Industries including telecom, oil and gas, and railroads all rely on remote, unmanned facilities to perform daily operations. As unmanned stations, these facilities allow companies to accomplish their objectives. They’re necessarily unstaffed, as no company can afford to pay the high costs of staffing numerous, far-flung outposts.
Unfortunately, this coin has two sides. Without staff on-site, these facilities are vulnerable to copper wire theft.
Copper wire theft can cause a significant loss of revenue, far beyond the cost of the copper itself.
If equipment is damaged as copper is stolen from a telecom tower, service can be disrupted. If wires are ripped from the ground, trenching (the majority of the install expense) must be paid for again.
A service disruption can trigger contractual penalties in the millions. Simply replacing the copper doesn’t solve the problem, so companies must learn how to prevent copper wire theft.
Replacing Copper Wire to Prevent Theft
Several strategies are effective at preventing and deterring copper wire theft. First and foremost, a strategy is to forego copper. Copper has a high price per pound among metals, due to its ubiquity in modern electronics and its relative scarcity. This makes it an attractive target for thieves and scrappers, who can sell copper piecemeal or wholesale.
Replacing copper in new installations and equipment with a substitute like glass fiber can prevent copper theft entirely—so there won’t be any copper to steal.
As glass fiber cannot be resold at anywhere close to the prices paid for copper, it’s not a worthwhile target. No copper, no theft.
While replacing copper wire with glass fiber can prevent theft from future projects where feasible, it doesn’t solve the entire problem. The expense of replacing or refurbishing all existing vulnerable equipment with glass fiber is prohibitive. So, companies with many remote, unmanned locations must find ways to protect their existing equipment.
Taking Steps to Prevent Copper Wire Theft at Remote Locations
The first step is building physical barriers to entry. These include fences, walls, and locked doors. The scale of the physical barriers should be commensurate with the value of the installation being protected. Many remote sites have these deterrence mechanisms in place already.
Physical barriers provide the first line of defense. By making unauthorized entry much more difficult, they remove the potential of casual, low-effort, or passerby vandalism or theft.
Physical barriers can also prevent ancillary damage from vagrants or wild animals. They cannot stop a determined individual or team from entering, however. Without a dynamic defensive component, there has never been a wall built that can’t be passed.
So, in addition to physical barriers, companies must implement a dynamic, defensive security system at their remote sites. This security system must be able to do three things:
- Detect unauthorized entry
- Deter individuals from further entry
- Report unauthorized entry to proper authorities
In non-remote locations, these tasks are typically performed by a combination of manual and automatic security work. A network of cameras keeps watch on static entry routes, while mobile security guards sweep areas not covered by cameras.
Individuals are deterred by the presence and actions of these security guards, who are also tasked with recording information and reporting to company and municipal authorities.
Detecting, Deterring, and Reporting Copper Wire Theft Remotely
In remote applications, the cost of providing ongoing human security details outweighs the benefits. However, detection, deterrence, and reporting can still be accomplished, using only automatic systems.
Remote terminal units (RTUs) can be installed at all remote locations. These devices are equipped with sensors that can detect a wide range of inputs.
RTU sensors can be used to identify the presence of unwanted individuals, trigger deterrence, and ensure effective reporting mechanisms.
Once an intrusion has been detected, the next step is deterrence. Obvious camera placements are a method of static deterrence, informing potential thieves they will be recorded.
An RTU-based dynamic method of deterrence can be even more effective over simple cameras. For example, when a motion sensor is triggered, the system can be programmed to turn on floodlights, letting the intruder know they have been detected.
The same circuit can also cut in loud sirens or alarms, or even play a pre-programmed message (Think “Halt! Who goes there?” or, imagine, a recording of many large, barking dogs).
These dynamic deterrence mechanisms simulate the presence of a human being at the site, forcing thieves to re-evaluate how risky their theft may be. They can also be controlled by human security monitors at a company’s headquarters, increasing the likelihood of an informed, timely response.
In addition to simulating a human presence, these alarm systems can also summon personnel to the scene. Reporting any tripped alarms to company and governmental authorities allows an immediate security response.
Even for remote locations, if the entry is detected and reported quickly enough, security teams may be able to arrive in time to catch criminals still at work. Copper wire, after all, does take some time to steal.
Installing RTUs with Sensor Detection
By installing RTUs with sensors to detect with programmed responses to deter, and the ability to report alerts to a central location, companies can reduce or prevent copper wire theft altogether, saving thousands of dollars.
RTUs can help prevent both the direct loss of copper and the incurred losses of contract penalties or lost productivity. If you require help protecting your copper from theft, we are happy to help ensure you are set up with the right monitoring and remote control systems.
DPS Telecom has the experience and expertise to help companies monitor what matters most—including their valuable copper. Our technicians can work with you to install RTUs with easy-to-use interfaces for more automatic responses. Reach out and get a quote today!
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