What To Use For Fence Lines Around Electrical Substations?

What do you see being used? Video analytics + thermal cameras? Ground based radar? Traditional hard wired fenceline solutions? Any novel advances to look at?

John, I've been looking at seismic detection from Quantum Technology Sciences.

I have yet to have an opportunity to deploy this, but I have introduced it to colleagues who deal in infrastructure. I've talked to these folks at the last two ASIS expos and the promise is quite exciting. It uses analytics to discern patterns of human activity from the ever-present background noise. It is useful for gunshot detection on assets as well as human intrusions of vehicles, footsteps, digging and they are working on drone detection as well. It is undetectable to intruders as the sensors are buried and it uses very low voltage and low bandwidth, so it's ideal for solar/battery/cell deployment.

This system is so sensitive, it can detect loads on power lines overhead, and the analytics can be used to warn if a piece of machinery is making noises outside of "normal," warning of potential failure.

We have used Protech (http://www.protechusa.com/) fence protection equipment a few times for similar utilities. They have beam break products also.

We just got a demo of Sick's laser system and it's really neat. It's pricey, but the installation time should be a lot faster than a traditional fence wire system. (https://www.sick.com/us/en) (it's not pronounced that way, it's a German company).

Reality is, you'll probably end up with a combination of both, depending on the layout.

The laser system can cover a pretty darn large area if you get the bigger model (upwards of $10k), but you have to consider the installation time/costs of doing a fence/wire system.

While I don't install these systems, I have seen them installed locally at all of the substations.

tattletale Portable Alarm System

Optex beam detectors on poles at each corner.

Thermal cameras on poles monitoring the switchgear yard

Card reader on the control room door with camera facing the door.

Heightened Security

Interesting and novel approach to perimeter security

Contact Thomas Murphy


That looks interesting for a client of mine. Any idea on pricing per linear foot? I have a client with a few miles of fence that needs secured. We are looking at all options for a Q2 2017 deployment.


Currently he designs each system custom, and depending on some features linear foot cost can change, I do not know the "basic" cost off the top of my head. When doing "Miles" of fence, they often will include a fiber under the cap to extend the system. This is the absolute lowest false alarm perimeter product out there, and they recommend growth of bushes and vegetation, where as most other systems need a buffer area. Give Tom a call will be your best bet.

I have a several resellers who are using RFspotter integrated with Milestone. The integration is by NMS and creates alarms with video along with dynamically plotting the detected objects on a map in SmartClient as well as the mobile client.

It is based on doppler radar, seems to work well, and definitely has a "wow that is really cool" effect.

I have also seen both the Sick and Optex solutions being used effectively as well.

not only does https://spotterrf.com/ have a "WOW" factor it works very well in all weather conditions.

That is what I meant. SpotterRF! ;-)

John, take a look at http://offsitevision.com/emergenz-outdoor-secure/ I am hoping to represent this solution.

Consider Videofied. Puget Sound Energy in WA installed video verified alarm systems at 140 electric substations, see their case study.

Our Videofied ZenMaster Jim Flick is responsible for this work.

I spoke to Fiber Sensys at ISC East. They make a microwave motion sensor that can cover very large, open areas. They claim to be able to detect a man sized target at up to 500 meters.

For locations with fences, they make a fiber optic fence motion sensor.

I've done designs for over a hundred miles of fencelines in applications like this, mine all revolved around video analytics (of course), but a few things I've learned over the years:

There is no "optimal" product for all environments, they all have pros and cons. Some examples: climates with a lot of freeze/thaw ground shift can impact buried cable, areas in hot climates don't do well with thermal cameras, very dusty environments can cause problems over time with optical solutions (cameras or beams).

I would highly recommend doing some kind of long-term (1 month or longer) on-site test of one or more technologies before committing to a larger deployment. Pay attention not just to object detection, but also object rejection. A 500 meter range is useless if it triggers on anything that moves in the distance. A similarly priced product with a 200 meter range, but much higher accuracy will likely cost less to operate over time by reducing false alarms, even though you would need more devices in total.

No product I have come across is reliable enough to trust an alarm 100%, this means you will likely want cameras for verification purposes. In some cases a slew-to-cue PTZ will work, but most of the time the PTZ movement will be too slow and you wind up with a lot of cases of empty video, which makes troubleshooting false alarms WAY harder.

For electrical substations, and similar remote unmanned sites, multi-tier approaches are often used: video analytics looking beyond the fence line (the theory being that nobody generally goes near these sites, so anyone even coming close is worth knowing about and being aware of), and possible fence detection sensors, beams, etc on the actual perimeter, setup in an "AND" trigger fashion to generate a higher priority alarm (meaning that the video analytics AND fence sensor both need to detect something before an intrusion alarm is activated, particularly if doing some kind of automated lights/siren).

Be sure to pay attention to maintenance costs (recalibration with some analytics products, trimming along fence lines for some fence products, etc.) when factoring in TCO.

More likely than not you will require some amount of support from the manufacturer for setup, calibration, tweaking, whatever. Does the solution have solid local tech support? 24/7, or just normal business hours? Local support is doubly important for critical infrastructure particularly because getting remote access to these sites for off-site troubleshooting ranges from insanely difficult to impossible much of the time.

Systems like this are usually about getting an alarm event in front of an operator efficiently. Pay attention to upstream bandwidth at the site, so that events can be pushed out. For the actual alarms generated - do they contain images and/or video? Are the images clear enough to provide usable info? Does the event notification come through quickly enough to respond before the person damages equipment/property? Can they be opened on a mobile device? Can the operator initiate any kind of a remote response (voice-down, dispatch guards, turn on lights)?

Personally, I prefer sensor options that can cover a large area, and are not just "tripwire" based. There is too much opportunity to miss something if you are only looking across a very specific area or narrow zone. This can be video analytics, or other forms of adapted motion detectors that cover wide areas.

Hallo John,

being perimeter sensor manufacturer I would like first to say that there is not one unique solution that can be applied to each scenario, as many variables must be considered such as fluctuations and variations in the weather, the nature and tempo of activity in and around the site or facility, the physical configuration of the facility/complex to be secured, the surrounding natural and human environment... new commercial radar generation as an instance are pretty good but mainly for monitoring specific areas inside a perimeter (e.g. personnel moving into restricted areas without consens), while if we are talking about perimeter protection in terms of "border" (which can be defined by a Fence, a Wall or simply vegetation) I would consider the use of other techncologies such as active barriers (IR Beam or Microwave) or sensors to be applied directly to the fence (considering that if the fence is small could be quite easy jumping it over with the use even of a car jumping from the roof). We, at Sicurit, are widely supplying Dual Technology barriers that combine IR and MW technologies for this purpose as after almost 20 years it has been demonstrated the high capability of detection compare to traditional technologies with a high reduction of false alarm rates...

I'll stop here as I don't want to fall into a marketing conversation ruining the purpose of this interesting conversation, therefore I invite all readers looking for perimeter solutions to look at the mentioned technologies that are available from different reliable manufacturers - couple of them, a part Sicurit, has been already mentioned in previous posts ;)

I am the CEO of SpotterRF and we are continually working to make sure our solution is the best in the world for this application. I wanted to give the group some idea on how important we view the solution to protecting electrical substations.

The protection of critical electrical substations is the top priority and main focus of our entire company. While we do projects in other market spaces all of our R&D is focused and solving problems that are electrical utility customers have. This includes developing counter drone solutions that are used around power generation plants and other infrastructure.

Recently we have introduced an Artificial Intelligence engine to help solve the problem of alarming on animals. In our NetworkedIO integration server there are behavioral filters that can be applied to filter most of those alarms, however there are still times that alarms are generated from large animals like deer. After training the AI on a day's worth of detections it does a very good job of classifying the detections and differentiating between animals and people.

We would be happy to show anyone that is interested. Just contact sales@spotterrf.com

Distributed acoustic fiber optic will provide outstanding protection with low nuisance alarm rate but at a price. Discreet, and no RF or EMI issues. Can also push fiber into the substation to monitor flashovers, cooling fan operations and circuit breaker operation. Also detects drones. Fiber is relatively cheap and the interrogator box is expensive and capable of multiple km of protection so might as well get routine operational data in addition to perimeter protection from adversaries.