When the power fails: Perimeter protection during blackouts
6/6/2023 Industry news

When the power fails: Perimeter protection during blackouts

What happens to perimeter protection when the power fails? Isolating one area of the power network is often a risk in itself. Add to this the danger that intruders could take advantage of the interruption in the power supply. Here’s how you can prepare for this emergency.

The picture shows a warning sign with the words Blackout. Just how dependent we are on electricity becomes apparent when this part of the basic supply is suddenly unavailable.

What happens to perimeter protection when the power fails? Isolating one area of the power network is often a risk in itself. Add to this the danger that intruders could take advantage of the interruption in the power supply. Here’s how you can prepare for this emergency.

People living in industrial countries like Germany take it for granted that they’ll get power from an outlet, that the light will come on when they flip a switch and that they can go online anytime they want. They only realise how dependent they are on these services when this part of the basic power supply is suddenly unavailable. A security system must be prepared to handle this emergency.

For intruders, a power failure is an effective means of gaining access. When planning the break-in of the Green Vault in Dresden, for example, the perpetrators were guided by an earlier incident in Berlin. “Inspiration for the break-in came from a power failure lasting several hours in Berlin’s Köpenick District. In that case, a cable was damaged during construction work,” according to a report by MDR.

But gangs of thieves aren’t the only ones to take advantage of an interruption in the power supply for carrying out their plans. Power failures can affect perimeter protection in a number of ways.


Causes of power failures

One reason for power failures is a grid overload. If too many companies or individuals obtain their electricity from the same network, the grid can be overloaded. Maintenance activities also pose a risk if a utility company briefly shuts off the network while they work. Natural disasters like storms, flooding or heavy snowfall are regular causes of blackouts if power lines or transformers are incapacitated. Other causes range from accidents that damage electrical towers or power lines to technical problems like defective cables or switches.


Effects on security systems

Many alarm systems are connected directly to the power grid, with the result that they no longer function in a power failure. Video surveillance cameras also need power to reliably do their job. A power failure can cause them to stop recording and can shut off the live video feed on the monitors in the control centre.

Electronic access control systems can also be affected by a power failure. When the system no longer functions, the security of the premises can become more difficult to ensure. With most electronic door locks, building access is still guaranteed during a power failure. But depending on the design of the electronic door lock, there may be exceptions. If the Internet also fails, for example, locks that are controlled via apps and have an online connection are not fully operable. The same applies to keypads for entering a PIN.

When the power fails, the lights also go out. That’s why emergency lighting is legally required in many areas so that people can exit the building or premises quickly. Maintaining the batteries in these devices should be firmly embedded in the security concept.


Contermeasures and precautions

To minimise the impact of power failures, companies and security-related facilities should provide backup generators, batteries or other alternative power sources. Emergency plans that guarantee the protection of important functions and data during a power failure are also a must.

In some cases, it’s a good idea to select systems that lock automatically in the event of a power failure. Another option is electronic locking systems that are manually operated. In this case, gates can be opened and closed using manual cranks or locks. However, escape routes have to be kept open during an emergency so that people’s lives aren’t endangered. One option might be to install UPS (uninterruptible power supply) devices. In the event of an emergency, they supply power to critical devices and installations. Backup generators can also supply power to important areas during longer blackouts, and can be configured so that they automatically detect power failures and start up the local power supply. But wherever possible, photovoltaic systems with battery storage are preferred. Along with many other experts on blackouts, the providers of lighting technology for perimeter protection who are represented at Perimeter Protection Nuremberg also offer solar-operated solutions. These systems are charged during the day so that they can provide light at night. The same is true of surveillance cameras and motion detectors equipped with a suitable solar power supply.

To ensure that operation can be quickly resumed following a power failure and to prevent consequent damage due to data losses, cloud-based services can be a wise choice. Business data and recordings from surveillance cameras are then stored centrally and are also protected during local power failures.

When the power is restored, well-prepared companies and facilities will have a plan for disaster recovery that includes the functional testing of all security-related systems.


Alexander Stark

Alexander Stark

Freelance journalist