TIGHT PORT Florida’s Port Manatee will spend $3 million on security upgrades with $620,000 of it on surveillance technology. (Photo courtesy of Port Manatee.com)

The vulnerability assessment business is booming, as terrorism keeps the world on edge. Identifying soft spots in public spaces and infrastructure is just the start. Miles and miles of remotely dispersed infrastructure is getting climb-resistant fencing, intrusion detectors and video monitoring. The next questions are how to know when an intrusion is real and what to do about it. Once vulnerability is defined the issue becomes huge, particularly at big facilities such as airports, transit systems, ports and utilities. The recent round of risk assessments conducted for the federal Dept. of Homeland Security has sharply raised operators’ vulnerability awareness.

"Most of the utilities I know of are aggressively tackling it," says Laguna Beach, Calif.-based consultant Vic Opincar. "Most are starting with easy stuff; new fences, new locks, ingress and egress control," he says. "Water utilities have one great advantage," he adds, "they have rate payers and will do what they have to do."

"Prior to 9/11 you didn’t worry about these things," says Phil Miller, district engineer at Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District in Riverside Co., Calif. "Now we see ourselves as a potential target." Elsinore has just finished its assessment. "Security was not an issue, and now all of a sudden we are talking to consultants who design prisons," Miller says.


The Elsinore district will have its work cut out for it. Although its 96-sq-mile area is relatively small, the ground has many changes in elevation, requiring 50 reservoirs and 40 pumping stations. Enhanced protection and monitoring will be needed for everything, Miller says, but sorting out the options is daunting. "There is just so much out there and it’s all emerging technology," he says. A security consultant will likely be hired "who doesn’t have a product to sell," Miller says. Pilot tests will come first on a few key facilities; "a typical reservoir, a typical booster station" while officials gain experience, he says. "This will be years in the making," he adds.

The consequences of not taking action are serious, even if no attack ever occurs. Operators worry about the liability of failing to address issues that have now been documented, and they face the likelihood that all incidents will be presumed to be terrorism until proven otherwise.

Water officials in Wilcox, Ariz., population 3,100, got their wake-up call Oct. 15 when a patrolman spotted a broken lock and an open hatch on the water tower. The system was shut down for 28 hours. Labs from Phoenix to Atlanta ran tests. The utility drained its 5-million-gallon system into the desert as a precaution. In the end, three young men were charged with breaking and entering. They confessed to having gone for a swim.

Among the solutions are high security fences and sensors, which are going in everywhere, including some originally developed by Pure Technologies Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, to monitor sounds in structures to give early warning of corrosion. They are finding new applications as tripwires for terrorists. They can listen for fences and bridge cables being cut or climbed (ENR 5/20/2002 p. 49).

The company has developed PureLink, a product that collects video and sensor data sent wirelessly to a central processing unit that screens out false alarms. Wireless systems reduce installation time and cost and give the system great flexibility, the vendor claims.

The software can watch for predetermined behavior, such as packages left unattended, and send images and alarms to handheld computers. "It can be set to a man-sized image, and if the man stops, the camera zooms in," says Opincar. It is possible to view the scene on a PDA, but he warns that the alerts might be so frequent that they would be ignored.

Cameras and sensors bring floods of data, and with it monitoring, managing and interpretation problems. Sensor complexity ranges from tensioned wires and strain gauges on existing fences, to buried sensor loops that detect movement of metal objects as small as belt buckles, to software that studies video for anomalies and signals officers when and where security breeches have occurred.

Guardian Solutions, Sarasota, Fla., is selling technology licensed from Lehigh University that analyzes video data in the camera as it is captured and processes it on the spot, says John Montelione, president. Only significant data is sent to the central monitoring station. Cameras with on-board processors look for trouble, but don’t pour forth streams of data. "Our biggest problem is convincing people you don’t have to save as much data," he says.

SECURITY ALERT Guardian claims its system can spot and track intruders more than 2,000 ft away. (Photo courtesy of Guardian Solutions)

Montelione says his system can spot and automatically track camouflaged intruders as far as 2,200 ft away. It constantly compares a reference image to the live view to spot changes. When activity breeches predetermined parameters, the data capture rate increases. Alerts are given and video data is sent in from the preceding minutes as well as the live action. The system tracks the target on reference geographic information system data. The system sends alerts, and even map locators and video feeds, to handheld computers to help security officers corner their quarry.

Montelione is a skeptic about relying too much on wireless, however, because he says the transmissions are vulnerable to interference and not robust enough for large installations. "A system at a port can have 80 cameras. If you’re saving 30 frames per second on cameras you are going to bring a wireless system to its knees," he says.

The general manager of another water district in the southwestern U.S., who would only discuss security if he and his district were not named, says it is taking a multibarrier approach to protection. Buying 10,000 ft of high-security fence has been the biggest expense and surprise. "We’re buy-ing fence products we never saw a year ago," he says. "We didn’t even know they existed."

Ilan Lindenboim, director of engineering for SecureUSA Inc., Cumming, Ga., sells security products including sensors that can be added to existing fencing. He also sells fences with embedded sensors and processors. He says most high security fencing is based on technology developed in Israel.

Even a "dumb" chain link fence can be given sensing, he says, but it remains vulnerable to penetration. Chain link fences are "so popular here," Lindenboim says, but are easily breached. At Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, for example, police recently chased a stolen Dodge Neon through one chain link fence and across a runway until it got hung up in a second fence. Lindenboim suggests lacing such fences with aircraft cable and bracing them with 3-ft knee walls to improve airport perimeter security.