A DIY Approach to Site Security

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As long as we have had remote transmitter sites, we have had the issue of keeping unauthorized people off the property. It wasn't really a problem when the sites were manned (anyone remember that?); however, the advent of remote control systems made that luxury disappear in the late 1960s. That was a different time: Generally people showed up to act on a testosterone- (or liquor-) induced idea that they would climb the tower, rather than plot to destroy the site. Here we are, post 9/11, in one of the worst economies the U.S. has experienced in years. Copper prices are more than $4 per pound and your remote site represents a treasure chest to some people.

Keeping a site secure fulfills a number of objectives such as 1) Protecting the general public from potentially hazardous situations (i.e. electrocution, non-ionizing radiation, falling objects, etc.), 2) Deterring unauthorized people from climbing (or getting near) the tower(s), 3) Keeping exposed/exterior equipment (HVAC, power lines, coaxial cables, ground systems, guy wires, etc.) protected from damage and/or theft, 4) Properly securing all buildings.

Remote sites are an attractive target for copper thieves.

Remote sites are an attractive target for copper thieves.

Since the events of 9/11 there has been a great deal of focus on the security of remote wireless sites used for public safety, cellular and broadcast facilities. Various federal and state agencies and committees have created guidelines and checklists to help licensees secure their infrastructure, including remote/unmanned tower sites. One such committee was formed under the FCC in 2002, The Media Security and Reliability Council (MSRC). According to the mission statement posted on its website, the committee exists: "To prepare a comprehensive national strategy for securing and sustaining broadcast and MVPD facilities throughout the United States during terrorist attacks, natural disasters and all other threats or attacks nationwide."

The MSRC's website has some great information, including checklists that will help you assess a facility's risk to a number of security threats.

Obviously the main components of keeping a site secure are adequate fencing, barbed wire, solid doors, locks, good lighting and alarms. But these keep out the "casual" thief. Anyone with a strong desire (and enough time) to gain access will breach your compound, so the question is really more of how to minimize theft or damage to the critical components of the transmission system, and what is the best way to monitor the site? This is also a problem faced by cellular carriers, who operate thousands of remote sites nationally. Interestingly enough, it isn't just the sites that are in the middle of nowhere that get vandalized; they experience more theft at sites in urban areas, including those on rooftops. Here are a few practical tips that you can use at your sites.

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