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Designed to provide reliable, high-performance protection for critical areas while ensuring optimal personnel safety, expanded metal security fencing products must be able to stand up to harsh environments, provide ultimate strength, and allow for long-lasting durability in order to effectively keep out intruders.
The electric power industry, for instance, relies heavily on expanded metal security fencing, particularly for substation security applications. Substation security fencing must protect more than the facility itself; it also must protect personnel, as well as accidental trespassers — both humans and animals — from the hazards posed by high-voltage equipment.
Of course, the power grid is not the only industry making use of expanded metal security fencing. Other sectors relying on metal security fencing include:
• Airports and seaports
• Rail lines
• Correctional facilities
• Border security
5 Advantages of Expanded Metal Fencing
Aside from providing great versatility, customizability, and ease of use, expanded metal security fencing offers five key advantages over standard security fencing.
Expanded metal fencing is much stronger than even the strongest standard fencing. The expansion process adjusts the metal, rather than removing or reshaping it, so any reductions in strength properties are minimal, and the metal remains reliably rigid.
A decent pair of bolt cutters and a little elbow grease are all it takes to cut through the wire of a standard fence, and when a cut is made, the fencing can be easily unraveled or pushed aside. It’s almost impossible to gain purchase on expanded metal with bolt cutters, however, and even then, making actual cuts is nearly impossible.
Superior Visual-Barrier Properties
Standard fencing is basically see-through, offering little in the way of blocking line of sight. Expanded metal mesh, on the other hand, can be specifically designed to minimize gaps while maximizing metal surface; this makes metal fencing ideal for security scenarios prioritizing visual-intrusion prevention.
Standard fencing with typical specifications leaves gaps of about 2 inches between wires, more than enough room for somebody to gain purchase with their hands or feet for climbing. But expanded metal security fencing features gaps as small as ½ or ¾ inch, making climbing virtually impossible.
Expanded metal security fencing is much more durable than standard security fencing; expanded metal is less prone to rusting and damage, and provides a longer life span.
Expanded Metal Security Fence Specifications
Extremely versatile, expanded metal is available in a wide range of styles, materials, mesh patterns, and sizes, making it an ideal solution for various security needs.
For example, metal fencing is available in both standard expanded metal and flattened expanded metal types; as its name implies, flattened expanded metal is flattened after expansion to allow for smooth surfaces. Security fencing can also be customized for a range of fence heights and post types, and is available with integrated horizontal rails, as well as the fittings used to secure expanded metal mesh to the fence framework. And adding special features, such as barbed wire and barbed tape, is much easier with expanded metal than standard fencing.
Expanded Metal Fencing From Metalex
For 55 years, Metalex has been a leading designer and manufacturer of high-quality expanded metal products, available in a range of mesh types, including:
• Large, heavy, and grating mesh — Providing ultimate strength, flexibility, versatility, and cost-efficiency, these types of high-performing mesh are frequently used in parks and recreational facilities, shelving, catwalks, and automotive racks, in addition to serving as traditional electric grid security fences and machine guards.
• Micro mesh — With superior heat-transfer properties, micro mesh can be built to be acoustically neutral and can also be flattened to allow for reduced thickness and a smoother surface. Micro mesh is designed to be non-testing, and can be annealed for superior formability. It can also be coated with organic or metallic compounds to allow for extra durability.
• Light and small mesh — Used in a wide range of applications, such as air filtration, ceiling panels, and machine guards, light and small mesh offers optimal reliability and versatility. Small mesh is usually offered in sizes between 3/16 inch and ½ inch, and can be constructed from various materials.
• Barrier and security mesh — Specifically designed to safeguard against break-ins and break-outs, security and barrier mesh can provide protection for walls and ceilings in various spaces, such as homes, offices, retail stores, correctional facilities, and storage areas.
• Intermediate mesh — Offering great flexibility, intermediate mesh is popular in a wide range of industries. It can be constructed from various materials, including cold-rolled steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, and copper.
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The Threat Against Utility Substations
Last year, two people broke into an electrical substation in Bakersfield, Calif., run by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), and cut several transformer wires.
The following night, critical equipment and alarm wires were cut.
In 2013, a group with firearms attacked another PG&E facility, the Metcalf transformer substation in San Jose, Calif., disabling 17 transformers that power Silicon Valley. Multiple individuals outside the substation shot at the HV transformer radiators, causing them to overheat and become inoperative. This same high-voltage substation was attacked again in 2014, when intruders damaged and stole various equipment, staying for as long as four hours without being noticed.
These attacks represent just a few of the dozens of utility attacks that occur in the United States every year. And despite rules issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014, most transformer sites and substations are protected by little other than chain-link fence.
In today’s tumultuous geopolitical climate, firearm attacks are of mounting concern. In a Congressional Research Service report published in 2014, our power grid — its high voltage (HV) transformers in particular — was identified as a likely terrorist target. Though making up only 3% of the hundreds of transformers in the grid, HV transformers carry as much as 70% of the nation’s energy.
Lax security measures for HV transformers leave the whole grid vulnerable to destabilizing attacks. To ensure the security of our national utility substations, efforts must be made to effectively deter intruders and reduce the risk of break-ins.
Expanded Metal: Superior Fencing Protection & Ballistic Resistance
Most of our nation’s transformer substations are physically protected by chain-link fence and nothing more. Substation security occasionally includes security cameras and alarm systems, but, even then, they’re usually not regularly monitored.
Physical security, therefore, remains the ideal first line of protection; it is passive and relatively inexpensive. But standard chain-link fencing is notoriously weak, easily able to be cut or otherwise compromised. Expanded metal security fencing is a much more reliable solution.
Expanded metal security fencing provides a number of benefits over traditional chain-link fencing, all of which satisfy recommended best practices for substation security perimeters. The smaller openings and rigid design make it extremely difficult to climb and also act as an added visual barrier to protect HV transformers from becoming targets.
Expanded metal security fencing is also much stronger and thicker than chain-link. Chain-link fencing can be cut with standard bolt cutters with relative ease, while expanded metal cannot. Expanded metal also resists bending and fraying and is physically unable to be taken apart, unlike chain-link. Added thickness allows the fence to shatter and deflect small caliber bullets, further protecting the substation.
Metalex has been designing and manufacturing reliable, high-quality security fencing and other expanded metal products since 1962, and is proud to be at the forefront of enhanced substation security.