For Utility Security, Go Past the Headlines

Explore the overlooked threats of daily theft in utilities, and understand why enhancing physical security is crucial.

Incidents like the armed substation attack that knocked out power to 40,000 electrical customers in North Carolina regularly grab headlines. As does the constant threat of cyberattacks against critical infrastructure – including the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in 2021 which resulted in the shutdown of 5,500 miles of pipeline for the company that carries 45% of the East Coast’s fuel. While incidents like these can immediately impact tens of thousands of people and certainly pose a threat nationwide, they dominate the news cycle while a more frequent problem sits relatively untouched: day-in and day-out physical security in utilities. 

Petty Theft – A Constant Threat

Every day critical infrastructure sites packed with tools, material and equipment (including substations, cell towers, and laydown yards) are exposed with a target on their backs. For example, a man and a woman were recently arrested in Port Arthur, Texas, for stealing copper pipe from the local water utility. Likewise, the theft of copper wire recently caused a power outage in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Local officials said it was sadly not unusual, since the theft of copper-based items is rampant. And, tools were stolen from a crew working on a gas line in Houston, bringing work to a halt while they waited for replacements. 

While these incidents are limited in scope, they happen all the time, all over the country, and they add up to real losses. Petty theft and vandalism plague utilities as they often discover the theft of items when they need them most, including:

  • Tools – From power drills, to more industrial-sized equipment; nothing is off limits. 
  • Precious metals – In addition to copper-based and other materials with precious metals, thieves are after catalytic converters if vehicles are on-site. They contain precious metals that thieves can rip out and run off with in a hurry.
  • Batteries – You may think heavy equipment, including large batteries, is too big to be messed with, but think again.
  • Fuel – thieves will often siphon gas or diesel from generators or run off with fuel containers.

Finding out that you’re missing these materials when you’re in a pinch can create service delays and lead to increased costs which ultimately are passed down to customers.

Stay Up and Running with Remote Video Monitoring

Utilities are under immense pressure to provide a high level of service to customers amid factors that include both increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather events and the electrification of society. In this environment, the last thing utilities need is even further delays and losses caused by petty theft of materials and products they need.

Since thieves look for weak spots to exploit, utilities should work to shore up their least secure areas so they don’t become victims. This would include laydown yards, construction sites, service centers and remote locations like substations. These tend to be under-secured areas because they are remote or transient in nature. It might make little sense to put up permanent security infrastructure when the site is relatively small and remote, or may be gone in a matter of weeks, months or even years. It is also cost-prohibitive to secure these sites with live guards. This is why thieves know they can hit them – it is unlikely they will get caught if they do.

Pro-Vigil helps utilities stem losses and stay up and running. Our fixed and mobile security solutions can expand and contract the “security footprint” for utilities on demand. This allows utilities to secure their full operations – including remote and transient sites − rather than just fixed central locations. For more information, contact Pro-Vigil today.

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