Mesh Meets Mining - Video surveillance bolsters safety, security at Wyoming operation

Mesh Meets Mining

Video surveillance bolsters safety, security at Wyoming operation

Mesh meets mining large - wireless securityFMC Corp. is a diversified, chemical company with leading positions in agricultural, industrial and consumer markets. Since the company’s inception in 1883, FMC has been providing solutions to companies worldwide and to their customers. Today, FMC uses an array of advanced technologies in research and development to improve the delivery of medications, enhance foods and beverages, power batteries, protect crop yields and advance the manufacture of glass, plastics, paper, textiles and other products.

FMC owns and operates the largest trona mining and soda ash processing plant in Wyoming’s Green River Basin and is recognized as the world’s No. 1 producer of natural soda ash, offering a secure, reliable, diverse range of high-quality, product choices. Soda ash has been used in manufacturing for more than 5,000 years. Ancient Egyptians recovered the product from dry lake-bed deposits or manufactured it by burning seaweed and other marine plants. The product was first used to make glass ornaments, bake bread and for medicinal purposes.

Located on the high plains of southwestern Wyoming, the Green River Basin holds the world’s largest reserves of trona ore that is mined at depths between 800 and 1,600 feet, and then brought to the surface to be processed into soda ash. Deep in the underground mines, employees work in noisy, dimly-lit conditions amid clouds of trona dust. On the surface, mine workers operate heavy machinery to process the extracted trona into powdery soda ash. Today, soda ash is a significant global economic commodity because of its applications in manufacturing glass, chemicals, paper, detergents, textiles, food and more.

Mine Safety: Always Prepared for the Unlikely

Historically, the very nature of the mining industry places miners and operators in extremely harsh and dangerous environmental conditions that are deemed hazardous and have led to injury, illness and even death. Today’s miners continue to battle extreme workplace conditions in remote areas, but due to technological advances, the mining industry is turning the tables on the “hazardous” stereotype that has plagued the industry for years.

FMC places the highest priority on protecting the environment and the dedicated people who work their facilities. FMC has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of all their employees, business partners, neighbors and customers. Providing a safe and healthy work environment is paramount to protecting all involved and maintaining successful, business operations. Throughout FMC, investing time, money and resources into safety training to prepare for worst-case scenarios and working closely with local emergency responders is a top company priority.

The mine rescue teams at FMC’s Granger, Wyo., site consistently rank in the top echelon of national, emergency-preparedness competitions. While trainers throughout the year prepare for mine emergency response, the team hopes they never have to use it. One of the key tools FMC relies on for security and emergency response situations is a state-of-the-art, wireless-mesh video network.

Harsh Environment, Lack of Existing Fiber

Designing a reliable, high-performance wireless network for FMC’s soda ash mine in Wyoming was particularly challenging and required careful selection of network equipment that would accommodate the wide range of environmental forces. The customer required the outdoor network to be capable of withstanding temperatures that drop to minus 40 degrees during winter; high temperatures greater than 100 degrees F.; heavy snowfall; extreme, high winds and a dusty, soda ash, mine environment.

To help determine the most cost-effective, workplace safety and security system, the operations team at FMC turned to SimplexGrinnell, a security systems integrator that designs, engineers, manages and deploys security, fire, life safety and property protection systems. After thorough investigation and site surveys, SimplexGrinnell concluded that FMC’s soda ash mine required an extremely robust and reliable, wireless video surveillance solution to monitor the mine sites and provide a higher level of workplace safety and security.

Given the limited existing cable and fiber infrastructure, it was clear that FMC needed a wireless mesh network that could support the bandwidth required for capturing high-quality video, while providing instantaneous control of high-performance PTZ cameras. After looking over several wireless vendors, SimplexGrinnell selected Firetide to supply the wireless infrastructure, mesh, video network to monitor the 40-square-mile plant and including its operations.

“In the past, FMC could only have cameras in the limited areas where cabled infrastructure was available,” said Robert Oldham, integrated security solutions expert for SimplexGrinnell. “Firetide’s wireless infrastructure, mesh networks allow FMC to easily and cost-effectively expand their video surveillance network to cover more mine shaft sites and to provide an increased level of security that would not have been otherwise possible. The ability to deploy high-quality video and PTZ camera control to remote locations eliminated the need for remote servers or video recording systems and allowed us to place the expensive servers and storage at a centralized, secure location and then deploy cameras anywhere needed, dramatically increasing the reliability and serviceability of the system.”

Wireless Mesh Infrastructure Solution

Industrial mining sites have a variety of security and communications challenges that can be quickly and costeffectively solved with wireless mesh networks. Wireless mesh enables rapid deployment of wireless networking infrastructure to provide protection and connectivity 24/7 for employee mobility, real-time video surveillance, LAN extension and VoIP/radio over IP communications. With a wireless mesh network, mining operations can realize the benefits of IP-based access control, theft prevention, asset protection, infiltration or vandalism prevention, employee safety, evidentiary records procurement and secure communications.

At FMC, the wireless mesh network connects IP video cameras located at multiple plantwide locations, enabling security staff to centrally monitor activity from a command center 24/7. The wireless network enables FMC’s security forces to view large areas surrounding the mine shaft sites in real time, providing the ability to make informed decisions depending on the urgency and type of response that is needed for each incident. With the ability to view live video feeds, the network improves overall safety and enables faster dispatch of security and safety officers where and when they are needed.

The ability to deploy high-quality video and PTZ camera control to remote locations eliminated the need for remote servers or video recording systems, and allowed FMC to place the expensive servers and storage at a centralized secure location and then deploy cameras anywhere they were needed, increasing reliability and serviceability.

“This wireless network opens up the door for us to deploy excellent video surveillance at virtually any location for a fraction of the cost of deploying cable or fiber,” said FMC’s Cristian Diaz. “Furthermore, the quality of the wireless network enables us to provide a backbone that enables camera operators to have instantaneous control of the video cameras. It is always a huge relief for IT when we can provide a fast, reliable, standalone network for our video cameras, eliminating the need for us to consume business-use, network bandwidth.”

The video security system at FMC’s Wyoming soda ash mine currently includes 14 Firetide HotPort 7020 mesh nodes, Firetide HotView Pro network management software and 25 Panasonic IP PTZ cameras. The wireless network and video cameras are not only used in emergency response situations, but they also act as deterrents for falseinjury claims and theft of construction materials. Video feeds are securely stored for 45 days and can be used as effective evidence in court, reducing time and expenses for prosecuting cases.

FMC and SimplexGrinnell began deploying Firetide’s wireless infrastructure mesh in 2010. As the value of the wireless network became increasingly noticeable, funds were allocated yearly for new expansion phases. The network continues to grow and is currently being expanded to provide additional coverage to the mine and plant facilities.

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Security Today.

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