Multi Barrier Access Controls


Access controls are a basic security measure evolved on the principle of denial. Thus denying entrée to a miscreant be the person be a terrorist, a criminal or just straying in areas which are restricted is seen an effective measure to guard a premise or asset. In addition there is a need for ensuring security of information and prevent espionage thus denial of access through identity control is used to effect. Establishment of a barrier also facilitates checking of hostile material such as explosives in a vehicle or person or bags in a shopping mall. Given increased level of threats and surreptitious means used by malcontents there is a need for establishment of multi barrier access controls today with a minimum of two tiers – human and electronic in many areas thus this issue needs some consideration.


The aim of this Paper is to outline the concept and framework of multi barrier access controls.

tenon-group-mulitple-barriersTypes of Barriers

At present there are varied barriers used to prevent trespassing and denial of access to the premises. These include the following:-

  • Geographical Barrier – This is natural protection provided by terrain configuration which can be used to restrict entry. This will have to be supplemented by fencing and other obstacles.
  • Perimeter Barrier – This is a physical fence which cordons off the premises restricting entry through predetermined entry and exit points. Fence can be barbed wire or electrical and electronics such as laser where physical intervention is not possible such as over a water body. This is the first line of defence so to say and the type will be determined by level of threat and security desired.
  • Mechanical Barrier– Doors and locks are the simplest form of physical barriers which can be either secured through a key and/or 24/7 physical guarding.
  • Electronic Barrier– This is an additional security layer which is used to either provide entry to authorized personnel such as those who have purchased tickets for metros or at high security premises to control and channelize entry.

Types of Access Controls

In general access controls aim at providing smooth entry to authorized persons through the various barriers while denying the same to unauthorized persons and miscreants. The various types of access controls in vogue are as follows:-

  • Physical Controls– This is the most common form used employing guards for physical checks at entry points to the premises for personnel as well as vehicles. Each premise guarded should have specific protocol for entry which could be general as in the case of a shopping mall or identity document or pass based. Guards should be made familiar with the protocols for entry including frisking. Recording of entry will be manual.
  • Electronic Controls– These use computer stored credentials for entry and can be in varied forms to include identity cards, passwords or biometrics -finger prints or iris scan. This also enables recording of entry and exit electronically. Images can be captured on cameras installed for the purpose. Attempts at unauthorized entry can be recorded. Entry and exit can both be controlled electronically. Many sophisticated software programmes are available today to ensure fool proof control of access.
  • Document Based Controls– Documents such as identity cards and passes can be used for controls to ensure entry only to authorized personnel. Integrated chip based identity cards are being increasingly used to ensure effective physical as well as electronic checks.
  • Advanced Electronic Controls– These employ complex CCTV images, biometrics and recognition – face or pattern to control entry such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). Networking can be carried out of multiple locations while remote identification and control of entry is also feasible.
  • Process Based Controls– Process based controls denote protocols determined for entry which are provided at each level to determine for instance who is authorized and who is not and how the authorized person (s) are to be granted entry to determined locations.
  • Emergency Controls– These are established to ensure that in an emergency such as a fire hazard or an earthquake easy exit is facilitated to ensure rapid and safe egress of personnel from the premises.

Categories and Levels of Access Control

Access controls are essentially designed based on the facility to be protected and the level of risk that is acceptable by the management. These could be defined as follows:-

  • Level 1 – Open access . Increasingly only roads and public spaces as parks are left for open access.
  • Level 2 – Open access with electronic surveillance. These areas include those public spaces which are under CCTV coverage. Control is achieved through deterrence and early spotting of unusual activity. An effective control and reporting system is necessary for this purpose.
  • Level 3 – Single Point Control. This is exercised by establishing manual access controls at entry to a location such as a shopping mall or a metro station. Frisking and scanning may be carried out at this point, however after entry there is unrestricted access to the site. Similarly vehicles are scanned manually, by hand held and other devices at the entry to a parking. CCTV will invariably cover movement and activity of personnel.
  • Level 4 – Multiple Controls at Single Entry Point. In this category multiple controls are used at the single entry point such as checking of identity, tickets or passes generally used at exhibitions and shows which are paid for by participants.
  • Level 4 – Multiple Controls in Series. There could be a series of access controls to the site as a whole and then to specific areas within the premises which are cordoned off through additional controls. Entry is determined to regulars through an identity system and visitors through passes which are based on authorization issued at an appropriate level. These are issued to specific locations within the overall premises and not general in nature.
  • Level 5 – Multiple Controls with Escort. This is generally used in high security defence installations, where apart from regular employees of the establishment visitors are accompanied from the entry to the place or person to be seen and to the exit thus ruling out deviation from the locations to which access has been permitted.
  • Custom Built Controls – Customised controls are required especially for logistics agencies for rapid turnover of vehicles and personnel.

Importance of Multi Barrier Access Controls

Given increase in the level of threats today which have graduated from ordinary criminals to organized crime, terrorists and commercial espionage – multi barrier access controls has assumed importance. These have the following advantages:-

  • ➜ Coverage of gaps and posing multiple tiers to provide high degree of security by denial.
  • ➜ Integrated approach to include physical, electronic and process based tools ensures depth.
  • ➜ Employing multiple barriers – physical and electronic will avoid a security breach due to subversion of personnel. Similarly failure of electronic systems is covered by deployment of guards.
  • ➜ Flexibility in the means used thereby providing ability to tweak controls based on events and threats. In case of an elevated threat – level can be raised to provide greater security.
  • ➜ Flexibility to permit access to multiple sites on the same format.
  • ➜ In the case of access controls to logistics sites multiple barriers can facilitate rapid movement of vehicles to avoid loss of time without compromising security.


Access controls are assuming importance given expansion of threats and need for security at varied premises from shopping malls to offices, industrial establishments and data centers amongst others. Multi barrier access controls are being increasingly designed to provide effective security catering for varied threats from a terrorist attack to a malicious breach. At the same time cost benefit analysis should be undertaken to identify optimal level of controls and types of barriers.

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