Protecting Dam Facilities with Innovative New Vehicle Barrier

In today’s world, soft targets and crowded spaces are major concerns of safety for law enforcement and federal agencies. As terrorists and extremist groups turn to less sophisticated methods to inflict harm, the use of vehicles in these types of attacks has shown the potential for catastrophic damages to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) projects.

In response, USACE researchers developed the DETER (Deployable Expedient Traffic Entry Regulator) vehicle barrier for Soft Asset Protection at Dam Facilities.


DETER is an active vehicle barrier that serves as an expedient access control solution to protect critical assets and soft targets from vehicular attack. Examples of soft assets are locations with large groups of people or critical infrastructure like Dam Facilities that have limited security measures in place to limit success of an attack.

DETER is an innovative and versatile barrier that provides fast protection in multiple scenarios, making it a valuable system to be used in multi-domain operations. COURTESY PHOTO

The initial research came from a need to protect deployed forces at base camps. This was an active threat in the area where U.S. Troops were stationed. The Direct Allotted (Army) research program developed the initial design and validated the capability to stop a ramming vehicle. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is interested in deployments to mass-gathering events, and because of this, they are currently funding the evaluation of DETER in urban environments. This technology is important to DHS as they are the federal lead for prevention of terrorist attacks within the U.S.

DETER is an innovative and versatile barrier that provides fast protection in multiple scenarios, making it a valuable system to be used in multi-domain operations.

“DETER gives us outside-the-box type thinking of a solution for a secure vehicle barrier. This type of innovation can enhance the security at USACE facilities and mass gathering events,” said Matt Hossley, a mathematician with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Currently, USACE has several barriers that have been evaluated at mass-gathering events —another asset of the DETER.

“We have design drawings for DETER and have entered a licensing agreement with a fabrication firm to produce more units,” said Hossley. “ERDC has identified multiple improvements to simplify deployment.”

These barriers have many positive impacts such as saving time and money and eliminating the need for permanent entry control points at every USACE dam.

“DETER provides an alternative to these temporary solutions by establishing an entry control point that protects soft assets from large vehicular threats and allows the safe entry and exit of emergency vehicles,” said Bowen Woodson, a research civil engineer with the ERDC.

Moving forward, the team is working on developing guidance for soft asset protect and providing incremental design improvements to the system.

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