Keeping the UK’s water supply flowing
The terror threat to the nation’s critical national infrastructure needs to be strongly considered by the site managers of utility sites, says Matthew Grimley of the British Security Industry Association, who examines how to protect water works from potential terrorist attacks.
Water is a fundamental resource and the availability of reliable, safe water supplies is vital for human welfare and economic development. The UK relies on a complex water infrastructure to provide a water supply to homes and businesses across the country and to remove and treat wastewater. These two services are arguably the most critical services afforded to UK citizens and an attack on these types of facility by terrorist organisations could be catastrophic.
In 2011, the disclosure of the US Department of Homeland Security’s warning of a potential threat to utility facilities in the US served as a stark reminder of the ongoing vulnerability of infrastructure in utilities sectors across the globe. Utility companies have, in fact, never been more exposed to risks than in today’s climate, where threats include terrorism, natural disaster, theft and internal crime. As such a critical part of the nation’s ability to sustain itself, the protection of key sites and network infrastructure has become not only essential, but also high on the political agenda.
To this end, the UK government has already taken specific actions to ensure the safety and preparedness, for example, of the nation’s water supply in the event of terrorist attacks, by enacting laws, developing guidelines and providing financial assistance to tighten security across the private sector. The Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) has advised private sector organisations, particularly those who own parts of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), on specific design improvements to protect them from the effects of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) agents. On top of recommendations by the CPNI, there is also a need for the private sector organisations that manage elements of the CNI to systematically upgrade and maintain their security suites to protect their facilities.
Protection starts at the perimeter
The defence of water works sites needs to start at the perimeter. In essence, perimeter protection is the first line of defence against any potential intrusions by unauthorised individuals. It is advisable for perimeter fencing to be installed and, where possible, using additional features such as barbed wire, razor wire coils or rotating toppings. The addition of these highly visible extensions are normally enough to deter would be intruders, however, further protection can be added by electrifying the fence or adding an electrified extension which is well signed.
Complementing the perimeter protection with strategically placed cameras can further enhance the security of water works sites. CCTV cameras can often deter would-be intruders from breaching a perimeter, but, in the instance of an intrusion, CCTV cameras can provide early detection, and crucially, collect evidence to be used in prosecution.
Due to the 24-hour nature of water works sites, a system that can protect the site around the clock would be advisable. The monitoring of CCTV systems can be outsourced to a remote monitoring centre where trained professionals can keep a watchful eye and respond to any potential threats accordingly. For maximum efficiency, the deployment of motion detectors incorporated with a CCTV system can ensure that the cameras only start rolling when movement is detected.
The wider availability and affordability of thermal imaging cameras has seen them become an increasingly more mainstream security product and they are well suited to the surveillance of water works sites.
Thermal imaging cameras produce images of invisible infrared or heat radiation by comparing the differences in temperature between different objects. Since thermal cameras are not reliant on visible light, they are able to produce images in zero light or adverse weather conditions. Perhaps most usefully – in the context of water works sites which often have large expanses of water-thermal cameras remove certain scene complexities such as reflections on surface water, thus providing powerful surveillance capability in all weather conditions.
It is important to stress however, that particularly in a surveillance context, thermal cameras should form part of the solution rather than be the sole component. An integrated approach is recommended because at present it is simply not possible to achieve facial recognition with thermal cameras. Thermal cameras excel in detecting that someone is there who should not be so that further action can be taken, however, for prosecution purposes, a thermal imaging camera should always be backed up with a conventional CCTV camera to confirm a person’s identity.
Access Control Systems
Protecting access to these sites is a fine balance, in enabling ease of access to authorised individuals and in creating a secure, robust barrier to those who are not. Here, access control systems come into their own. Access control systems consist of three key components known as the physical barrier, the identification device and the door controller software. The physical barrier usually consists of a door or gate - which should comply with the essential British Standard PAS 24-1 ‘Doors of Enhanced Security’ – and secured with a magnetic or strike lock. The identification device provides authorised individuals with a method for gaining entry through the physical barrier, usually in the form of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), smart card and reader, swipe card and reader or PIN entry pads. Door controller software makes the decision on who can gain access, through which entry points and at which times of the day.
Using unique identifiers, access control technology can also be used to track attendance and time in/time out, useful for both HR purposes, but also for tracking the movement of engineers visiting remote sites.
Indeed, the utilities sector is characterised by its large number of remote locations that are used by a variety of people on a daily basis.
Remote locations have to be secure yet accessible 24 hours a day. With maintenance visits being irregular and often conducted by different staff, keys constantly change hands, increasing the security risk and potentially resulting in theft, vandalism or even acts of terrorism. Therefore, reliable and professional security companies will understand that, due to the nature of many of the remote sites in the utilities sector, there is a requirement for robust solutions, with security systems offering physical security as well as flexibility in terms of access control. Products should offer temporary access to mobile employees whilst balancing the need for high security, the ability to withstand attack and cope with potentially corrosive conditions due to extreme weather. Nowadays, access control products such as readers can offer temporary PIN access via SMS or card-based access assigning user rights via GSM systems, ensuring the sector’s need for flexible and secure solutions can be met.
As mentioned, the integration of access control systems with sturdy physical security equipment can also prove valuable, with the market continuing to become highly dependent on CEN-rated padlocks and, indeed, alternatives to padlocks that offer specially designed shields to prevent attack to the cylinders within.
A holistic approach to security
With the sheer number of security considerations that a site manager must take on board – of which only a few have been mentioned in this article – a holistic approach is often the best tactic to achieve a comprehensive security plan.
However, it can be an extremely difficult process deciding on the best security strategies to put in place, especially on complex sites such as water works sites. Making the most informed choices when choosing different technologies and security methods can be a daunting task, particularly for those who are not familiar with all the different technologies available on the market. Although advice relating to security against potential acts of terrorism is available through CPNI, site managers may wish to contact specialist security services, such as security consultants who are experts in the private security field.
Security consultancies can provide guidance on procuring security solutions and advice in which solutions will be the most appropriate for each site. A consultant will conduct a thorough risk assessment of a site, allowing them to provide essential advice on security reviews and audits, the development of security policies and strategies, system design, tender management and security awareness training. Working closely with their clients, consultants are able to identify threats and ensure that business continuity is addressed.