Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This Unique Small Radar Unit Can Help Reduce Security Threats to our Power Grid

Welcome to Guest Blogger  Logan Harris of Spotter RF

Certain weaknesses in the US power grid were exposed after an attack last year on a substation in California. In fact, a coordinated, physical attack on substations could shut down the entire country and take months to repair.  While many of the 55,000 substations in the United States are equipped with security measures such as fence sensors, thermal cameras, microwave and passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors – almost none can detect and respond to threats outside of the fence.

Cutting edge radar technology may be the answer to fill this gap in security. The SpotterRF Compact Surveillance Radar can detect movement in a wide area and alert operators of suspicious activity. By setting up just four of these radars in strategic positions, an entire substation can be monitored and protected. Not only can the radar detect intruders, it records selective activity and sends an alert to the operator when needed. These alerts can be networked through tablets, PCs and even smart phones.

Originally designed for elite forces, the SpotterRF compact radar is small enough to fit in your hand and is highly effective in detecting intruders. The SpotterRF radar is able to put a GPS tracker on anything that is moving towards a perimeter and is effective in all weather conditions and on varied terrain.  Because the user can define geographic areas and behaviors to monitor, there is a low chance of false alarms.  Because of the compact radar’s small size and low power requirements the entire system can be set up in as little as one day and many times re-used on wireless solar powered stations.

The California attack lasted for a full ten minutes before sparks from gunfire hitting the transformers finally triggered an alarm and operators learned what was happening. We can’t afford to have that kind of a lag in response time when our nation’s security is at stake. In order to defend our power grid from terror attacks coming from outside the fence, we need to look at innovative products like the Spotter Shield system. In fact, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently sanctioned the revision of perimeter security standards for the physical security of transformers and substations.
While camera based detection systems help to solve some of these problems, they are limited by many factors, such as weather and lighting conditions. Even infrared cameras have a reduced range in severe weather. The ground-based radar technology used in the Spotter Shield system overcomes these limitations and provides accurate, wide-range surveillance in any environment.

The physical security systems currently in place at many substations not only fail to give advance warning or detect intruders outside the fence, they are costly to setup and maintain. The SpotterRF equipment is comparable in price, with a much simpler installation process and the ability to detect beyond the fence. The Shield system is also designed to only record video when something triggers the alarm, so there is less costly data storage.

In a nation like ours, where the economic, industrial and agricultural infrastructures are so reliant on electrical power, protecting critical substations is and should be a top priority. Fence alarms aren’t enough when terrorists can simply take shots from outside the perimeter. As events unfold and new regulations are put into place, utilities companies ought to be looking at possible solutions to this weakness. The SpotterRF Shield system is one logical response to security threats of this magnitude.

To learn more about compact radar and how it can protect our substations, visit http://www.SpotterRF.com.

Founder and CEO of SpotterRF, Logan Harris is an experienced entrepreneur with a deep technical background in RF and DSP. His experience has ranged from semiconductor processing with IBM, fiber optics with TRW, mass spectrometry for Sensar Larson Davis and home automation with Vantage. Mr. Harris holds a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Brigham Young University.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why is there a 6 channel 5104 SK communicator hanging next to a 5808 panel which has a communicator ? Good question as Honeywell once again shows why they are no longer my partner of choice.

Yes this is an awkward situation a Perfectly good looking Silent Knight 5808 panel which has a built in Communicator has a 5104 Communicator next to it.
 But you see there is a big problem  with the 5808 panel it was not even 3 years old and the communicator went bad  for some reason and will no longer work. No problem call up Silent Knight a Honeywell company and it should be a breeze to get the panel replaced after all its less than 3 years old. Oh where sorry we can not help you that panel was made a month before the 3 year policy went into effect so the panel only has 1 year warranty. Too Bad.

So now I have a $1500.00 dollar panel a customer paid for that will not communicate.
I then have to undo it and send it back and $400.000 to repair it  in mean time there is no fire protection  for a month and god knows if the repairs will be OK  because I rarely ever change one of these panels makes me wonder if it was not bad to begin with. This is a take over account but all in all it looks like it was put in proper.
So what to do ?
 spend $400.00 and wait a month no protection on a very big hardware store complex or put a dialer beside it.
I opted for dialer beside it for about half the cost of repairs and Screw Silent Knight for not taking care of this they say how good there panels are and when it comes time to put the rubber to the road where are they? So when every fire technician looks at this picture and wonders what the hell is going on now you know. With all the Silent Knight equipment I put in you think they would have taken care of the issue but no they could not be bothered that's why I will be looking for another line of equipment to install.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WAKE UP THERE IS A FIRE- Well maybe that's why there are new Low Frequency Sounders available for Sleeping Ares

I install Fire Alarms in all type of structures but  the most challenging are Apartment Buildings.
The problem  people are sleeping in these buildings and making sure the system is loud enough to wake them up.
Code wants the alarm sound 15 decibels above normal ambient noise levels.
This has been the standard for years except there are those people who no matter how loud you make a fire alarm will not wake up to it,

Well System Sensor has developed model  P2RH-LF  520 HZ  sounders which allow the sound the produce to better penetrate sleeping areas and wake individuals especially if they are heavy sleepers or have high cycle hearing loss  the 520 Hz sounder produces a much lower tone it can be heard in video below you can see and hear the new sounder with the older much louder Buzzer Sound  unit in back round


As you can see there is a very big difference in sound.levels I look forward to installing these new units to help keep people safe .
 you can learn more about these new sounders at link below

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Scary Incident with Camera install as components catch fire due to Faulty Power Supply

I have installed thousands of cameras over 35 years of working with them and never had such a dangerous incident happen as I did the other day .
After hooking up 1 camera to test the DVR Recorder to see if it was working properly all of a sudden I see smoke coming out of the Camera.
I intermediately shut off power to system and then opened up camera junction box to find that one of the Baluns a device which converts coax to Cat 5 wiring had started to melt and burn .
I suspected intermediately it was the 12 volt 18 amp  DC Power Supply a private label product made for  Everfocus   by LT Security was putting out the wrong voltage.
But it was not .

It was then I checked camera video feed I was getting 1.4 volts something I should not be seeing. Normally it is Micro-volts you will not normally see a full volt .  It was after I put a Oscilloscope type meter on line where I saw the power supply was defective and sending out AC voltage with the DC voltage causing the baluns to heat up. I disconnected the power supply  and baluns put in all new and problem solved and I am in process of letting manufacturer know they have a problem so it can be resolved. as this very well could have lead to a fire had I walked away and not checked on system like I did .
now why this one particular supply did what it did and not the other ones in stock that's a good question which will need to be investigated and answered. if I do not get satisfactory answers from manufacturer I will be notifying CPSC over the matter .

Sunday, July 6, 2014

10 years ago 2 Pittsburgh Firefighters lost there lives and 29 where injured due to negligence of Fire officials yet nothing was ever done about it.

I remember the day well travelling thru the downtown area and seeing the large plume of smoke coming off the Hill District area of Pittsburgh .
I turned on my scanner to hear a Church was on fire in Hill district.
I decided to ride up and take some pictures. I parked my truck and was walking up to scene when the steeple of the church collapsed onto the street hitting the officers running the command post below.
Little did I know at the time of the collapse 2 firefighters had lost there lives.

As you can clearly see by the NIOSH report there was plenty of blame to go around and plenty of incompetence that day.
Yes the Fire Bureau now takes accountability in account and has made changes to prevent further tragedy and some people have retired or been replaced but as usual in the fire service no one was held accountable for the deaths. 
Something that does not happen in Private industry where people are brought up on  criminal and civil charges. 
Why the double standard especially when these where paid professionals not volunteers .
Even Police Officers are regularly criminally charged over their actions if inappropriate. 
Instead we just right up a report and hope some one reads it and follows it to prevent the next tragedy.
Maybe when a fire chief gets held on criminal negligence charges they will change their attitudes and tactics but until that day expect another tragedy and horrible accident and more firefighters dead because  the Fire Service remains its own worse enemy and many firefighters paid and volunteer agree with me. 

$54 Million Dollar a year operation at a distribution facility put at risk because electrical system was not properly designed and plenty of blame to spread around.

I have been working with an older Electrical Contractor who serves as the In House Electrician  to install Life Safety and Security systems in a brand new $14 million dollar distribution facility which services the Convenience Store Industry.
Nearly 200,000 Sq ft  with the most modern of electronics being used to get products in and out.

They hired a large Florida based Design Build Contractor  to design the facility  with its massive refrigerated dock and warehouse section a new large dry storage section and rebuild of offices and a new training center where store owners can see the latest in products for the convenience industry.

The Design Build Contractor  hired the local Electrical Union Contractor to install power and lighting so they should have the best available talent to get this job done. WRONG.

The new facility was open only 3 days when tragedy struck. There was a a Phase loss of power from
Power Company to the plant  which happened on a very hot day a common problem  with the power grid  when it gets stressed which when the phase came back on caused a massive surge in the plant. thru the 480/277 power distribution system which knocked refrigeration AC cooling off line and destroyed fire and security components despite surge protection myself and older electrician installed on our systems we installed.

The problems uncovered during what happened where something which never should have happened and where 100% avoidable.

There have been constant problems with electrical gremlins in the facility which causes electronics systems to not work properly or erratically. The design Build firm was a complete failure they never figured into its electrical designs for Harmonics a very well known problem which should have  been  considered and designed for.

The Union Electrical contractor should have insisted on it and never did anything to help stop it like up-sizing neutral wires and specifying harmonic grade transformers which help dampen harmonics . In fact the Union Electrical Contractor totally failed to properly design the grounding and bonding system to prevent problems which also contributed to the life safety and fire systems getting damaged. the facility has high speed garage size doors which open and close quickly using motors which use Variable Frequency Drive FVD technology another big source of harmonics as well.

 and the maker of the garage doors did not insist on making sure the motors etc where properly wired to reduce harmonics or even bother to tell the client of the fact VFD units generate them.

The electrical system was designed to meet the minimum safety requirements of the National Electrical Code and no further design considerations . Despite the fact of all the electronics being deployed in the facility a very bad mistake by both designer and electrical contractor they both failed our customers needs and should be ashamed of them selves for not making provisions to prevent problems.

To make matters worse not one surge suppressor was installed anywhere in the electrical system had they been installed the surge damage would have been nothing to minimal instead of over $10,000 in damage and business disruption it caused. The Surge suppressors myself and the older electrician installed where overwhelmed because there where no other suppressors in the electrical system.
Only one of the electronics contractors in the building bedsides us installed suppressors.
Too many times I see very expensive electronics being installed with no suppressors on them or battery back up system a very bad decision.
especially when it comes to surveillance camera systems  which use a recorder with a hard drive just like a computer.

To make matters worse as Myself and in house electrician started looking over the electrical system to determine where the surge came in and path it took we found that the electrical contractor had not bonded the  various buildings steel together and had various transformers bonded to the steel in  three different section's and without the unifying bonding between the structures this allowed for step voltage  to occur
which is what caused most of the damage  when there is a difference in potential between the ground paths  and voltage can actually spike up in strength. This is why it is critical to properly unify and electrical system and in this case the complex is feed from 2 different power services which makes it even more critical that everything on the grounding and the bonding of the system is properly unified.
The following link shows many ways structures must be bonded and grounded to prevent issues

We also found where more than one ground or bond wire was installed improperly as well which creates a double path and can allow for equipment damage as a electrical fault will not properly clear in recommended time.  The union Electrical contractors should have known what they where doing was wrong and should have done proper bonding. I know many of the union schools are teaching it .
Since going thru and correcting the bonding and grounding issues we have greatly reduced the electrical gremlins but they are still there. the only way to do this would be to replace transformers at a very big expense.
But hopefully what we have done will help for now and the management is bring advised to install additional surge suppression to ward off future issues.