An attack last spring, at the Metcalf Transmission Substation outside San Jose, Calif., is raising concerns that there may be a concerted effort to attack and sabotage the U.S. electric grid. The Wall Street Journal just recently publicized this attack, despite it happening nearly a year ago.
The attack involved the use of assault rifles, handled by shooters with an obvious knowledge of electrical utilities. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (the facility's owner) at first claimed that the incident was simple vandalism, but the reality is far more ominous - 17 transformers were damaged by the semiautomatic weapons, and grid operators were left scrambling to do what they could to avoid a massive blackout. The scariest part isn't what happened, but that it could happen again, with far more catastrophic results, unless these facilities arm themselves with advanced monitoring systems, like the M15 MOBOTIX Thermal Camera offered by Onsite Guardian.
"It would not be hard to bring down the entire region west of the Rockies if you, in fact, had a coordinated attack like this against a number of substations," said Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to the LA Times. Wellinghoff has since resigned from his post.
How can electrical facilities and natural gas compressor stations protect themselves from an attack?
One of the responses to this attack - by the public - was a demand that all transformers have a bullet-proof shield built around them. But this won't always be the best option, as transformers get very hot, and bullet-proof shields may interrupt with the cooling process.
Fences, too, have been suggested to be used along the perimeter of these areas - opaque fences that gunmen couldn't see through (thus they wouldn't be able to fire at transformers). However, these facilities are well lit at night to allow security to see any intruders or passerby. An opaque fencing design would make it difficult to see if any vandals or unauthorized people were inside the facility.
The answer is in thermal camera monitoring
To this day, the terrorists behind this attack last year have not been found. There's no reason why this should be the case. Onsite Guardian is an Advanced Partner of MOBOTIX, the leader in HiRes Megapixel camera technology. As an advanced partner, Onsite Guardian is able to drastically improve the level of security needed to keep the nation's electrical facilities and natural gas compressor stations safe. Through the use of systems such as the M15 MOBOTIX Thermal Camera, these facilities will have a more complete view of their grounds, and will be provided with a quality of video unlike any other system around.
Furthermore, Onsite's M15 systems come with an integrated microphone, speaker and PIR motion detector, allowing facilities to create deterrence measures to scare off vandals and - in fact - terrorists. Motion sensor pre-recordings can be delivered the moment activity is detected along the perimeter of the facility, warning trespassers that they are captured on camera and authorities are on their way. This encourages these potential terrorists to leave the area immediately before they are captured by police.
And even if they do leave immediately (which also means they left without causing damage), the quality of video recorded by Onsite Guardian's systems is clean and pristine, providing authorities the type of information they need to conduct a worthwhile investigation.
Not all security systems are created equal
Every business owner, home owner, and human being has an innate sense to protect his own assets and loved ones. However, facilities that affect the safety and security of thousands, if not millions, of people, have a greater obligation to protect themselves. The loss of electricity for any extended amount of time can and will be catastrophic to entire regions of the country (the results of Super Storm Sandy in New York and New Jersey are evidence of that).
While other security systems might work fine for less critical buildings and facilities, there's only one solution to protecting and monitoring the sensitive grounds of electrical facilities and natural gas compressor stations: Onsite Guardian and our M15 MOBOTIX Thermal Camera.