Continuing Education

Better Safety Through Electricity

by Kevin on 01/06/2015

When most people think about electric fences, they imagine something used to control animals. The electrified fence keeps animals (livestock, dogs, etc.) in, keeps predators (wolves, coyotes, bears, etc.) out, or both. While this is a very common use, electrified fencing can also be used to protect commercial and residential buildings.

That’s right, when it comes to stopping break-ins, electric security fences are available as an alternative to barbed or razor wire. A quick Google search using the keywords “electric security fence” brought up websites for several companies selling electrified fencing systems specifically designed to keep out people.

Several websites insist that electric fences have numerous advantages over barbed wire and razor wire. Electric fences are supposedly easier to build, easier to maintain, lower cost, and more versatile. The point that is most often stressed, though, is that electric fencing is both a safer and a more effective deterrent than barbed or razor wire. Sounds crazy, right? Electricity being a safer alternative? It’s easy to see how it could be more effective at keeping people from breaking in to your property. Being electrocuted will usually make people think twice about trying to cross a fence line.

But safer?  

Well, this may actually be accurate. To understand how they could make this claim we need to look at how electric security fences work. First, the electricity that moves through the fencing is not the same as the electricity that flows through the overhead wires or out of a wall socket. It is set to shock but not seriously hurt or kill. Second, the electricity is sent through the wire in short pulses rather than flowing continuously. This kind of fencing also avoids one of the major problems with barbed and especially razor wire. If someone gets tangled up crossing razor wire, they can get seriously injured. While it’s understood that this is part of the point of razor wire, the concept that intruders can be stopped without injury definitely has some appeal.

But before you go off and tell all your friends to invest in electric fencing for their properties, there are a few things to consider. Since we’re dealing with electricity, this kind of fencing should be kept clear of plants. In dry conditions, the fencing has the potential to start fires if it comes in contact with dry grasses or trees. In wet conditions, overgrown plants may drain the charge or short out the fence. The fence needs to be installed properly or it may malfunction or not work at all. And, the presence of an electric fence may slow down the response times of emergency services.

The other thing to consider before installing an electric security fence is whether the local municipality restricts or forbids the use of electric fencing. There aren’t any nationwide rules regulating the placement of electric fences around commercial or residential buildings. This means that each town, city, and county deals with this kind of fencing in its own way. For example, the city of Pittsburg, California just recently altered its ban on the use of electric fences for businesses in industrial areas. A business in an industrial zone of Pittsburg can now use an electric security fence as long as that business applies for a permit and agrees install the fence in accordance with certain standards. Obviously, you will need to do some research on the local laws and rules before working with electric security fences.

So, what does this mean for electricians?

Well, electric security fencing uses electricity. As an electrician, this is your area of expertise. Property owners may call on you for help with installation, maintenance, or even the upgrading of an electric fence. On the whole, electric fencing for residential and commercial buildings is more complex than the electric fencing used for livestock. Often, electric security fences have connected devices that monitor the voltage in the fence and alarms that go off if the fence is compromised. Proper set up of such a system requires someone who knows his or her way around electrical wiring.

The use of electric security fences to protect commercial and residential buildings presents an opportunity for electricians. There is a demand for this product, which means there is a demand for all the services related to configuring and maintaining it. Who knows? The next time someone is thinking of putting up an electric fence around their place of business, you may be the electrician they call.