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People are often surprised to learn that physical barriers for utility offices are being installed more frequently. Who in their right mind is going to try and rob a power company? Do those payment centers even take cash? But there’s something in that office far more important than the payments.
As Bob George of Total Security Solutions explains:
“I’m working with a power and light company right now. When I was there the other day, the women who work the counters were ecstatic that we were taking measurements to install a barrier system. They told me that, at the end of every month, when the bills are due, they have a line out the door. That’s fine. But there are always a few people who are there holding a final notice, a shut-off notice, and those people are irate. They take it out on these poor women who are just doing their jobs. People try to intimidate them to get an extension, or whatever. And it’s scary. But if the barrier is in place, that abuse doesn’t even start. It just gets nullified, right there.”
TSS CEO Jim Richards agrees. “Across the board, people are talking about this. If you have someone who comes in and threatens your people, you have a responsibility to look at how you’re protecting your people. More so than ever, I think businesses and organizations are really looking at what their procedures need to be, what they need to have in place, so their people can really feel that they are safe.”
The Elements of Good Security for Utility Offices
The first step is always to determine what level of security you need. Many businesses and organizations–from schools to doctors’ offices–are driven by the latest terrible headline. They start looking at physical security systems, thinking they need something that rivals the security of a forward operating base in a war zone.
But the fact of the matter is very few organizations in the U.S. need to worry about stopping someone with an AK-47. Stopping bullets from a tactical rifle requires Level 4 ballistic materials. These are expensive, difficult to fabricate, and put many limitations on your design options.
Level 3 security (designed to stop many shots from all of the most common handguns) are almost always sufficient for utility payment offices. (This video shows a Level 3 window and door stopping dozens and dozens of shots from a variety of pistols and rifles.) But that doesn’t mean all Level 3 barriers are created equal. The windows of a utility office security barrier should be ballistic acrylic or polycarbonate, not laminated glass materials.
“A lot of smaller security companies and glazers work exclusively with glass-based bullet-resistant glazing,” Bob George explains. “It’s what they’re used to, what they know. But these materials are much more limited. They take longer to prep and are really unforgiving. If they get to the job site and discover some measurement was off by even a little bit, there’s just nothing you can do about it.”
As a result, despite huge advances in manufacturing technology, you still see so many of those old-style bullet-resistant barriers: a big single sheet of UL-rated laminated glass with a metal grate over a speak-hole. These barriers are unattractive, muffled, and have a poor light transfer (giving that dingy look)–but they are very easy to fabricate.
Advanced Custom Acrylic and Polycarbonate Physical Security Barriers for Utility Offices
“Working in acrylic and polycarbonate gives our customers so many more options,” Bob George says. “These are good materials for stopping bullets, and they have excellent light transfer properties. More importantly, if you have experience working with them, you can do so much.”
A company adept at handling acrylic and polycarbonate has more design options. They can use ornate cuts and flame-polishing to create baffle and arch windows that draw much less attention. The result is a brighter window with more visual appeal and much better sound transfer.
“Working in these materials has the potential to get pricey for a small company,” Bob George acknowledges, “but because TSS does so much of this sort of fabrication, has done it for so long, and orders such huge volumes of acrylic and LP1250, our price is pretty amazing. Utilities really are our bread and butter,” Bob George continues. “Because it’s so similar to where Total Security Solutions started out, retrofitting bank teller lines. This sort of work is really in the DNA of the business.”