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Understanding Substation Perimeter Security Requirements

AFTEC Precast Security Wall System for substation security meets the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NERC requirements to increase security for sensitive and critical assets.

Terrorist Targets Are Not Limited to just Military Sites

Although many people think of terrorist targets as limited to military sites, this isn’t true. A report entitled "Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System," written by the National Academy of Sciences in 2007 and declassified in 2012, declared that "If [a terrorist attack] were carried out in a carefully planned way, by people who knew what they were doing, it could deny large regions of the country access to bulk system power for weeks or even months.”

In addition, the report states, "Terrorist attacks on multiple-line transmission corridors could cause cascading blackouts,” which is when the systems that try to make up for the power failure themselves become overloaded and black out. Keeping power grids up and running is crucial to national security, and terrorism through physical attack is just as potentially damaging as through cyber-intrusion.

Luckily, concrete barriers systems provide a partial answer by making physical terrorist attacks on power substations more difficult, and therefore less likely.

Physical Security Measures for Transformers

As of January 26, 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standard for physical security measures from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). After conducting extensive simulations of possible attacks, the combined organizations created this standard to protect power stations. While each substation is different, the proposed measures fall into general categories:

  • Information security such as blueprints, models or site security information
  • Surveillance and monitoring of stations using cameras, motion detectors, drones and more
  • Restricting physical access using physical barriers and operational protocols
  • Shielding assets with fencing or walls
  • Making substations more resistant to physical attack

Summary of CIP 014 Standard Requirements and Corresponding Deadlines

Guidelines for Upgrading Physical Substation Security

The Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standard was issued in response to an order on March 7, 2014 calling for the creation of security assessments determining which areas were high-risk, and for those areas, an increase in security measures that would reduce vulnerability to attack.

The order defined a critical facility as “one that, if rendered inoperable or damaged, could have a critical impact on the operation of the interconnection through instability, uncontrolled separation or cascading failures on the Bulk-Power System.” The order then detailed steps such critical facilities should take:

  1. owners or operators of the Bulk-Power System should conduct risk assessments to determine which of their assets are critical;
  2. evaluate what the threats are to those critical assets or facilities; and
  3. create and implement a security plan that would protect against or prevent the possible attacks identified in the assessment

Selecting Materials and Security Barrier Systems

Although barriers systems come in many shapes and forms, precast concrete stands out from the crowd. Not only has it stepped up as one the of the most popular and attractive impact-rated security barriers, it has some serious advantages over other types of construction. The main one is metal, which often performs many of the same duties as precast concrete, but not as well.

Although metal is incredibly strong, lightweight, and easy to manipulate or create in small shapes and easily handled during construction, it has serious drawbacks. For one thing, it is a very high-maintenance material, requiring frequent painting or coating to prolong its life and combat corrosion in addition to other types of maintenance. For another, it does not meld easily with other construction elements, so it can be harder to incorporate attractively and functionally into a preexisting design.

Precast concrete does not have such problems. It is highly resistant to corrosion, low-maintenance, very durable and usually less expensive. It blends well with urban environments while still performing its critical security functions. For all of these reasons, substations and other facilities that require security barriers should consider precast concrete in their designs, if they haven’t already.

Going Forward with Substation Perimeter Security

No owner or operator of a Bulk-Power System substation is likely to want to lay out a bunch of time and expense, but in this case, the protection offered by erecting a precast concrete barrier could truly pay back the outlay a hundredfold. By preventing terrorist attacks and the resulting blackouts or cascading power failures, security barriers become more than worth it.

Unfortunately, the commonly used unguarded chain link fence just won’t cut it. The April 16, 2013 attack on a California substation, which took out 17 transformers by cutting telephone lines and opening fire through its fence, proved that. Stronger measures, such as a precast concrete security barrier, are needed to protect substations as well as the grid overall. Other measures to implement include beefing up lighting, installing cameras and instituting exclusion protocols to keep possible terrorists out.

Power Substation Protection - Rapid Installation, Long Lasting Protection & Cost Effective

Power Substation Protection - Rapid Installation, Long Lasting Protection & Cost Effective

AFTEC Precast Security Wall System for substation security meets the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NERC requirements to increase security for sensitive and critical assets. Our concrete security walls and fences are available in a variety of heights, are easily customized for the installation and use of security attachments such as gates, razor or barbed wire, wrought iron with spikes, security cameras, security lighting, sirens or a combination of any of these to ensure the area being enclosed is protected at all times.

AFTEC Utility Security Barriers are the efficient solution to enclose utility projects, protect high-voltage apparatus or specialized utility equipment from unauthorized personnel, and define boundaries. Perhaps best of all, our Combo-Cast™ technology reduces costs dramatically and a three man crew can install up to 1,000 feet of a six-foot high precast concrete wall daily! If you're interested in obtaining AFTEC security fences to protect your assets, call 866-370-3676 today.

Avatar for Gale Stott

Gale Stott

Owner of Aftec, LLC., worldwide leader in design and manufacture of precast concrete fence forming systems for fencing applications.
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