbed in any way, the alarm will alert the user. We have also added a squelch control so that users can make adjustments to the sensitivity of the installation. The FIS Fiber Fence Zone Control Units can be tuned to be so sensitive that a gentle brush against the fiber will set it off (terrific for indoor applications such as stored gun powder). Through normal wear and tear, weather conditions, and other factors, the unit may need to be set a little more or less sensitive. We also kept the ability for the Zone Control Unit to be attached to a customer’s existing security systems.
Next, we took a look at the sensors mounted to the fence which activate the alarm. Our original patented Mouse Trip is still an option, using a mechanical device to activate the alarm. However, wanting to add a simpler, lower-cost, and more automated device, we have taken the original functionality and upgraded it for the new Mini-Mouse Trip. The Mini-Mouse Trip is a passive device that mounts to the fence and secures the fiber to the perimeter fence. In addition to bends and breaks, this device will also set off the alarm should anyone attempt to remove, stretch, lift, tunnel or pull down the fiber on the fence, as well as attempt to remove the perimeter fence, or a section thereof, altogether. If there has been an encounter with the perimeter, the Mini-Mouse Trip is automatically restored as soon as the fence and fiber strand are restored. It does not require a manual reset but reactivates itself as soon as the Zone Control Unit is recalibrated. Perhaps its greatest asset is that the Mini-Mouse Trip makes every inch of the fiber a sensor!
Another area I believed needed addressing was the perimeter corners, or the fence corners. With the older fiber security systems, looping fiber around corners and back to the Zone Control Unit always required splice trays, weatherproof enclosures and grommets, and a professional technician for installation. The need for all of the extra components and a technician have been eliminated by a simple device we invented called the Fiber Fence Corner Guard. The Corner Guard can easily be attached by the customer, and eases the fiber around corners, turning and protecting it into a channel, which can be mounted horizontally or vertically and will attach to fence material of all shapes and sizes.
Finally, I recognized that a simpler mapping system was needed. Older systems required a component system with three synced devices: built-in desktop CPU, extensive programming with calibration, and manual resets for every sensor. Costs could rise quickly above $10,000. To combat this, we developed a software package that can be installed on the user’s Windows-based PC to expand the monitoring capabilities of the Zone Control Units. Users can upload a map, drawing, or aerial photo of the property under protection, draw on-screen sections of the Fiber Fence Security System™ to identify multiple zones, label each zone, and sync all with the Zone Control Units. Whenever there is an alarm, in addition to the visual signal at the Zone Control Unit, the zone on the computer screen will change color, identify an alert and also activate an audible alarm. If remote notifications are needed, any computer attached to the internet using the software will be able to send “Alert” messages to first responders and managers by text message and/or email.
As we move forward, we will be looking at how the Internet of Things will impact security and adapt our system to this near-future network environment. As fiber optic technology and networks evolve, I aim to implement additional features in small packages utilizing Bluetooth®, GPS and internet features to enhance the Fiber Fence Security System™ capabilities. Each time FIS investigates a new technology or a new use for optical fiber, it gives me the chance to try something new with the Fiber Fence Security System™. Even something as simple as the Invisible Fence® for animals or the GPS technology used for safely flying a drone has applications for security installations. They can be applied to improve systems as well as protect against new systems and technology. Every case requires investigation for new applications. As a security professional, I have to constantly be diligent to preserve and protect people and property against accidents, environmental and natural disasters, terrorism, and other human factors.
For any properties that currently use perimeter security and want to upgrade or add fiber optic technology to an existing system for longer distances, faster response times and simple-to-use hardware, FIS can customize a solution for upgrading and expansion. Replacing their entire system is not necessary. Fiber Fence Security System™ can be used in conjunction with an existing system to enhance or upgrade that current system.
One of my greatest satisfactions is working with a customer for both existing and new Fiber Fence Security System™ applications. Each design is like creating a new product. I greatly enjoy interacting with customers and putting together customized solutions for their situation. Each one is unique.
I continue to look forward to developing and installing the FIS Fiber Fence Security System™ which can be used for years with very little maintenance. It is a tremendously solid and technologically advanced system at a low cost, giving users the peace of mind knowing that they have the earliest possible warning of destruction or intrusion.
For more information about Fiber Fence Security System™