A DIY Approach to Site Security

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Outdoor components

The next time you replace your ground wires and other copper terminations, consider using silver- or tin-plated components. Apparently copper thieves tend to stay away from metals that look like aluminum. You get the same performance as using copper. This approach has proven to be an effective deterrent and is very popular with communications systems operators.

External HVAC compressor units, especially the ground-mounted variety, are a favorite target of copper thieves. There's not a lot you can do here except to get the units mounted on a roof, if possible. If you need to replace units in the future, consider commercial wall-mounted systems. They tend to be too much work to remove and are less desirable.

If you are building a new site, be sure to design the building so the coax entry ports and ice bridges are elevated as high as possible. On existing shorter runs, coax can be mounted inside a cable trough with a locking cover. If the entry point for the coax is lower, you can have a custom dog house fabricated. The dog house is essentially an enclosure large enough to accommodate the number of cables and allow required bend radius. These are generally attached directly to an exterior wall or roof, covering the entry port on one side and connected to the enclosed cable trough on the other, ideally keeping the cables unexposed and protected.

Monitoring the site

Most sites utilize the remote control system to alert an operator that a door is open or a proximity sensor has gone off. While it might let you know someone has stopped by, it doesn't really tell what is actually occurring. The better solution is to implement a digital video recording (DVR) system that records several cameras, along with date/time stamping. These systems have become very affordable (less than $1000, with cameras) and include some very cool features such as motion detection (through the camera), Cameras can be viewed remotely, including on 3G smart phones, and can initiate notifications via voice, text or email.

If you feel more ambitious, have a PC lying around and have a little Linux experience, Zoneminder is a free open-source surveillance application that offers several powerful features not found in the lower-cost systems. For example, you could utilize an air-card at the remote site to enable some broadband access and view cameras in real-time, if the site isn't located near an area that offers traditional broadband cable, telco or wireless services. Zoneminder also supports standard video, IP cameras and X10 devices. Zoneminder is also flexible enough to be configured for multisite operation if desired.

McNamara is president of Applied Wireless, Cape Coral, FL.

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