15th October 2020

The Hot Topic – Electrical Substations: Danger Signs are There for a Reason

Back in September of this year, a substation based in Leyland in Lancashire was subject to a break in with the intruder tampering with the equipment whilst putting their life on the line by trespassing.

But this wasn’t the only intrusion, as for the past 5 weeks 6 electricity substations in the area have been broken into, causing power cuts and disruption, affecting thousands of people across the region. However, it isn’t just the residents of Leyland who are affected by this recklessness; with 11,000 volts of electricity running through substations connecting the power network, every intrusion could be fatal.

But these aren’t isolated incidents… Back in July thieves broke into the Northern Powergrid in Rawmarsh, Rotherham stealing earthing cables. Rotherham Inspector Caroline Bakewell stated, “We are working hard to identify those responsible for the theft, but I also want to raise awareness of the danger of entering substations. People who attack substations are not only breaking the law, they are putting the safety of people, including themselves, at risk.”

So how do you stop determined intruders from accessing these substations to protect not only themselves but others? The security standards for Primary Substations are clear, and according to SP Energy Networks, “All security systems, including fencing, shall be in accordance with ASSET-01-023 – Substation Security Policy. Fencing to Outdoor Equipment shall be a minimum of 2.4m overall height above anti-dig security kerb or bund wall level where applicable.”

These overall standards are relevant for primary substations however, the ones targeted by intruders are those much smaller, that carry medium to low voltage which can still be fatal or result in injury if uneducated. These secondary substations have timber perimeter fencing and danger signs to prevent unauthorised access, but is this enough if intruders are still accessing these sites? Does another line of defence need to be implemented in order to guarantee zero unauthorised access?

Could an anti-climb security perimeter be the option to protect these substations and prevent intruders? GRP Railings are anti-climb with the option to add additional security toppings acting as a first line of defence. GRP Panels are also ideal for substations and utility sites due to their electrical insulation and heat resistance. These non-conductivity features mean they hold maximum safety around the perimeters reducing injury whilst also protecting against intruders.

So, the hot topic asks; in order to stop intruders accessing smaller substations, should the perimeter fencing match the threat levels that these sites hold? Should non-conductive fencing be a high priority for secondary substations?