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Top DOs and DON'Ts of Police Department SCADA Remote Monitoring

By Ziad Alezabi

February 2, 2024

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When it comes to first response units, specifically the police department, immediately responding to alerts is the difference between life and death. Integrating technology such as a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system is necessary.

SCADA is a system that consists of hardware and software components. These components allow you to monitor and control multiple processes throughout your facility. It can be found in municipalities, military bases, first response departments, college campuses, etc.

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SCADA is used around the world to control all kinds of industrial processes SCADA can help you increase efficiency, lower costs and increase the profitability of your operations.

The main components of a SCADA system are the following:

  • Master Stations: This will be your central unit where you can receive alarm notifications based on as many locations as you want to scale to. Be aware of the fact that your SCADA's infrastructure may become limited with the wrong manufacturer if they do not keep your scalability in mind.
  • RTUs (Remote Telemetry Units): These are devices that interface directly with your sensors and output alarm information to master alarm monitoring stations. They also process the information they get from the sensors to translate it into legible information that can be sent to a dispatcher. Lastly, they can send commands based on your customized and pre-configured system.
  • SCADA infrastructure: This is how your SCADA equipment communicates with each other and external devices. There are different modes of communication such as Ethernet and serial cables. In addition, there is wireless technology such as radio frequency, cellular, etc.
  • HMI (Human Machine Interface): This is what your human operators at the police station will be interacting with the SCADA system through. A good HMI should give you visuals and audible alarms.

Your SCADA system isn't likely to be monitored by one employee the entire time. This means there will be people with differing levels of familiarity looking at it. You must ensure that all your operators have the easiest time interacting with your SCADA system to promptly send out first response units to deal with time-sensitive calls.

This article will review the dos and don'ts when building or customizing your SCADA system.

Mistakes To Avoid When Implementing or Upgrading SCADA

Don't Neglect Disaster Recovery Plans

A police station can not afford to have one of its SCADA systems go offline for even a second. In the unlikely event that it does, you need to be able to get back online as fast as possible. These failures can happen for reasons such as:

  1. Power outages: Everywhere is prone to a power outage. However, there are measures you can take to prevent this. One way would be through a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and/or backup generators that are constantly monitored with an RTU to ensure that they are online with enough power supplied to them.
  2. Environmental wear and tear: Environmental damage will make your SCADA system unreliable. You can combat this issue by having weather-specific enclosures as well as temperature control systems that can be automated via SCADA.
  3. Cybersecurity breaches: Data sent between your devices need to be tightly secured. Police stations have sensitive and personal information in the database, so you need to safeguard your communications. This would be solved with proper encryption, firewalls, and sending data over safe protocols such as SNMP v3.
  4. Hardware failures: Hardware wears down over time and creates problems in your control and monitoring system. You can avoid any data losses by installing redundant equipment that will take over when it deems the priority device unfit.
  5. Software malfunctions: Some SCADA equipment might encounter bugs and malfunctions. This is when your manufacturer comes into play. When software errors occur in your SCADA system, your equipment is as good as the manufacturer's tech support.

Don't Go Against Standard Practices

Standard practices are there to ensure you and your township's residents' safety. Deviating from these guidelines can cause severe consequences, such as:

  • Overlooking alarms: When your SCADA system gives you an alarm, it's for a reason. Seemingly minor issues like an overly sensitive sensor or inaccurate calibration can lead to larger problems down the road if ignored.
  • Neglecting maintenance: Like any other device with mechanical components, your SCADA system needs regular maintenance. This can include replacing batteries, checking connections and sensors, and updating software.
  • Non-compliance with regulations: Police departments have specific protocols to follow, such as the NFPA 72 code. Deviating from these guidelines not only puts your department at risk but also leaves you open to legal consequences.

When it comes to implementing or upgrading a SCADA system for your police department, it's crucial to avoid these mistakes and ensure the safety of your community. Keep your system maintained and stay compliant with regulations for efficient and effective emergency response.

Don't Just Rely On Automatic Operations

The idea of a human being in charge of an automatic system might not make sense at first. That is until you find out about Text-2-Cell capabilities. A good SCADA system manufacturer will be able to help you install and configure a text-2-cell feature that would annunciate alarms from your RTU to your email or cellphone through a gateway. These messages are user-customizable and free of charge if done right.

This way you are not fully relying on an automatic system that will run rampant because nobody is constantly checking it to make sure it functions correctly. Instead of having someone in charge of your SCADA's maintenance onsite 24/7, you can have them get alerts straight to their phone with precise locations and information about what went wrong.

This means they don't need to waste trips going back and forth for the right tools to fix a problem.

Best Practices When Implementing or Upgrading SCADA

Do Integrate Your Surveillance System With Common Communication Protocol SCADA

SCADA integrates with surveillance cameras, sensors, and other types of inputs that are installed throughout a police station. A police station might benefit from BAS (building access system) that can monitor holding cells, access to evidence rooms, perimeter surveillance, etc.

To do this, make sure you can properly input your sensors and other inputs through analog and/or discrete inputs to your RTU. From there, a good RTU will decode this information and communicate it across a COMMON protocol.

Common communication protocols prevent your SCADA system from becoming obsolete due to not being able to communicate with equipment that is outside of your manufacturer's scope.

Do Emphasize Redundancy In Your Monitoring System

We previously discussed how you should take precautions in case of unforeseen events such as power outages. But what happens when an RTU fails to do its job?

This is why you need to have redundancy wherever it makes sense in SCADA. Take the following areas into consideration when looking to add redundancy:

  1. Redundant Power: UPS is important for your police station SCADA system to operate without fault.
  2. Redundant Firewalls: Including redundant cybersecurity standards such as firewalls will safeguard your system from unwanted tampering.
  3. Redundant Sensors: Your sensors are arguably the most important aspect of SCADA. It is always a good idea to have backup sensors and communication protocols.

Do Receive In-depth Documentation And Training

In-depth documentation ensures that your in-house crew will be able to deal with your equipment in almost all situations. If that doesn't quite work for you, then make sure that your SCADA system manufacturer does on-site visits and tech support calls.

Tech support is arguably one of the most important yet overlooked requirements when people shop for SCADA systems. Having better tech support means successfully getting your system up and running if it ever goes down.

Let DPS Telecom Help You Find The Best SCADA Configuration For Your Police Station

DPS Telecom does on-site visits to all clients that request it. We believe that it is a good foundation to truly understand your infrastructure, your needs, and the required SCADA configuration. We also provide our clients with in-depth documentation that offers a full guide on how to navigate and maintain our SCADA equipment.

DPS Telecom will back you with industry-tested expertise in tech support by people who pioneered the equipment being sold.

If you would like to learn more about how DPS Telecom can protect your monitoring and control capabilities, or if you have more questions, please reach out. Even if we can't find a compromise, I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

Call today at 1-800-693-0351 or E-mail me at sales@dpstele.com

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Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi

Ziad Alezabi is a Application Documentarian at DPS Telecom. He reviews successful DPS client projects and reports on the best practices that you can use to successfully reach your own project goals.