Cable Trenching for Surveillance

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jul 17, 2013

Trenching cable for surveillance is surprising complex. While using shovels, picks, and hoes is not advanced technology, the proper planning, construction, and execution of trenched cable runs is underestimated. In this note, we look at the best practices of trenching cable for surveillance, discuss code requirements, and how best to avoid costly mistakes when trenching.

Disclaimer

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Site ******

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  • Firm ******: Buried cable needs dirt surrounding it for support. Even rocky soil is prone to have fissures and voids that resemble 'airgaps' that can trap groundwater or shift over time. The ideal ground is not spongy or soft, and is composed of simple, compacted dirt.
  • Open ** ***: The trench has no overhead obstructions like tree canopies, buildings, or even powerlines. Stormwater runoff and service accessibility can be a problem when a trench is run under other things. 
  • Good ********: Water is a big enemy of cable. Not only can corrosion/electrical shorting occur with normal age, in colder seasons ice can break conduit. Water is also responsible for eroding bedding material. When planning trenches, avoiding standing water or high ground water tables is ideal, even if it means a longer cable/trench:

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Trench *****

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Lightning *********

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*********

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Surveillance ********* ********

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Comments (7)

Good article. You go into detail on the intricacies of what is really involved in "the invisible trench". You correctly cite NFPA 70 code requirements and the differences between using rigid or PVC or direct burial etc. and of course common sense hand digging in tight areas. The timing is uncanny as I just completed many long trenching runs using PVC at 18" deep (24" deep under a roadway) with caution tape in the backfill etc. for a surveillance system following NFPA 70 code.

This is good information for IPVM members who are consultants or manufacturers where in the normal course of their business would not be exposed to that level of detail or information, or need to, but can appreciate it for what it is.

For LV Security Contractors who are seeing or hearing of this information for the first time......................No comment.

Good stuff Brian thanks!

Great article Brian! I know very little about trenching, and this is very handy to know. That being said, has there (or is there) ever a case where water is unavoidable? Would someone still recommend trenching, or search for an alternative?

Pneumatic piercing systems have also been growing in use. These systems can ram a pipe through the ground relatively short distances without disturbing the surfaces except at the insertion and extraction points. More sophisticated rams support relatively modest directional control as they function.

I've always wondered how you would survey to decide when it's better to pierce and when trenching is necessary.

Trenching in areas where labor, land, and/or permits are expensive, especially with existing roadways, sidewalk or other interfering utilities, trenching/wiring can get up to 10x the cost listed. ~$125 -->> $1,250 per foot especially on small projects where you can't get much savings from economies of scale.

A long trench in dirt on private property in many places can be cheap and easy.

A short trench under a parking lot/road/sidewalk, with utilities, restricted work hours, re-routing of traffic, political issues, permits, permits, and permits, other utilities, and such can really drive up costs.

Good luck!

Great article Brian. Really makes use of a trenching & boring subcontractor attractive. The use of a specialty sub can be as cost-effective as doing it ourselves and with fewer pitfalls.

Thank you Brian. Being an integrator who also has a fully equipted outside plant/utilities division, I can tell you that it is a lot more cost effective to put pipe in the ground with a bore rig rather than trenching (if you own the equiptment). The cost to put a 2" pipe in the ground can range from ~$20 to ~$30 per foot.

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