Tim Compston, Features Editor at SecurityNewsDesk and SecurityMiddleEast.com talks to Ali Al-Sohaini, the Regional Manager with Frontier Pitts, about the change of gear he is seeing in the hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) solutions, from bollards to blockers, being rolled out for the Middle East region.Layered defence
Setting the scene, Ali Al-Sohaini from Frontier Pitts - a British hostile vehicle mitigation specialist and long-time Intersec exhibitor - reckons that the nature of the measures which specifiers, architects, and site owners are deploying has changed, dramatically, from what was in place a decade-and-a-half ago: "Everything is getting cleverer because terrorists are becoming accustomed to the equipment, and technology, and the nature of vehicle-borne attacks is changing too.” To illustrate his point, Al-Sohaini continues that whereas, previously, installing one standard gate may have been enough of a deterrent now on a large site there is more likely to be a gate, and behind it some bollards or a blocker, interlocked to another gate, linked to alarms, access control, and even the local police station: “People are seeking a complete solution to their security needs,” he says.
Discussing with Al-Sohaini where the question of aesthetics fits into the hostile vehicle mitigation equation, given that some measures may be required for prestigious developments, he responds that in these type of situations the appearance of the solution really is a prerequisite: "As you can imagine when you have a multi-million pound tower, with beautiful finishes, the last thing that anyone wants is a mass of metal at the front which looks like something out of the second century.”
Drilling down into how this visual imperative can be addressed in practice, Al-Sohaini points to one approach that Frontier Pitts has taken with static and hydraulic bollards: "The application of a stainless steel sleeve with a mirror finish is helping them [the bollards] to blend into their environment and is very appealing when set against surrounding buildings." Al-Sohaini confirms that this type of finish is gaining traction in places like UAE and Qatar that are dominated by such high-rise structures.
Beyond this, according to Al-Sohaini, some sites may not want to draw attention to themselves, and what might lie inside, by having obvious hostile vehicle defences. This means, he says, that less obtrusive solutions are coming to the fore: "We have a Compact Terra Barrier which is doing really well in this region. It looks like a standard car park barrier but is crash rated.”
Shallow mount matters
From a practical perspective, shallow mount-based HVM solutions are also finding favour for cities where digging deep – or extensive works - is not an option, says Al-Sohaini: "Our IWA 14 road blocker is very much of interest in Oman and UAE thanks to its shallow mount foundations. This is used quite a bit in UAE where there are underground car parks and you don't have the depth in the ground to work with."
Of course not all developments are situated at the heart of the Middle East's bustling cities, in fact far from it. Al-Sohaini contrasts the state-of-play of HVM for landmark buildings with desert oil fields in Iraq and Oman: "Here they are into very solid gates so you can't see through them and, of course, the crash rating. It is not so much about the looks but the practicality." Added to this, he spotlights the need for robust solutions that can cope with harsh environmental conditions: “There are sandstorms and really high winds and temperatures. It is important to support minimal maintenance as this equipment may be left in the desert for a long, long, time.”
Regarding the best practice requirements that those specifying hostile vehicle mitigation solutions are working to, Al-Sohaini reveals that for the Middle East there are in fact no local standards: "They [specifiers] refer to EU, UK or US standards. If the country is UAE or Iraq they are British standards whereas, for example, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait focus on American standards instead." Al-Sohaini explains the divergence in requirements saying that it really depends on the application and the outlook of the specifiers: "Most of the architects and specifiers who are around in UAE - and Oman as well - are British so, not surprisingly, they tend to specify British standards."
Considering the standards coming into play in more detail, Al-Sohaini says that the long-standing British PAS 68 remains popular. Moving ahead, he notes that some specifiers have started to work with IWA 14, a relatively new standard, which brings together elements of PAS 68 and the American ATSM 2656 standard: "This [IWA 14] was introduced officially in 2013 but by the time architects and the specifiers get the gist of it, and put it into their documentation, and it goes to procurement, this process could take another year or so."
Ultimately, the message is that the high performance HVM measures available on the market today from vendors like Frontier Pitts - alongside rigorous internationally-recognised testing of their specifications by independent third party test houses (HORIBA, MIRA, and TRL) and witnessed by the CPNI and the UK Government – are well equipped to address the requirements of even the most challenging of sites.