Taking Remote Control of Quarry Security and Safety
When it comes to security and associated health and safety issues, quarries offer a challenging environment by virtue of their size – with an extensive perimeter, an undulating landscape and a multitude of valuable heavy-duty plant and equipment. Whatever security solution is adopted, however, it needs to be able to curtail unauthorized access, whether it be criminals intent on gaining access to plant and equipment, or children looking for somewhere to play. As the Quarry Products Association’s ‘Play Safe…Stay Safe’ campaign highlights, youngsters often see quarries as attractive adventure playgrounds when they are in fact a hazardous environment for the unwary with steep sides and pools of deep water.
Fortunately, as technology has moved on apace, so too has the potential for quarries to apply increasingly sophisticated and affordable approaches to security. One option being brought into sharp focus is the latest ‘intelligent’ event-driven CCTV, made possible by the installation of cameras and detectors placed in strategic locations around a site. These can feed information to specialized transmission equipment in the quarry office, which is connected – typically via an ISDN line – to a dedicated Remote Video Receiving Centre (RVRC) that may be tens or even hundreds of miles away.
Technology such as this can often be daunting to the uninitiated and some may have real concerns over dependence on a ‘remote system’, however the increasing application of such systems is supported by thousands of hours of trouble-free operation and, significantly, the prospect of a controlling standard through the new draft BS 8418 code of practice. This will give prospective purchasers an invaluable reference point to distinguish between professional and less-adequate providers. Added to this is a dramatic reduction in set-up costs, bringing remote monitoring within reach of even the smallest of sites.
Crucially, the flexibility of event-driven remote monitoring means that there is no longer a need for quarries to maintain their own CCTV control room. Instead, if an incident does occur, the strategically placed detectors are triggered and images from the CCTV cameras are transmitted to specially trained operators at the off-site RVRC. Here staff can visually confirm what is happening and even issue verbal warnings (via on-site speakers) to intruders. Experience suggests that this step alone is a sufficient deterrent in over 90% of incidents and could be invaluable, for example, in dissuading children from climbing fences and using sites as adventure playgrounds during school holidays or weekends.
Where trespassers are more determined – some have even been known to take motorbikes on site – operators can rapidly alert the police and quarry management so that they can take appropriate action. Significantly, operators only need to look at CCTV images linked to a specific incident, thereby ensuring alertness and preventing the monotony associated with more conventional CCTV solutions. Importantly, the police benefit from a significant reduction in the number of false alarms. Already, some forces are only responding to incidents reported by Remote Video Receiving Centres – identified by a URN (Unique Reference Number) – that meet their quality requirements.
When applied correctly out of hours, there is little doubt that remotely monitored CCTV is able to deliver enhanced cost-effectiveness, flexibility and reliability when compared to more conventional solutions such as intruder alarms, manned guarding, patrols and continually recorded local-only CCTV.
Looking in more detail at other security solutions, the most basic and common option for business is the intruder alarm, but worryingly most police forces quote false alarm rates as high as 90%. For quarries, this is far from practical as an option for effective coverage of a site containing a multitude of buildings, valuable equipment and extensive open areas. Equally worrying is the fact that false alarms can also lead to the very real danger of a loss of police response with a consequent knock-on effect on insurability.
Manned patrols do provide some protection but a major drawback is that, as they move around, there are unavoidable and dangerous gaps that astute criminals may track and take advantage of.
With manned guarding there is the obvious benefit of having someone constantly on-site. The disadvantages, however, are: cost, usually at least £30,000 per year; poor quality of staff; guards forced to work long hours; implications of limited attention span; and ultimately damage to the site as incidents are missed. Added to this are the lone-worker and minimum-wage legislation, which have inflated manned guarding costs.
Traditional CCTV cameras do have a deterrent effect for the opportunist criminal. Unfortunately, however, the most common method is simply to continuously record camera images to be viewed later. With no ability to react to events as they happen, this is really only of help after an incident; it can’t stop the crime actually taking place! There is also the potential for vital evidence to be lost through tape mismanagement or time-lapse recording. CCTV may also be monitored on-site by a security guard but this is just as expensive as manned guarding and there is still the problem of ensuring that the guard remains motivated and alert when watching a monitor continuously for several hours.
Returning to remote monitoring, the capabilities of this high-tech approach are constantly being refined. A good example of this is a RemGuard innovation that allows quarry managers to view their site images via a PC with direct-dial access, even from home, using Internet-type technology, with CHAPS password protection for security.
Crucially, a further remote-monitoring development means that the security status of specific parts of a quarry site can be changed within seconds – designated red, orange, yellow or green under the RemVu Response Plan; these can be set up to reflect the level of threat to specific areas and any anticipated activity, thus allowing operators to respond accordingly.
Quarry owners may also wish to consider complementary CCTV systems. For example, on quarry vehicles it is now possible to combine CCTV recording and transmission together with GPS and GSM connectivity using a mobile multi-camera digital recording system and externally located cameras. Cameras are already fitted on excavators and loaders for safety reasons, eg reversing.
As pressure mounts on quarries to secure their sites against criminal attacks and from youngsters using them as large adventure playgrounds, more and more quarries are likely to turn to the latest remote monitoring technology.
For further information on the RemGuard service, tel: (0800) 736482.