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Safeguarding water utilities infrastructure

Posted: August 23rd, 2016

The utilities sector is vulnerable to physical threats associated with theft, contamination, terrorism and disruption to service or supply that could occur as a result of unauthorised access to critical operational areas.

Emphasis within the water sector is often placed on electronic monitoring or surveillance hardware to protect critical areas – and this is adequate in certain instances. However, this does not address the immediate physical threat of a perimeter security breach and given the remote location of some facilities, security staff or emergency services may only be able to respond long after a breach has been detected and the damage already done.

Theft or damage has the potential to cause huge disruption to supply and services therefore physically safeguarding water supply and associated equipment is of paramount importance.

The areas which are at the most immediate risk are:

• Control rooms
• Water treatment plants
• Storage facilities
• Areas housing high value assets
• Buildings used to contain dangerous chemicals (such as chlorine gas)
• Areas housing confidential information

Traditional partitioning methods using materials such as plywood, plasterboard and insulation held within a timber frame offer little or no resistance to an attempted breach by determined criminals using high impact tooling equipment such as sledgehammers, disc grinders, jig saws and high powered cutting devices. Standard brick or block walls are also vulnerable, with their joints acting as points of weakness.

Physical security measures – such as wall panels, ceilings and locks – should play a significant part in the ‘layered’ security strategy of any operator to protect critical areas and should be certified by the Loss Prevention Certification Board (the standard is LPS 1175) and/or approved by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) to guarantee both their quality and suitability.

Thankfully, advances in technology are now leading to refinements in facility design, which identify ‘mission critical’ areas. This helps in an operator’s decision making process by determining the correct and most viable building methods to be utilised in protecting control equipment, or any environment which is used to house high-value assets.

Certified, appropriate security solutions, such as high security modular panel systems manufactured by Securiclad make ideal physical barriers to protect utilities infrastructure, preventing security breaches and significantly delaying criminals if unauthorised entry is attempted, giving authorities more time to respond.

It’s clear that investment in the right physical security measures – in the right places – is vital to safeguard water utilities infrastructure and provide peace of mind to water industry operators.

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