By Adam Miller
Kenya is facing an increasing amount of insecurity. Criminals have become bolder, more adventurous, and worry less about their victims well being and life. A lot of robberies now end up in fatalities when victims get shot, injured and even killed.
For many years, we have had electric fences, intruder alarms, CCTV and nothing much else. Systems like CCTV would normally tell you what happened after an event and is rarely used in a preventative way.
In security, a lot of investment is made in deterring access by criminals into a secured area. This is done through fortifying the space using electric fencing, burglar proofing, intruder alarm systems that scare away criminals and having tight human security presence. The idea here is to delay or prevent access by criminals.
However, when this fails, the only remaining aspect that may come in handy is that of response from the police or security personnel. In our Kenyan scenario, very few lucky individuals have the luxury of a timely response to raised alarms. And in this case still, the response would take anything between ten to thirty minutes. In most cases, it takes several hours.
There is therefore space in the market for an innovation that can prevent a successful robbery from taking place. There is such an innovation which is cost effective, and that does not involve turning your home into a fortress.
That innovation is security fog.
This was conceived initially as a protective device for banks and cash in transit in European markets. In principle, it works the same way as the theatrical fog and possibly that’s where the idea of its use came from.
Fog security is packaged in a relatively small unit, measuring about a cubic foot and weighing between 11kgs to 15kgs depending on the manufacturer. Internally, it consists of two components, the fog canisters and a heating element.
The canisters have a mixture of water and glycol which, when activated, passes through the heating element and causes an expansion many thousands of times in volume. This then pushes the fog at very high velocity out into the target zone.
The system has a detection unit which is linked to an intruder alarm system or a remote controlled or fixed panic button system which is used to activate it.
When the fog is deployed, within seconds it creates an impenetrable cloud that makes it impossible to see. This frightens and disorients the intruder, forcing them to leave the target area, and gives time for organized response as the fog lasts between 30 minutes to an hour on internal environment depending on the amount of fog deployed and the level of ventilation in the space.
In instances where ventilation maybe a challenge, an extraction unit maybe installed to help clear out the fog once the threat has been neutralized.
The security fog is safe for humans. Its key elements, water and glycol, are completely harmless to human skin and even when breathed in. The fog also dissipates leaving no residue. It’s therefore safe for property including electronics, furniture and even clothing.
The only known risk of using fog is the health and safety risk of injury of people within the spaces where fog has been deployed due to tripping resulting from lack of visibility. This is however a management issue that is mostly resolved through training of the users of this system on what to do in case of a deployment.
What fog offers is an opportunity for architects and designers to provide safe and secure environments for their clients, whether it is a home or business premise, without turning the space into a fortress.
Some of the fog units, depending on where they are manufactured, could be aesthetically attractive. The machines could also be produced in any colour that could easily fit within the scheme of the space it is installed.
When considered early in the designs, the fog units could be concealed behind grills or even fully hidden behind a wall with a small opening that allows for deployment of the fog to the target space.
For the unit to function well, positioning is critical. The standard is to locate the fog device in a way that it does not trap a criminal, but instead, pushes them back out of the building from where they accessed.
In a retail setting, it would mean placing the unit around where cashiers are located facing the main access door. That way, it pushes the intruders out through the door they accessed from. In a residential unit, like a two storeyed house, it can be located at the top of the staircase facing downwards. This would direct all the fog to the lower floor.
Multiple units are sometimes necessary depending on the target that is being protected. The units could be programmed to work in different ways to reflect the nature of the space that they are protecting.
The uptake of the fog security units in Kenya is very positive, especially noting the reasonable cost of the unit and the security value it adds to a building. The unit costs between Kshs 140,000 and Kshs 250,000 depending on the size which is determined by the space to be protected. The smaller unit would be ideal for residential use or a small commercial space whereas the larger unit could be used in large spaces and warehouses.
There are a number of installations in Kenya, most of them residential. There have been no recorded case of fog preventing robberies locally just yet, but globally the technology is well proven and can reduce the success rate of robberies by 97% . However, fog security is a very effective tool. If the fog deploys correctly, there is no evidence in the world where fog has been defeated in preventing a robbery or burglary. There is no other security measure that can prevent a successful robbery in the way that fog can.
The other value that fog will have, when it becomes known within the criminal fraternity, it will become a deterrent as criminals will not target premises and facilities defended by fog.
The author is a security consultant with Carpe Diem and an expert in Fog Security systems. He is based in Kenya and can be reached on phone on 0708 985656 or email firstname.lastname@example.org