Protecting Premises and People

Integrated security systems also keeps an eye on assets and processes

Today’s utilities sector is facing inevitable changes in economics, demand and customer behavior and, in many countries, new regulations with the potential for higher fines. To ease cost pressures, facility operators must find ways to improve a variety of elements within their buildings, including their security system.

The evolving threat scape for both cyber and physical security continues to expand from facility break-ins to high-profile system breaches. Key security issues facing the utilities sector include protection of physical premises and operational assets (from cybersecurity and physical intrusion and from internal and external theft), as well as protection against health and safety risks. Besides addressing these issues, utility companies must maintain the reliability of their systems, reduce overall risk and responsibly comply with industry regulations.

An integrated, cost-effective security system can play a key role in responding to these challenges.

Protection of Premises
To establish a safer and more secure environment, operators should consider integrated enterprise solutions such as radar and video analytics. Technologies include artificial intelligence-driven (AI) sensors that activate an alarm when an intruder enters a facility, and even gunshot detection that warns of a possible active shooter. These solutions can deter intruders, warn of potential threats and used to protect multiple sites.

Operators can also use enterprise video solutions to monitor remote sites such as power substations and telecom antennas. A central monitoring station can alert operators and store surveillance video on the cloud to help prevent the loss of evidence.

To help deter vandalism, operators can add two-way audio to an integrated security system that enables them to speak directly to potential vandals, who are less likely to cause damage if they knowing they are being monitored and recorded.

Protection of Assets
Utilities are prime cyber targets for activists, terrorists and hostile governments. According to a Cybersecurity Ventures report, cybercrime is projected to cause more than $6 trillion in damages during 2021.

Unauthorized access is a key challenge for many utility sites as it can result in theft, fraud, cybercrime and significant fines from regulation agencies. With an integrated enterprise security system, operators can protect assets through a single, centrally managed system, further preventing disruptions and/or major financial loss.

Sophisticated video analytics can help operators determine whether an apparent threat presents an actual danger or is something harmless like an animal or other object near a site’s perimeter.

Access control technologies are essential in making sure the right people use the right areas at the right time. For some companies, security rights have not been updated, and ex-employees may still have access to buildings. An integrated system, for example, can link security access to HR and payroll, where rights are automatically removed when an employee leaves the company.

This can help remove the potential for hacks – intentional or otherwise – that can come from within the building. For example, a current employee who has access to the facility could insert a thumb drive to upload malware onto the building system or inadvertently open an online portal that allows entry to bad actors.

Protection of People
Monitoring and controlling the movement of employees, visitors and contractors is critical in creating an effective security system. Sensors and cameras are integrated to monitor any lone workers who might need aid in the event of an accident or medical emergency. Cameras can also be supplemented by alarms so that employees have direct access to emergency response teams.

Additionally, utility companies can use an enterprise access-control system to manage compliance with corporate COVID-19 policies, generating compliance reports to understand daily occupancy at sites throughout an organization and determine if employees followed proper protocols to gain access to the sites.

Protection of Processes
Utility companies must continue to develop appropriate security standards considering new threats. Complying to government and regulatory initiatives (i.e., SIP and NERC) is critical, as noncompliance could create negative press, affect stock values, lead to heavy fines or even result in the loss of a business license.

Using tools from a security management solution rapidly provides the data and reports needed for audits to prove compliance. To add, compliance rules are constantly evolving so implementing a security system that continuously updates to meet the latest requirements can help companies stay on track.

From enterprise protection and access control to video technology and risk management — implementing an integrated security system ultimately provides a safer environment so that your premises, assets, people and processes can focus on operating at maximum efficiency.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2021 issue of Security Today.

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