The Evolution of Substation Security Walls
In days gone by, substations were typically located on the outskirts of populated areas and surrounded by chain link fence. As development expanded, many of the substations that were originally on the periphery, found themselves now in the heart of communities and surrounded by residential, industrial and commercial development.
To shield the substation infrastructure from view, oftentimes colored plastic slats were inserted in the chain link fence to block off the line of sight. Substation walls in populated areas began to transition to masonry to hide equipment in some cases. But as prices of copper increased, it rapidly became the target of thieves. As substations were breached and penetrated by cutting through chain link fences to steal copper, perpetrators have suffered injury, and in some cases, death by electrocution.
To further mitigate theft and vandalism, and maintain safety, substation perimeters have increasingly adopted more solid perimeter walls, initially in the form of concrete block wall but over the past 15 to 20 years, precast concrete walls have gained more and more popularity. One of the primary reasons is that precast concrete walls install faster and offer more decorative finishes than conventional masonry. Additionally, when taller walls are required, precast concrete security walls tend to be less expensive to build than CMU walls, since continuous foundations are not required, thus reducing costs.
Terrorist Targets Are Not Limited to Military Sites
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, it could deny large regions of the country access to bulk system power for weeks or even months.” In addition, “Terrorist attacks on multiple-line transmission corridors could cause cascading blackouts.”
Keeping power grids up and running is crucial to national security, and terrorism through a 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.