Environmental factors play a big role in the deployment of cameras in this critical infrastructure market
The job of securing facilities involved in the production of oil and gas, which encompass vast geographic areas and feature a steady stream of people and vehicles 24 hours per day, 365 days per year is truly a herculean task. The volatility of the product these companies produce and the potential economic impact if something goes wrong demonstrates the high stakes involved with securing such facilities.
To help organizations mitigate myriad threats, security managers depend on advanced video surveillance to provide real-time situational awareness. Not only does having a robust surveillance network help refineries and other energy producers address various risks but it also ensures compliance.
Organizations in the United States involved in the manufacturing of hazardous materials are subject to the Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards or CFATS for short. While CFATS doesn’t specify what kind of surveillance technology a chemical producer must adopt or where cameras must be placed, the guidelines require the development of comprehensive site security plans that are reviewed by government regulators. And in today’s evolving risk environment, a comprehensive security plan includes a video monitoring system to augment the abilities of internal security teams.
The threats to these facilities are no less real today than it was when CFATS was first mandated. While on-site security guards and perimeter protection are trusted measures in this market, video surveillance delivers new levels of intelligence about a threat. However, there are several best practices these facilities should consider following if they want to leverage video to its full advantage. Here are five of the most important:
Install High-Resolution Cameras at Entry and Exit Points
Like many industries, the oil and gas sector is a heavy user of analog technology; but that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of newer solutions, such as high-definition IP cameras, where applicable. While 1- to 2-megapixel cameras are commonly used throughout such facilities, installing a high-resolution camera at entry and exit points inside a plant allows for the capture of as much detail about people and vehicles coming onto a site as possible. The image quality produced by today’s megapixel cameras enable users to take captured information and plug it into a facial or license plate recognition program to determine if a person or vehicle has authorized access to a facility.
Leverage Explosion-proof Cameras and Weather-resistant Housings
It’s critical that facilities use explosion-proof camera models in areas with highly flammable substances. While traditional outdoor housings may be appropriate in most areas of an oil or gas plant, in locations where there is explosive fuel nearby, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Explosion-proof doesn’t mean that a camera will withstand a blast but rather that it won’t emit a spark that causes one.
Many standard camera models are offered in stainless steel and pressurized housings. As many refineries are located along the coastline, housings that are resistant to saltwater and extreme weather conditions ensure cameras stay operational despite external elements.
Choose Video Solutions that Allow for Easy Integration with Process Systems
Process systems already in place at many oil and gas facilities monitor a variety of activities — product flowing through pipes and machine temperature, for example — and an ever increasing number of organizations look to integrate existing surveillance networks with such systems. Through integrated systems, a temperature warning, for example, can be associated with video footage of the event. When an alarm appears, cameras in the area send video footage of the event to allow operators to quickly determine whether or not the alarm warrants additional investigation. This level of deep the integration is only possible through open platforms that help drive new levels of collaboration between networked technologies.
Take Advantage of Video Analytics
Given the size of oil and gas facilities, the benefits of video analytics in these environments are enormous. If a plant has around 200 cameras, there is no way control room operators can effectively monitor all of those feeds. Analytics can alert command center personnel to events that reach certain user-defined parameters, such as when a virtual line is crossed, and then that event can be prioritized. Analytics could also be used to determine if people are loitering in areas where they shouldn’t be or if someone decides to scale a perimeter fence. This can subsequently help a facility’s security team deploy manpower and resources in the most efficient manner possible.
Deploy Thermal Cameras to Cover Blind Spots
Contrary to popular belief, thermal imaging cameras are not only effective at seeing people and objects moving in the dark but the devices can also detect events in broad daylight that may have otherwise gone unnoticed by visible imaging cameras. Thermal imaging is especially effective in monitoring the perimeters of properties because it can detect whether an object is walking across an area without any reflective light. These types of cameras are also good at helping facilities reduce false intrusion alarms as stakeholders can see whether or not a perimeter was breached by an animal or a human.
Oil and gas facilities, like many other critical infrastructure sites, want to have more visibility into a greater amount of a facility and surrounding property than ever before. By leveraging advanced video and security intelligence technology, and incorporating industry best practices, security leaders can realize more effective security practices, leading to a more proactive approach to safety and risk mitigation.