Security Threats

Back to Risk Mitigation

Security threats to personnel, facilities, and assets come in a variety of forms, and the volume of threats has not decreased since our country’s birth. Protection Engineering Consultants (PEC) is industry-leading in risk management for well-known and emerging security threats. In addition to defining credible threats and assessing vulnerabilities, we have worked the solution side of the equation by applying our experience and the latest knowledge and hardware to develop security systems, design and install physical security, improve operational processes, and strategically implement structural hardening.

Comprehensive Approach to Security

Our Security Consulting team is experienced and credentialed, having developed risk mitigation solutions for numerous commercial businesses and government agencies (local, state, federal, and military). Our Blast Design and Applied Research teams have performed applied research in the area of physical security and we have authored or contributed to many of the current standards and criteria, including ASTM and Department of State. PEC works with facility planners early in the design process, to identify security issues and to propose and implement operational procedures and security systems to mitigate the risk before the more expensive alternative of physical security/hardening is considered.

We enjoy the challenge of developing cost-effective, tailored solutions for each client’s risk mitigation needs and look forward to discussing this with your security and design staff.

Explosive Devices

PEC is one of the top firms in the world for reducing risk due to explosive devices. Defining credible explosive threats can be challenging, depending on the customer and the level of government oversight. The Department of Defense has defined explosive threats based on ongoing assessments and promulgates this information through controlled channels to their facilities.

The commercial building industry often relies on guidance provided by DoD and the Department of Homeland Security, or a client may choose to develop their own threats. The transportation industry does not have government- or industry-mandated threats and each bridge or novel structure must be considered individually. We assess vulnerabilities based on many years of experience, considering personnel, assets, and facilities, for each client’s situation. To quantify vulnerability, we use the defined threats and the site layout to calculate blast pressures and to estimate casualties, damage, and collapse. To reduce risk, PEC works with the facility planner to layout the site, design security systems (cameras, sensors, access control, etc), assess improvement to operations to reduce exposure, and, as a last resort, develops physical security/hardening designs. PEC works closely with the client and the client’s representatives during this process, supplying justification for our recommendations and providing oversight up to and including facility commissioning.

Ballistic and Active Shooter

For risk mitigation of ballistic threats, we identify credible threats based on law enforcement and military guidance, assess risks to personnel and assets, explore security system solutions, improve operations and facility processes, and, as a last measure, provide physical protection in the form of ballistic-resistant panels and conventional construction or by obstructing line-of-sight from threat positions to targets.

The active shooter (armed aggressor) scenario has become a very real and too-common threat in our country. The problem has many dimensions and there is no one best solution.

However, PEC has developed a unique capability to significantly reduce risk for active shooters. We use computational “agent behavior” modeling tools to quantify building occupant egress times and identify potential chokepoints. This information is then used to develop risk mitigation measures that incorporate architectural, structural, and operational features. We develop a 3-dimensional model of the site incorporating important obstructions and occupancy flow features.

The building occupants are represented as “agents” and an active shooter threat scenario is selected. Simulations are carried out and occupant risk is evaluated using an assessment of the time for individuals to evacuate the premises and avoid the active shooter. The potential benefits of ballistic resistant features, visual obstructions for the shooter, number and location of exits, etc can be explored. This approach for the active shooter threat is applicable to new construction projects and existing facilities or buildings. As shown in the Case Studies, we have applied our risk-mitigation approach to large transportation hubs and entertainment venues; we have presented on this topic for both the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) and the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). We are also working with ASTM F12.10 and E54.05 in the development of a new standard focused on mitigating the armed aggressor threat specifically at educational institutions.

Hostile Vehicles

Vehicles are a common threat to pedestrians and have been used with greater frequency in recent years, due to ease of implementation and little need for planning. PEC identifies credible vehicle threats in terms of size and speed, based on law enforcement guidance and a survey of past attacks. In some cases, a vehicle approach study is needed to identify viable attack routes around a given site and realistic attack velocities along those routes.

We develop solutions based on our client’s specific site layout. PEC employs two risk-mitigation strategies: bollards/barriers and road surface geometry. For some locations, roads and sidewalks can be modified by adding turns, reducing straight lengths that can be used to gain speed, changing two roads to one way, and adding traffic circles. This is more easily accomplished for new construction but can be implemented for existing roadways with some ingenuity. Where geometry cannot be modified, physical obstacles can be employed. These include bollards, barriers, cable systems, ditches, street hardware such as securely anchored benches, hardened planters, etc. PEC works with our clients to identify cost-effective solutions and provide assistance through final construction.

Forced Entry

Forced entry threats have existed since doors and walls were invented. An aggressor uses powered and un-powered tools to breach an obstacle and gain access to a protected space to injure personnel, steal items of value, or commit acts of vandalism; explosives and ballistic weapons may also be employed. To mitigate risk for forced entry threats, PEC identifies the credible threats which are defined by the number of aggressors, type and number of tools, and time duration of attack on target.

Typically, the allowable time on target is based on the response time of security forces and law enforcement after an ongoing attack has been recognized; PEC designs the security systems and sensors that are required for early identification of an event. The number of aggressors and type and number of tools for different threat levels have been defined in government-developed criteria that are now codified in ASTM. Risk for forced entry threats is most often mitigated by identification and installation of security products that have been rated and validated through the forced-entry testing prescribed by ASTM. There are numerous vendors for forced-entry resistant products and PEC uses our experience to specify the appropriate devices. See our Case Studies for examples of forced entry threat mitigation design.


We serve domestic and international public- and private-sector clients across many industries.

We have made an impression that we want to share

Our clients, contractors and financial partners reaffirm our commitment, disciplined approach and high quality of our services.

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“PEC became an indispensable part of our design team, helping us to develop a novel approach for protecting critical structures from the effects of tornado-generated missiles. The solutions we were able to deliver to our client resulted in a significant reduction to the total installed cost of the facility.”

Jason Draper, PE, SE

Associate Structural Engineering | Aviation & Federal Global Practice, Burns & McDonnel

“For many years, Protection Engineering Consultants (PEC) has been our “go-to” engineers for Anti-Terrorist Force Protection consulting. They have worked with many of our clients to develop their ATFP requirements. That makes them most qualified to provide us with rock-solid advice to navigate unique conditions and gray areas in requirements. We also enjoy working as consultants to PEC on some of their very special projects! Based on our over 20 years of WestEast work experience, we feel that PEC is the best consultant in their field of business.”

Christopher Kimm, AIA, NCARB

CEO, WestEast Design Group

“For more than a decade, Protection Engineering Consultants has been a trusted partner assisting Navistar Defense with some of our most challenging computer simulation activities. Working with PEC has led us to improved correlation to live fire tests and vehicle survivability solutions that benefit the warfighter.”

Craig Newman

Chief Engineer, Navistar Defense

Related Resources

Assessment, Design, and Construction Support to Mitigate Hostile Vehicle Ramming Threats

Modeling Armed Aggressor, Active Shooter, and MTFA Scenarios

Understanding and Mitigating the Impact of Global Terrorism


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