Keeping Parking Lots and Garages Safer


Keeping Parking Lots and Garages Safer

Assaults in parking garages aren’t anything new. Perpetrators focus on these locations as prime targets thanks to the nature of their construction. They are large open areas that are difficult to light and usually have poor surveillance and lines of sight. The advent of newer technology that reduces staffing requirements only serves to create more opportunities for using vehicles to gain access illicitly.

Remember, the best security devices are ones that never
need to be used.

Unmanned parking garages are becoming a staple, especially in larger cities. As companies take advantage of remote security and automated egress systems, the need for a large on-site security force for these enclosed structures seems to be diminishing. But a recent rise in attacks has led some companies to rethink this model. By adding additional security measures and a physical security presence, these areas can become much safer for foot and vehicular traffic.

Remember, the best security devices are ones that never need to be used. At times, even the display of safety is enough to ward off all but the most determined of assailants. Remember, when planning security features for a new or existing parking lot or garage, the first consideration is the level of security required for that particular facility. A parking garage for a foreign embassy or federal courthouse will require far more serious security measures than a parking lot for a mall. Other primary factors to consider include the frequency of vehicles moving in and out and whether there will be vehicle inspections performed or a fully automated system at the entrance.

Surface and Shallow Mounted Wedge Barricades Come to the Rescue

Surface mounted wedge barricades feature quick installation into difficult locations such as parking structure ramps or areas with sub-surface drainage problems. These barricades are lowered to allow passage of authorized vehicles and are available in widths up to 240 inches. They are crash rated, providing a high security vehicle access control system for parking structures and lots.

Let’s look at such a barrier in more detail. These barriers have crash ratings up to the M50 level. They will stop a 15,000-pound truck going 50 mph. They typically come in two versions, surface mounted for parking ramps and shallow mounted for places with as little as 11 inches of foundation space available. With the surface mount version, the barrier components are lag bolted in place to existing concrete surfaces. These units are considered ‘plug and play’ and can be installed very quickly.

When the M50 barricade is in the up position, the hydraulics are protected by the heavy metal ramp plate. The barrier features a self-contained programmable electro-mechanical drive system, controls and an integral barrier arm. It can also be available with a debris screen.

Rounding Out Security at a Parking Site

With vehicle barriers, the most common security breach is tailgating. Most vehicle barrier systems are set up to allow only one car at a time. When a system suspends a tailgating car, it’s literally just doing its job – stopping an unauthorized vehicle from entering a facility. How do you avoid these “accidents,” yet avoid weak links?

Employ loop detectors. These little sensor subsystems determine when the first car has passed by and automatically and immediately drops the gate or raises the barricades.

Guard Booths. Having limited security personnel means ensuring they are housed in locations where they can do the most good. Guard booths provide both shelter and a base of operations that teams can use to monitor CCTV information and be ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. Placed at central areas, entrances and exits, they can offer a sense of security when citizens and perpetrators know there is someone close by.

Almost every parking structure features parking/cashier booths. Some are fairly basic; others are upgraded. For instance, on the way out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, 18 prefabricated parking/cashier booths help handle the airport’s doubled parking capacity of 13,000 spaces. 

These booths are simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the overall security of the airport by providing vehicle access control. The rounded corners and custom painted design complement their two 9-level parking structures. Two heaters, double insulation and tinted glass help parking attendants to guard against both the Minnesota winters and sun. 

Traffic Controllers. Created especially for car rental agencies, public buildings, airports and other high vandalism locations where car theft or fee evasion is of concern, “pedestrian friendly” traffic controllers will severely damage or deflate even the new generation of steel-belted tires.

Their teeth are made from a high tensile steel with points encased in specially formulated non-removable molded caps that break away only under the impact and weight of a vehicle. While ordinary teeth won’t jab and deflate the new tires fast enough, this system will. Although the teeth of such systems will cut paper, people are protected by specially molded caps around the teeth that only break with the weight and impact of a vehicle. Wayward pedestrians who fall onto the teeth will not break the caps, avoiding injury. 

Designed to control authorized traffic flow on a day-in-day-out basis, these traffic controllers are available in three-foot modules and can be configured to control traffic ways from up to 32 feet in width. 

Security Starts With an “S”

Regardless of the type of vehicle control system installed, it is advised that any entrance to a parking garage or lot must not provide a long ramp or driveway that lets a vehicle pick up speed before arriving at the access point. Forcing vehicles to slow down by creating an S curve just before the entrance automatically creates a more secure environment.

Security equipment for parking facilities ranges from tire-puncturing devices to pop-up crash barriers built into the roadway that will stop errant vehicles dead in their tracks. Today, it is easy to make parking lots and garages much safer.

Greg Hamm is Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Delta Scientific. He can be reached at

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Greg Hamm
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