A refreshing approach to water site security

There are a large number of water sites in the UK.  According to Ofwat, every day over 50 million household and non-household consumers in England and Wales receive good quality water, sanitation and drainage services, provided by 34 privately owned companies in England and Wales.  Thames Water, Britain’s largest water and wastewater company alone provides 14 million people, and the number of Thames Water sites exceeds 600. Consider then the grave implications of not being able to access fresh water in both our domestic and commercial lives, and the significance of security at such sites soon becomes apparent.

Security threats

The potential threats to site security range from a sinister attack on public safety by contaminating/poisoning the water supply, to accidental pollution and simple theft of valuable equipment/materials stored at key water locations.  In addition to this, it is important to ensure such sites are effectively ring fenced with a secure perimeter to prevent and deter unauthorised personnel from gaining access – any water and particularly sewage water can represent a potential safety hazard.

The reality is that the majority of water operation sites are unmanned and consequently there is a heavy reliance on effective physical security to deliver the required perimeter protection and access control.

When reviewing the physical security needs for this type of site (size can range from as little as one to hundreds of metres around the perimeter) it is important to identify a complete perimeter solution package from a single source to avoid any breaks or inconsistencies in the security chain.

Focus on future perfect solutions

Any review of physical security measures should start with a comprehensive Risk and Threat Assessment to identify and prioritise the potential threats to site security – this will include confirming requirements specific to the site eg necessary height of fencing. Decision makers for such matters should always focus on a long-term solution which will deliver a security infrastructure which will stand the test of time and therefore represent a sound investment.  

This is definitely not an area where cost should be the over-riding factor  – fit for purpose products that have undergone rigorous testing, have been proven to offer a consistent high standard of performance and which are guaranteed to deliver over a lengthy period of time, should prevail.  The focus should also be on selecting products that not only offer a long service life, but also the benefit of low maintenance. The combination of long lifetime service and minimal maintenance will represent an overall low lifetime cost – a key consideration for any stake holders involved in monitoring the overall financial performance of the business.

Meticulous risk and threat assessments should also form part of the maintenance programme supporting the water site to ensure all the protection measures that have been put in place remain relevant and capable of withstanding the challenges that are identified.

Recommended products for water site security

Water site security checklist

  • Risk and Threat Assessment to identify / prioritise risks
  • Source future perfect / long term durable solutions requiring low maintenance
  • Maintenance risk and threat assessments
  • Review site from outside in / layered approach to physical security
  • Functionality a priority but consider aesthetics 
  • Access control must be compliant with current standards / regulations
  • Access control

    Letting authorised personnel in, and keeping unauthorised visitors out is a basic tenet of site security.  Automated access control will play a pivotal role in addressing this need.  Any automated gates or barriers which are installed must be CE accredited to ensure compliance with current standards and regulations.  In addition, the company responsible for the installation should be capable of offering ongoing maintenance to ensure any access control devices remain safe and effective.  Site workers on foot should be given a separate pedestrian access point to the main vehicular automated gate.  All automated gates and barriers should be installed in line with current Gate Safe and DHF guidelines to ensure the appropriate safety protocol is adhered to.

    Overall perimeter site security

    The outer edges of the property boundary line should be viewed as the exterior perimeter of the site and this clearly requires a robust and effective ring of security around it to deter any unwanted/unauthorised entry. Aesthetics may need to be considered in some situations, alongside key functionality requirements.  It is possible to introduce a ‘hardened’ perimeter security boundary which boasts all the necessary strength and resistance to attack required, whilst also blending in with the local landscape.  Timber fencing is not traditionally associated with high level security but products such as EuroGuard® Combi combine the natural beauty of wood with the strength and security of steel. Welded mesh panels incorporating closely spaced timber slats deliver a durable perimeter line featuring no hand or foot holds thus deterring any climbing activity.

    The importance of perimeter security for utilities

    To plan an effective perimeter security solution for utilities sites, you first need to consider why it's important so you can understand the vulnerabilities of the site and how best to protect them.

    An insight into protecting utilities

    Download our short insight paper on perimeter protection as a starting point when researching security options for utilities sites.

    Protecting water treatment plants

    Access to safe, clean water will always be an essential requirement for households and businesses in the UK, which is why perimeters around water treatment plants need to be safe, secure, and long-lasting.

    Protecting utilities sites with perimeter fencing

    Perimeter fencing is the first line of defence against attack and intrusion at any site. With over 600 water treatment plants responsible for safe sanitation for over 50 million people in the UK, perimeter fencing is highly important for protecting precious supplies.

    The Onion Principle

    Security surveys employ what is termed the Onion Principle to develop a layered wall of defence around a potential target.  The aim is to work from the outside into the centre, treating each different boundary as a layer which needs to be hardened to delay the attacker, protect the site’s assets and provide security staff with intelligence through surveillance.

    It is this methodology, i.e. reviewing a site from the outside in, which should be applied when determining the required perimeter and physical security solutions for a water site.  All too often decisions are based on a printed plan, a product catalogue, a specification sheet or from a desk in an office looking out – but an effective perimeter/physical security protocol must be evolved by looking from an intruder’s perspective, from the outside, looking in.

    Jacksons offers a unique consultative service which enables clients to plan their physical perimeter protection and access control into the overall security architecture of the water site.  A holistic approach to fencing, gates, lighting, CCTV and access control measures must be adopted to ensure a successful outcome. Thorough site audits will take into consideration existing security measures and identify any potential weaknesses, and will play an active role in the development of a fully integrated security system, fit to face the challenges of the various methods and forces of attack employed by the modern day intruder.

    The ‘layered’ approach operates by identifying the various perimeters within the site, and increasing the level of defence as you enter deeper into the heart of the facility and closer to the most critical and sensitive assets.