Ask the Expert: What is a Bollard & What Businesses Should Have Them?

July 16, 2020 | 3 min read

When you consider threats to your building, do you also consider that a car can be used as a weapon?

While the idea of a car crashing through a wall into your business may seem far fetched, it happens more frequently than you’d think. According to the Storefront Safety Council, a safety advocacy group, drivers crash their cars into buildings an average of 60 times a day.

While many of these incidents are accidents — either very young or very old drivers hitting the gas rather than the brakes, for example — others are deliberate crimes. The Storefront Safety Council found that 6% of all incidents were part of “ramraid” or crash and grab robberies. Retail stores and restaurants were most impacted by these incidents.

Fortunately, there’s a simple protection measure businesses can invest in: bollards.

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What is a bollard?

A bollard is any object that prevents a moving vehicle from colliding with a building, or from entering a pedestrian-only area, like a walking center in a city or a park. Bollards can take many forms: they can be metal posts, concrete structures like the dividers on a highway. Some bollards are retractable — they may slide into the ground so that a vehicle can enter a space when needed. Other bollards can only be movable by machines. Others, like fountains, are permanent.

Plenty of organizations use bollards for security. If you think about some of the big box stores or malls you’ve visited in the past, you may remember the bollards — non-descript posts or reinforced trash cans or lights, in some cases, giant concrete balls for some other brands.

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Best practices for using bollards

Bollards are one of the most underutilized security measures available to businesses, and yet they’re capable of preventing a great deal of destruction. According to the Storefront Safety Council, 500 people are killed yearly when cars ram into buildings, and an average of 4,000 are injured.

There are, however, some things you should know before choosing and installing your bollards. Below are best practices for using bollards:

  • Bollards can be a part of your decor: They may be a security measure, but that doesn’t mean your bollards have to be ugly. Many bollards are decorative, like planters, fountains, boulders, or even trees.
  • Not all bollards are rated equally: While anything that stops a moving vehicle can be considered a bollard, not all bollards are crash-rated. Un-rated bollards (like steel posts sunk deep in the ground) can still provide significant protection, but sometimes you may need a crash-rated bollard. There are two systems used to crash-rate bollards: K-ratings (which rate bollards based on the speeds they can stop) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards which rates bollards based on the weights of the vehicles they can stop.
  • Consider protecting more than the front of your site: Bollards are most often placed in front of a building — in front of a large window, for example, or between a parking area or street and the door of a site. Remember that vehicles can go through any wall. A hospital may protect their lobby with bollards, but if the operating room’s wall is right next to the parking area, that wall should be protected as well.
  • Bollards aren’t just for buildings: While bollards are often used to keep cards out of buildings, they’re a useful measure for keeping vehicles away from other assets as well. Loading areas, where trucks are always backing up, should make use of bollards. If you keep vats of chemicals on-site, you’ll need bollards to keep vehicles from hitting them. Gas and fire hose connections should be protected. Anywhere you have assets, you should be sure they’re protected from collision with bollards.

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