Olympia discusses allowing electrified security fences in commercial and industrial districts


On its first reading, the Olympia City Council approved the property protection standards code amendment allowing flexibility in installing and using electric security fences in commercial and industrial zone districts. 

At the city council meeting held Tuesday, January 17, Olympia Senior Planner Cari Hornbein said the use of electric fences had been established in the Olympia Municipal Code (OMC) 18.40. She said the current standards allow solar-powered, low-voltage fences for farms and agriculture protection.

According to Hornbein, they received a permit application from Amarok, which provides a perimeter security system. It proposed allowing an electric security system in all commercial and industrial zones in the city. "The potential voltage could be 7,000 volts for charging the electric fencing."

Hornbein said there was a lot of interest in the auto mall sector regarding perimeter security.

She added that the auto mall sector has been dealing with many issues with theft – vehicles, catalytic converters, property damage, and vandalism.

After conducting discussions and briefings at the Planning Commission and holding a public hearing in August, Hornbein said the commission made recommendations and modifications, including:

  • Allow outright in the auto services, industrial, and light industrial zone districts.

“We are focusing on auto services and industrial zones that typically have storage yards,” Hornbein explained.

  • Allow on a case-to-case basis in the general commercial, downtown business, and High-Density Corridor (1-4) zone districts.
  • The senior planner, the applicant, needs to demonstrate the need, such as crime, in applying for the electric fence permit.
  • Provide greater flexibility in locating new fences to avoid moving existing perimeter fences, and account for existing site improvements and landscaping
  • Comply with design and landscape/screening standards
  • Obtain necessary approvals and permits

Hornbein added that the permitting process involves a building permit if the fences are over seven feet in height, some land use review, and a fire department review.

The code amendment also requires submitting plans to the Community Planning and Development (CP&D) for review and approval.

Councilmember Lisa Parshley expressed concerns about the efficacy of electric fences. "We are going to harm those that have no choice but to steal because of drug addiction, poverty and everything else."

However, Parshley also pointed out that constant theft might cause businesses to go to another place where it is safer.

"Protecting the ability of these businesses to be here also protects employment," Parshley said, adding that these small businesses – comprised of 64% to 70% of local businesses - created employment for Olympians.

Like static shock

Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gilman asked about the effect of being shocked by the voltage of the electric fence on a human.

Michael Pate, director of government affairs with Amarok, who was present at the city council to explain the electric perimeter system, answered Gilamn’s question with an analogy.

"If you rub your feet across the carpet and reach out the door handle and achieve a static shock, that is the feel of what it is," Pate explained.

Pate added that the electric fence has a high amperage, but it is safe. "The reason it is safe is that it is a pulsed electrical device. The electricity is not flowing all the time."

Pate added that the device is tested to a standard – the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - which makes it safe and reliable and will not hurt anyone or animals.

"But if the device is defeated, it sets off an alarm. If the pulse does not go through the line back to the alarm panel… if we get five consecutive negative returns, it sets the alarm off and would go through our call list," Pate explained, adding that they have cameras that are associated with the device.


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  • Deskandchairs

    More voltage needed; fry 'em

    As a child in the 1950 we use to "test" the electric cattle fences (not solar powered), though unpleasant, the major aspect was surprise (especially if you were a cow)

    Saturday, January 21 Report this

  • TonyW33

    I suppose that this is easier than participating in the society that you serve as well as easier than actually governing and solving problems. The optics here are distressing to any thoughtful citizen or should be.

    Saturday, January 21 Report this

  • Trcutler

    I would bet my farm that if Lisa Parshley had experienced some one violating her safe place she would feel differently. This is who is making the choices for are safety for us. Let all give her a round of applause.

    Saturday, January 21 Report this

  • TX_Mojo

    "We are going to harm those that have no choice but to steal because of drug addiction, poverty and everything else." These are the ramblings of a stooge (aka Lisa).

    Sunday, January 22 Report this

  • Trcutler

    When my grandson was in grade school, he is entering his first year in high school now, but all through his early years I had the privilege to be able to take him to school every morning. We would get up early every morning and go out for breakfast. We always made time to go explore this fantastic town that we live in. If there was an event such as oh say a fire the night before down town, we would go check it out. Or when the new corvettes came in stock at Titus will. Ya know just stuff. But I always made and attempt to show him all sides of this great town, good and bad. The homeless and addicted was alway a main source of are conversations. Now I’m not a perfect man. I’ve made some mistakes in my life and I’m not the one who should pass judgment on anyone. I’m very tolerant to some of are issues here locally as I say, I’m not a perfect man. As he got a little older we was sitting in a group of all adults and the homeless topic came up, everyone had there say and when it came time for my input I looked at my grandson and asked him what he thought. He said, well Grampa I think they are all making choices that put them there. This was from an eleven year old. The conversation was over at that point as he had made more sense than all the adults in the room. Mic drop…..

    Monday, January 23 Report this