Electric Substation Security

While the NERC CIP-014 physical security standard targets approximately 1,500 critical substations across the U.S., protection for the more than 55,000 non-CIP-014 transmission sites continues to be a focus for the power industry. The high price of copper has escalated the frequency of wire, pipe and tubing theft from substations in recent years. According to CIGRE, 88 percent of substations experience at least one break-in every year. Ten percent see more than 20 intrusions in the same time frame. The costs of the copper theft alone can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The cost of replacement isn’t the only damage done by copper and other materials theft. Criminals aren’t known for their careful entry and exits when trespassing, and they will often do a great deal of damage to fences, gates, and even equipment in the process of stealing wire or pipe. The cost to repair a site after it has been burglarized can easily exceed the cost of the materials stolen, to say nothing of the costs of downtime.

Substations are located in residential communities, urban areas and often times in remote rural locations. Yes, eight-foot high chain link fences with simple signage that warn of a security system and threaten intruders with police action will keep honest people from entering. And yes, substation owners have begun taking some precautions, such as painting or marking wiring, to alert scrap yards that copper has been stolen. However, neither of these has not stopped thieves from breaking into substations — often with lethal consequences, along with the associated liability beyond potentially disrupting electrical services. Even if criminals get away unscathed, the safety of the substation may have been compromised.

Substation Security Is More Than Just a Fence

Most substations are unmanned and protected chiefly by chain-link fences and a padlock on the entrance gate. Few have cameras or electronic security of any kind, and when security cameras and alarms are in use, they’re often not regularly monitored, leaving break-ins unnoticed until after the damage is done. When it comes to securing substations, real-time awareness is critical for preventing copper theft, vandalism, accidents and other activities that could disrupt the stability of the power grid.

The only way to stop these criminals from stealing from substation sites is to capture them “in the act.” RadiusVision’s video verified substation security system does just that.

Video verified alarm systems can be installed anywhere there is a cell service — no need for power cords, phone lines or internet services. If an intrusion occurs at a substation, night or day, the camera captures a 10 second video that is immediately sent to our Central Station Monitoring center for video verification. If a human or vehicle has been confirmed, Central Station Monitoring will call the police. A verified video alarm is a Priority Response from the police, it is a verified “crime in progress”.  Our system delivers faster police response to an actual crime because the human operators filter out false alarms, such as squirrel scurrying in front of the camera.

We design each video verified intrusion detection system for a specific location. The system will be programmed, bench tested and documented prior to shipping. Simply install the battery powered wireless cameras, control panel and arming device (keypad or badge reader). Other warning devices such as high intensity strobe lights and sirens may be installed to further escalate the response. We train an individual on system operation and provide technical support. If any programming changes are required, we remote into the system to make any changes.

As a standalone burglar alarm system, our video verified alarm system can be added to existing alarm installations as an “upgrade kit” providing wireless video verification as an enhancement to the current system. Plus, have peace of mind, even when on the go. An interactive smartphone app makes it easy to arm and disarm the system.

Substations are important mechanisms that, when left unprotected, leave homes, businesses and even entire cities vulnerable. RadiusVision’s video verified alarm security system can economically protect your substations 24/7/365 from costly break-ins. But don’t just take our word on it, read how Washington state’s Puget Sound Energy employed video verified alarm systems to greatly reduce their substation break-ins.