As safe as Fort Knox gold? 5 ways the US protect their bullion

fort knox gold

Fort Knox Gold Reserve

It’s no accident that Fort Knox gold became popular culture’s byword for safety and security. The United States’ gold reserve has long been recognised as one of the world’s most secure facilities, making it the target for several (thankfully fictional) criminals and their movie-based attempts to acquire some gold bullion.

But what about the real Fort Knox? How does it actually provide protection for the $250 billion plus worth of gold bullion, which rests inside its vaults? We decided to look into just how well protected Fort Knox is. How exactly do you secure an amount of gold worth slightly more than the GDP of a medium-sized European nation?

Secrecy

The truth of the matter, unfortunately, is that we’re pretty uncertain about a lot of Fort Knox’s security, which is one of its main strengths. Whilst some information has emerged (see below) and been confirmed by a variety of sources, a lot of how Fort Knox works is cloaked in high-level secrecy. They could tell us, but they’d have to kill us! You can’t beat a security system if you don’t know what the security system is in the first place.

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Ground radar

Also known as a ‘virtual tripwire’, Fort Knox’s radar is powerful enough to detect objects 15,000 feet away and can alert controllers as to whether the object is likely to be a moving vehicle or a loitering person. This type of early warning system helps the reserve to patrol the open area around the site, designed to give guards clear sight lines.

Automatic flooding

Several reports claim that one of the defences within the building itself is a system which triggers a flood, if an intruder is detected. There’s no clear indication of where exactly the system operates (some say corridors, some say within the vaults themselves), but similar systems, in other reserves around the world, make it extremely likely that should someone manage to get their hands on the gold, they might get a little wet on the way out.

A large number of personnel

Fort Knox itself is actually a military base of around 30,000 personnel, all of whom can be called upon if needed. The Reserve area also has its own force: the United States Mint Police, whose sole job it is to protect the US’ gold holdings.

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A lot of complexity

There’s plenty of complexity when it comes to valuing, storing and protecting Fort Knox gold.  That complexity is utilised across every part of the base’s working processes. Staff work random shift patterns and have randomised access codes, no single one of which can open a single vault door. Anyone trying their luck wanting some of the US’ bullion, will not only have to successfully make it past all these complex defences but they’ll need a great head for numbers as well!

Daniel Fisher

Daniel Fisher formed physical Gold in 2008, after working in the financial industry for 20 years. He spent much of that time working within the new issue fixed income business at a top tier US bank. In this role, he traded a large book of fixed income securities, raised capital for some of the largest government, financial, and corporate institutions in the world and advised the leading global institutional investors. Daniel is CeFA registered and is a member of the Institute of Financial Planning.

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