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Think collaboratively to protect critical infrastructure, says Siemens

Tony O’Brien, UK Head of Sales at Siemens Building Technologies, explains why it is vital for government and businesses to work collaboratively to harness a joined up safety and security strategy in view of the ever changing risks that the UK is facing.

The likelihood and potential impact of a range of different civil emergency risks, including naturally and accidentally occurring hazards and malicious threats would directly affect facilities, systems, sites and communication networks necessary for the functioning of the country and the delivery of the essential services on which daily life in the UK depends.

Tony O'Brien, Siemens Building Technologies

Tony O’Brien, Siemens Building Technologies

The national infrastructure is made up of nine critical categories: communications, emergency services, energy, financial institutions, the food supply chain, health services, transport networks, government and water. Taking a wider view of how people and businesses can better prepare for threats to the nation’s critical infrastructure is essential to avoid disruption, damage, loss of assets and severe economic loss.

With the UK currently on heightened security alert from international terrorism, damage or destruction to essential services by extremist groups has the potential to threaten public health and cause loss of life. Utilities are often located on large and remote sites, making them vulnerable. Water, power and transport infrastructure systems in particular include vast areas, making security an issue of concern.

Critical national infrastructure faces many operational challenges, but they can be alleviated through the adoption of an integrated technology-based approach, harnessing the experience and knowledge of solutions partners who understand the specific requirements of these complex industries and public sector agencies.

The purpose of every security system should be to deter, detect and deny unauthorised intrusion and to communicate these events and provide effective control of any security incident:

  • Deter any attempt at unauthorised intrusion by showing visible and effective security and safety measures.
  • Detect unauthorised intrusions onto the site by persons, vehicles or water-borne craft, through or across the site perimeter safety fence.
  • Deny attempts to defeat or bypass access control measures on the perimeter or between controlled areas and security zones.
  • Deny access to the site (within the limits of capacity of installed fences, gates, barriers and doors).

Communicate security events to security staff plus other designated personnel and provide the technical means for effective control of security incidents. Provide roll call and mustering capability for site security and safety incidents, interface with site safety systems.

At the heart of the safety and security solution should be robust command and control platforms that improve protection across multiple sites, manage critical situations and enhance procedures. These software solutions need to be capable of integrating multiple subsystems such as access control, video surveillance, fire detection and extinguishing, emergency call systems and communications. Furthermore, investment in these advanced, bespoke protection solutions to ensure security of supply should enable cost-effective integration of legacy systems and have the ability to adapt to specific corporate security and safety policies.

As many sites have evolved over a number of years, there will often be a mix of existing systems that need to be integrated into a new, state-of-the-art control platform. Siemens has the capability to create ‘soft’ interfaces, making it easier to reconfigure, enable change in the future and operate on one single platform.

A centralised command and control system will improve efficiency and enhance operations and security, while reducing risks and costs. Operators are automatically prompted to take the correct action and the software will automatically set in motion a sequence of pre-agreed activities to ensure the right procedures are adhered to, as well as distributing essential information across multi agencies. This integration of multiple disciplines provides centralised situational awareness, enhancing overall safety and security as it allows cross functional capabilities.

These systems must be user-friendly, provide all the commonly used operator functions, accelerate response to critical events and present correct procedural information for appropriate operator response.

The answer to ensuring business continuity lies in a systematic approach; one that should include the development of a clear technological roadmap to drive a coherent, joined-up and long-term investment strategy – and one that includes safety and security at its core.

End-to-end solutions, such as technological convergence, deliver benefits by way of improved costs and the use of bespoke framework agreements further strengthens the procurement process. The adoption of new technology which enables access to and interpretation of essential data, as well as effective risk management strategies, forms an essential element in the creation of a sustainable future for critical national infrastructure.

Siemens is supporting a number of organisations responsible for critical national infrastructure to address their operational, protection, safety, future planning and compliance issues by working in close partnership to develop technology migration strategies that enable upgrades and improvements, whilst sustaining original system elements.

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