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Kai Moncino, Director of Global Business Development, Security, Teledyne FLIR examines how thermal cameras safeguard remote substation perimeters.

Security personnel must be able to quickly detect unauthorised vehicles and individuals at critical infrastructure sites. Without intrusion detection, entities like electrical substations can be subject to physical attacks. 88% of substations experience at least one break-in every year and 10% see more than 20 intrusions in the same time frame, according to CIGRE, a global electricity industry organisation. To safeguard remote substations from external threats, electric utilities are relying on durable thermal cameras for superior monitoring and protection.

Top pain points

The failure of a key substation caused by a security breach would have a debilitating effect for homeowners, businesses and mission-critical infrastructure. While physical security is a top priority for utilities, designing, installing and operating a perimeter system requires skill. Remote location, limited network connectivity, minimal lighting, internal security audits and compliance with North American Electric Reliability Corporation are some of the challenges that both substation security directors and system integrators face.

Thermal for your Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS)

Since their arrival on the mainstream security scene a few decades ago, thermal security cameras have quickly become the optimal solution for remote substation perimeter security, due to their ability to monitor perimeters day and night in adverse weather conditions as well as in harsh environments.

Thermal cameras measure the minute differences in heat signatures emitted by objects and people to produce high-contrast images and reliable intrusion detection. They enable security personnel to detect an intruder before they ever reach the perimeter for early intervention.

As the industry leader in advanced thermal technology, FLIR provides the best sensor quality available. FLIR’s total security solution featuring a diverse suite of perimeter cameras offers the widest selection of lenses and detection ranges, adaptable to both large and small deployments. FLIR’s track record of success is just one of the reasons why utilities choose FLIR cameras time and again.

Design recommendations

When deploying thermal cameras at substations, there are several factors to consider to optimise performance. Here are some tips from our FLIR experts.

Identify what you need to protectAssess your substation’s unique needs, define your threats and determine which area you need to monitor. For rural or small substations miles away from the nearest city, position your cameras so you have a solid view of the outside perimeter. If anyone approaches, you want to have ample warning. For substations in urban areas that are next to public lands and walkways, it may not be cost-effective to “look out” as pedestrians can easily generate nuisance alerts. In these scenarios, thermal cameras that surveil directly along the fence of the substation may be the better option.

Make the most of existing infrastructure: Thermal cameras must be mounted at a minimum of 12-15 feet above the ground. However, some substation fences are only 6-8 feet tall. In this case, consider mounting cameras on telephone poles or tower structures. Utilising these existing structures instead of digging new trenches can save you both time and money. 

In order to minimise construction infrastructure costs, highly secure wireless communications devices such as Siklu mmWave Radios are an excellent alternative to fibre. They have been proven alongside FLIR thermal cameras in the most demanding installations, including deployments at nuclear power plants.

Select the right camera for your application: For large substations deploying FLIR Elara FC-Series ID cameras, which feature onboard analytics, along the fence line will provide optimal threat detection. Pairing a pan-tilt camera with both visible and thermal streams, such as the FLIR Elara DX-Series or FLIR Triton PT-Series, completes the solution with excellent threat assessment capabilities. For smaller facilities, the FLIR Elara FB-Series is a great, economical option and can be paired with the FLIR Saros DM-Series for threat assessment. Install a visible camera or a camera that provides both thermal and optical imagers, like FLIR Saros DH-390 Dome at the gate, to monitor general traffic.

As a final consideration, choose the right software to streamline management, operations and functionality. For large applications where customers need to manage surveillance, access control, radar and other disparate systems on one platform, consider command and control software such as FLIR’s Cameleon V5 Enterprise. Cameleon is highly configurable to address challenges that are unique to each application, while bringing together numerous systems into a single pane of glass. The architecture allows for the addition of new devices and systems using IP connectivity without modifying the core software. In addition, clients can simultaneously log into multiple servers from anywhere in the world.

For enterprise-level surveillance operations, a video management system is optimal and for small applications using just a few cameras, a network video recorder is sufficient. A part of the FLIR United VMS 9.0 family, Latitude is the preferred enterprise-level IP surveillance system with forensic-quality imaging and user-friendly operations. Using the latest technology, FLIR Latitude is a powerful and versatile network VMS featuring enhanced cybersecurity, edge device integration and global administration. The scalable architecture efficiently supports systems of any size and can be implemented throughout an enterprise spanning multiple sites, cities and continents. United VMS enables security managers to access system status, alarms and video from anywhere at any time using EZ Client for mobile devices.

Regardless of the size of the project, partner with an expert team that can help assess, design, install and program the right system for your application.

For more information, visit: www.flir.co.uk

This article was originally published in the January 2022 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here.

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