Guest Post: Protecting a Vital Resource

Logan Harris by Logan Harris | 03.30.2015

Logan Harris is Founder and CEO of SpotterRF.

On April 16th, 2013, snipers opened fire at PG&E Corp’s Metcalf transmission substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. It took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the substation back to life. The perpetrators have not been caught.

stormy-spotterAs highlighted in a report on substation security by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the physical threat to substations is very real. If terrorists coordinated an attack to fire on and destroy nine of our substations and one transformer manufacturer, the entire United States power grid could be offline for more than a year. Nine substations is the equivalent of well under 1% of the number of substations that exist.

The California attack prompted utility companies to prepare for potential risks in the future. In fact, FERC recently sanctioned the revision of perimeter security standards for the physical security of transformers and substations. While many of the 55,000 substations in the United States are equipped with security measures such as fence sensors, thermal cameras, or microwave and passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors – almost none can detect and respond to threats beyond the fence.  So how can large areas beyond the fence line be covered, and with a technology that works day or night, through rain, fog and snow? With a compact surveillance radar or CSR.

Honeywell has partnered with SpotterRF, the leading manufacturer of compact surveillance radar (CSR), that packs up to 300 acres of radar coverage into a device that you can hold in your hand.  CSRs use a single Ethernet cable and less than 10 Watts to monitor anything that moves. The system can differentiate between human activity versus movement of animals or vegetation set in motion by the wind, therefore significantly reducing the number of false alarms. Once a movement is picked up by the system, a GPS tracker is placed on the threat and will be converted into an alarm if the threat moves into a sensitive area.

In combination with Honeywell Vindicator’s highly secure Command and Control platform, SpotterRF allows integrators to secure perimeters with Honeywell’s Pro-Watch access control and MAXPRO Video Management System. This provides an end-to-end, layered security solution that allows a single operator to monitor hundreds of sites from a single computer station.

The bottom line is that our nation relies heavily on electronics – and that dependence grows every day with rapidly advancing technology. In order to protect our infrastructure and our very way of life, additional security measures at critical substations are essential.