Securing critical infrastructure; it’s more than perimeter protection

Joe Morgan

When you talk about securing critical infrastructure, the challenge is threefold: secure the property, secure the processes and secure the safety of personnel. But that doesn’t mean you have to triple your investment in security systems. With IP-based technology, it’s possible to achieve all three goals with one solution. By integrating existing network cameras and video analytics with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) sensors and mass communication systems, security solutions now have the intelligence and versatility to address virtually any scenario from attempted sabotage to equipment failure and emergency evacuation.

Keeping out the bad guys

Whether the intent is sabotage or copper theft or other mischief, the traditional job of security systems has been to keep bad guys off the property. In that respect, the critical infrastructure industry has become quite proficient at integrating network cameras with radar, ground and fence sensors and other technologies to detect people and objects where they shouldn’t be. They’re using thermal cameras in isolated, lowlight or dark facilities like substations to spot the heat signature of intruders lurking in the shadows or trying to camouflage themselves in the surroundings. As an extra layer of protection, they’re even integrating network audio systems into these solutions to warn off trespassers.

Employing intelligent onboard analytics the systems can:

  • Verify the validity of the threat and assess its nature.
  • Save money by eliminating responses to false alarms
  • Provide valuable data for AI and machine learning integration

While these integrated solutions work well for perimeter security, the industry is quickly discovering they can also exploit this technology to mitigate other high priority concerns.

Keeping systems up and running

Downtime is an anathema for critical infrastructure. As such, facilities must continuously monitor processes to forestall costly repairs and shutdowns. Security cameras are particularly well-suited to the task of process security. A pan-tilt-zoom camera can easily shift from monitoring a fence line and zoom in to read a dial on a critical piece of equipment. Armed with advanced thermal imaging technology and isothermal analytics, a thermal camera can detect subtle temperature variances that could indicate overheating ball bearings, a blocked valve or a leaky pipe. Because of their onboard intelligence and versatility, security cameras can be used to measure tank levels, monitor refinery flare stacks, even help operators avert wide-scale electrical outages by predicting transformer and switch gear failures at power substations.

By integrating network surveillance with production monitoring systems like SCADA, critical infrastructures can:

  • Inspect processes and verify that they are running correctly
  • Visually assess reported failures
  • Facilitate predictive maintenance and trend monitoring
  • Provide remote maintenance assistance via integration with network audio systems

Having the network surveillance system do double duty—protect the premises and protect processes against inefficiencies and costly down time—doubles the return on investment. It also provides an opportunity to share the cost of surveillance between several departments.

And when you throw in health and safety, network surveillance delivers a trifecta of benefits.

Keeping people out of harm’s way

We all know critical infrastructures can be dangerous places. High voltage wires . . . combustible chemicals . . . hazardous waste. With potential threats around every corner, safety is a major issue. Here, too, surveillance cameras can play a pivotal role in mitigating risks. They can trigger alerts when they detect personnel entering dangerous or off-limit areas such as tunnels, railway tracks and bridges. In the case of thermal cameras, they can detect early-warning signs that self-igniting material, such as dust or oily rags, are about to combust. Equally important, in an emergency they can track heat signatures to ensure everyone evacuates safely. In case of harmful emissions or a chemical spill, they can identify safe exit routes that avoid the vented discharge or flow.

By combining network video with access control and intelligent analytics, critical infrastructures can protect the health and safety of their workers, the public and the surrounding environment. The technology can help management:

  • Visually monitor policy adherence and evaluate risks in real time
  • Control access to restricted areas
  • Track and support rescue teams and confirm evacuations

Triple duty from a single investment

A critical infrastructure’s site security plan needs to address all three areas of risk: traditional physical security, process security and safety security. Because a network surveillance system can handle multiple duties simultaneously, they’re able to help facilities achieve superior intrusion detection, more reliable operations and a safer, healthier environment for their workforce. It’s like getting three systems in one: triple the duty and triple the return on investment.

Learn more about securing critical infrastructure.

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