What Is a Suicide Fence, and What Are the Challenges of Designing and Installing It?
It’s a very sad fact that suicides have been on the rise around the world for many years. In big cities, one of the ways that people choose to end their lives (or attempt to) is to jump off structures like bridges or walkways.
Suicide fence is one way that cities attempt to prevent this from happening, but it does come with some unique fence challenges. Here’s an overview of the challenges and possible solutions for designing an effective suicide fence.
Suicide Fence Challenges
Before we look at some of the options for designing and constructing a suicide fence, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at the unique challenges this kind of fence presents.
Design Around Existing Structures
Most suicide fences are constructed on bridges and walkways that have been around for some time. This means that fence systems usually have to be installed around or on top of structures that can’t be altered or modified.
Views and Esthetics
Another challenge in designing and constructing suicide fences is that it’s usually needed on structures that are known for their views and often in very visible places where esthetics are a must.
Structures In Use
In most cases, the structures that require suicide fences are in use and will continue to be during the fence construction process. This means that the work needs to be planned and scheduled around the existing activity in the area, which might mean working outside of regular construction hours.
There’s no such thing as a completely unscalable fence or wall. Every fence or wall can be scaled, cut or otherwise breached by someone who is determined enough, given enough time and the right tools and equipment. At the same time, it’s critically important that people who are thinking about jumping off these structures are prevented from doing so.
Suicide Fence Design Tips
The good news is that when it comes to designing and constructing something as important as a suicide fence, there are some design tips that can make it possible, even in the most challenging situations.
Request Site Visits from Specialist Fence Companies
The first thing you should do if you want to design and construct a suicide fence is to invite several fence companies who specialize in complex commercial fence systems for public spaces to visit your site.
In cases like this, seeing the site and the unique challenges the fence design will need to overcome is the only option. Drawings and even photographs won’t be enough for companies to create a design that will work.
Choose Anti-Climb Fence Options
There are several types of fences that are harder to climb, including 358 welded mesh panels, certain types of custom palisade and custom ornamental fences.
Ideally, you want to install a fence that does not have any horizontal foot or hand holds on the inside of the fence, which will make it harder for anyone to climb if they want to.
Fences that curve inwards or have an angled return or overhang are also good choices because these also make it harder for anyone to climb the fence.
High Visibility, Low Climbability
One of the reasons why 358 fence systems or the many ornamental, bar and palisade options are a good choice for this kind of fence project is that they still offer visibility of the views from the bridge or structure while still protecting people who might want to use the bridge as a tool to harm themselves.
Don’t Rely On Fence Alone
Unfortunately, as we’ve already mentioned, if someone really wants to get over a fence and they have enough time to do it, they will eventually.
This is why you should never rely on a suicide fence alone. Consider adding a fence detection system or alarm to the fence, cameras and lighting and other tools that will allow police and other first responders to get to the area before something tragic happens.
Don’t Ignore the Existing Use of the Structure
Several years ago, a major North American city installed a suicide barrier fence on a popular downtown bridge. However, instead of designing the fence around the existing use of the fence, they installed a fence that encroached significantly on the sidewalks along the fence.
These sidewalks had long been used by pedestrians and cyclists, and the installation of the fence made their use of the walkway more difficult, less safe and, in some cases, impossible.
Take Your Time
The most important thing you can do when you’re designing a suicide fence is take your time to get it right.
Even if that means temporary fence and patrols on the bridge or structure, spending a little more time early in the process to design a suicide that looks good, works with the structure, and saves lives is worth it and will save you a lot of retrofitting and modifications later!