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Keeping the Copper Safe
Alarm it, watch it, light it
Sometimes simple solutions are the most effective. Run jumpers, in series, from different metal items (i.e. ground bars, ground strap, etc.) that you want to protect. Connect one end of the cable to one side of a relay coil and the other end of the coil to a low-voltage power source sized to the relay. Now attach the remaining side of the power supply to the other cable and you have an alarm that will trip if anything in the current path is removed. This is actually a product that was patented in 2007 and is being used on several wireless sites, but it's easy enough for anyone to implement.
The use of surveillance cameras with body detection is an effective solution to deter theft. Cameras can be placed at all points around the perimeter of a site, as well as inside the building. Even the cheapest camera systems provide alarms should someone enter its field of vision. The sentinel can sound alarms and/or trigger strobe lights as well trigger a remote control system or alert an alarm company. The cameras can be adjusted to disregard smaller animals or birds that might send false triggers. Even better is adding a local DVR to record events at the site. The video could also be sent back to a monitoring location with the proper dedicated (typically T1) line. Clips of the video could be emailed to select persons if Internet access is available.
If budget is a problem, consider adding deer cameras at strategic locations. Similar to traditional surveillance systems these cameras are triggered by bodies within their field of vision. They are cheap and can either record video or clips of pictures it takes and records to an SD card. The downside is that someone needs to visit the site to exchange SD cards periodically. There are some more sophisticated deer cams available that use an Internet connection to email clips, but these can be pricey and probably more than a basic low-cost camera/DVR system.
Storage during construction
Ninety percent of all theft takes place on weekends, so have someone check the jobsite several times during the weekend. Provide sufficient lighting at night as a potential deterrent. A thief might enter the premises with the intention of stealing copper but may find other objects to take.
Consider pre-cutting the wire and delivering what you need at a jobsite on a daily basis. This will avoid large quantities sitting at a job waiting to be used. I typically instruct my antenna/line vendors to take any cable not used back with them each day. I also require that they complete (i.e. into the building and attached completely to ice bridges, etc.) any cables runs worked on that day. Inform law enforcement about construction sites and provide after hour and emergency contact information. Sometimes you could request additional patrols in the subject area; this is where developing a relationship with members of the appropriate law enforcement agency can pay off. Avoid storing copper wire, pipe, fittings and other components at remote jobsites. Even securing a parts trailer with a lock is not a deterrent to motivated thieves.
If you sustain a loss, consider the following steps in your investigation: take pictures, protect the crime scene, preserve the evidence, talk with people who may have witnessed the crime, and identify the cable markings. They reveal the cable's original location and can assist in identifying the suspect or provide an affirmative lead.
McNamara is president of McNamara Associates, Cape Coral, FL.
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