Security Unplugged

In remote or large-scale outdoor environments where copper theft and other criminal activities pose as challenging problems, video surveillance is key to managing assets and providing companies a means of recovery following a disaster.

To outsmart criminals who go to great lengths to disguise their appearance, video security, with integrated cameras and sensors, aims to apprehend thieves during a crime. Specifically, night-vision cameras, integrated with PIR motion sensors, linked to a 24/7 monitoring station can instantly deliver an e-mail containing a 10- second video clip to a site manager and law enforcement. Verified crime-in-progress calls receive a higher priority response.

The idea is to catch criminals red-handed, making hoods, hats and masks irrelevant. These types of systems have helped address outdoor security needs in communications, utilities and transportation industries.

The Communication Industry
Protecting tower infrastructure is important, as cell networks and broadcasting are key components in disaster recovery and business continuity in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. Recently, cell, radio and television towers have been targeted by copper thieves, and the major carriers have been seeking an affordable solution that is cost effective and easy to deploy. AT&T recently finished a 12-month pilot program in Texas to combat a growing copper theft problem that was costing the company thousands of dollars. Thieves have been targeting the copper grounding bars and air conditioners on the outside of shelters, at the base of towers and on the inside of grounding halos.

While the copper stolen may total only a few hundred dollars, the cost to repair the infrastructure ranges in the thousands. Working with SNC of Hutchinson, Kan., AT&T installed Videofied security systems at 25 cell towers to secure the towers and shelters housing the communications equipment. The solution was entirely wireless and required no AC power. Transmission of the alarms and video footage was sent over the cell network.

Before the systems were installed, cell tower sites reported losses of more than $100,000 for 2006-2007. Twelve months after installation, there were no reported thefts or criminal activities at 18 of the 25 locations. Five sites reported criminal activity, but five arrests were made in four of the incidents.

It was clear the Videofied systems deterred thefts, since other tenants at the cell tower sites shared by AT&T continued to be plagued by copper thefts.

“We are now deploying Videofied to problem sites across the entire AT&T network,” said Mike Korbuly, vice president at SNC. “Other carriers and tower owners are approaching us now to help solve their copper theft problems.”

Protecting Utilities
Copper theft also has been a major issue for public utilities, where electrical substations use thousands of dollars of copper. In many cases, a fence and a locking gate were the only security provided. As copper prices have risen, substations have suffered losses of everything from copper grounds on perimeter fence poles to transformer windings to the large copper grounding grid installed under the gravel pad. While some of sites are equipped with CCTV, PTZ cameras are not cost effective for broad deployment and have not been effective in providing solid identifications. Major utilities, including Progress Energy, Entergy, Edison, Northeastern Utilities and NSTAR, have installed and tested the new outdoor Videofied security system.

“Our return on investment on the first installation by Intelligent Access Systems was achieved in three days,” said Brian Smith, lead security specialist at Progress Energy. “We installed our first system and, on the third day of operation, the system was activated by an intruder who, in turn, was apprehended onsite by local law enforcement. Due to the great success of the pilot system, Progress Energy will be deploying more Videofied units throughout our tri-state enterprise during the next year.”

Ron Oetjen, president of Intelligent Access Systems of North Carolina, a regional security integrator based in Raleigh, N.C., said they have installed five similar security systems at major electrical utility companies.

“It is an effective solution for our customers at an attractive price,” Oetjen said. “Our customers are happy, and we intend to be a leader in this market.”

The typical substation installation uses 10 cameras/sensors mounted to the substation infrastructure. There are no wires, power or communications, so cameras and communicators can be mounted anywhere for optimal effectiveness. Even with the noisy RF environment of a substation, the wireless system has a range of hundreds of feet between the cameras and the cell communicator panel.

Transportation Systems
The Metro Transit System in Washington, D.C., is a good example of why public transportation needs copper theft protection. The Metro trains are powered by electricity that is delivered over copper wire. Securing this copper from theft is critical to keeping the system running efficiently. Metro Transit Police had installed hundreds of traditional wired CCTV cameras, which provided surveillance in many areas of the transit system.

What they needed, however, was video security that could be installed immediately to respond to specific threats in real time. Videofied was deployed and is delivering immediate security in the nation’s capital.

“The Videofied system is ideal. We can set it up in less than five minutes with no site preparation, pre-wiring or AC power,” said Kenneth Honick, a detective with the Metro Transit Police. “The integrated night vision is important as many areas of concern have no lighting.”

Another area of transportation affected by copper theft is the air traffic control system. The system uses hundreds of radar towers distributed across the country. FAA remote radar towers have been plagued by copper theft, subsequently impairing system performance. Some towers have been hit as many as a dozen times, and an affordable solution was necessary.

Avoiding false alarms was a key issue because the sites were remote and fines are expensive. They needed a solution that could provide video alerts to verify an actual intrusion with enough time to send law enforcement. And, with no easy power or network access, the remoteness of these sites were difficult for traditional CCTVs. Battery-powered systems using the cell network was a solution.

“In addition to being simple, people need to understand that this solution sends the video of the intruder immediately to the monitoring station for dispatch over the cell network,” said Don Green of Contact Security. “Police are responding faster to an actual crime in progress.”

New autonomous video security has been successful at securing outdoor assets and infrastructure and preventing disruptions in services caused by copper theft. While CCTV and surveillance play an important role, simple wireless video security can enhance these systems and deliver results with cost-effective equipment and immediate installations.

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Security Products.

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