THE JUNCTURE OF DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY
Officials often talk about infrastructure security as if it is all one thing, but it’s not. The United States contains more than 5,000 public airports, 300 inland and coastal ports, and thousands upon thousands of other pieces of infrastructure — from railroads, key commercial institutions and power generating plants to pipelines, dams and mass transit facilities.
Every individual piece of critical infrastructure demands a custom security design. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) learned this lesson in the months immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks as it struggled to enhance security at the nation’s largest commercial airports. State and local governments are learning similar lessons from their infrastructure security projects.
Consider, for example, one of the earliest maritime security efforts, the Bay Area Security Enhancement (BASE) project in San Francisco, begun just weeks after Sept. 11.
The $20-million BASE project, managed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), required a design capable of securing seven bridges and three tunnels spread across an area of 2,000 square miles, from the Antioch Bridge north of San Francisco to the Dumbarton Bridge in the south near San Jose. Caltrans awarded the contract for the project to Royal Electric Company, a Sacramento-based prime contractor. WirelessGuys of Ventura, Calif., served as a key sub-contractor on the project.
Each of the BASE bridges posed a unique security challenge. The 4.5-mile Oakland Bay Bridge alone employs three different types of bridge construction — truss, cantilever and suspension. In addition, a tunnel connects the structure’s east and west spans.
The different bridge structures provided larger and smaller fields of view for cameras. On suspension bridges, the cameras have to peer around cables. On the upper deck of the Bay Bridge, fields of view are expansive because the cameras can be positioned up high. But on the lower deck, lower mounting points limit the fields of view and require more cameras.
A large team of contractors and Caltrans personnel designed the project, according to David Brown, a division manager with Royal Electric. “It was a completely different experience than I have had on any other public works project,” Brown says. “We started with a blank sheet of paper literally weeks after Sept. 11, when a lot of the products we planned to use were untested.”
Engineers from Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers laid out a deterrence plan for each bridge and tunnel by studying the facilities and determining where an explosive charge would do the most damage. Long runs of fencing with barbed wire were installed to prevent unauthorized access to those areas. Today, access controlled gates permit authorized maintenance workers to get into restricted areas. To deter access to suspension cables anchored close to the roadway, the team erected large metal structures around them.
To detect potential problems, the team installed motion control sensors along the lengths of fence and also on pier caps, the water-level bumpers that protect bridge structures from ships. Two hundred fifty pan/tilt/zoom low-light color cameras add monitoring capabilities. All of the cameras include Internet Protocol (IP) software. “The nice feature of an IP camera network is that you can provide access to law enforcement agencies that are not on your network,” says Steven A. Williams, president and CEO of WirelessGuys.
The Bay Bridge alone required 150 cameras to cover its 4.5-mile length and double-decker construction. Engineers carefully tested the fields of view to make sure that security personnel would be able to view all critical areas. They also mounted the cameras in positions that would enable the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to monitor and respond to traffic problems.
Video transmission occurs through a wireless system designed by WirelessGuys. Small groups of cameras connect to wireless transmitting devices arrayed throughout the bridge and tunnel structures. The wireless transmitters communicate with a collection device atop the bridge. The video travels from there to the central station command and control point located in downtown Oakland. Video also moves through a local wireless network to maintenance stations built into the tunnels and several of the seven bridges. “The wireless connection to the Oakland command and control center produced major cost savings,” Williams says. “Without the wireless capability, we would have had to install fiber from each of the bridges and tunnels.”
Williams also says the system has been designed to incorporate technical upgrades as they occur. “I think the next step will be to add motion detection through the video system,” he says. “When this technology is perfected, it will add motion detection to locations near the road where sensors don’t work because of the car traffic.”
Brown emphasizes testing technology before approving it for use in infrastructure security designs. “Technology configured to protect a bridge in San Francisco must withstand a variety of environmental stresses quite different from a bridge across a large river in the Midwest,” he says. “You can’t rely on tests vendors say they have conducted.”
Ric Wilhelm, a telecommunications engineer with Caltrans, tested the technology for the BASE project before approving installation. “We tested everything against military specifications,” he says. “Basically our tests simulated the amount of vibration and the temperature variations you would expect from three years of operation. If the equipment could live through that, we figured it would live through the vibration, salt spray and temperature variations on a San Francisco bridge.”
Williams recommends going beyond simple lab tests. Equipment that works well on the BASE project is not necessarily right for a dam project in the desert, he says. At the dam, vibration is not a concern, but high temperatures are. Camera requirements differ between locations as well. In the Bay area, the cameras have to deal with fog that cuts visibility to 300 feet. In the desert, there is no fog and complete coverage requires fewer cameras. At an airport, the wireless devices from the BASE project might not work because of the radio frequencies.
“This is where I see lots of mistakes,” Brown says. “I would recommend requiring that the contractor and system integrator put selected technologies together and make them work in a test environment. I would make it a payment item in a contract, because I see other contractors making mistakes of this kind over and over again.”
Comprehensive planning, designing, and testing combined with a willingness to investigate emerging technologies will ultimately save time and money on expensive infrastructure security projects, concludes Brown. “You have to think these projects through completely,” he says. “Don’t treat them like normal road or bridge projects that you have done a hundred times over. Infrastructure projects deal with brand new goals.”
A CLOSER LOOK
DEFINING CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
What is critical infrastructure? According to “The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets” the nation’s critical infrastructure includes:
- 1,912,000 farms; 87,000 food-processing plants
- 1,800 federal reservoirs; 1,600 municipal waste water facilities
- 5,800 registered hospitals
- 87,000 U.S. localities
- 250,000 defense-based firms in 215 different industries
- 2 billion miles of telecommunications cable
- 2,800 power plants
- 300,000 oil and natural gas production sites
- 5,000 public airports
- 120,000 miles of major railroads
- 590,000 highway bridges
- 2 million miles of pipelines
- 300 inland and coastal ports
- 500 major urban public transit operators
- 26,600 FDIC insured banking and financial institutions
- 66,000 chemical plants
- 137 million postal and shipping delivery sites
- 5,800 historic buildings
- 104 commercial nuclear power plants
- 80,000 dams
- 3,000 government owned or operated facilities
- 460 skyscrapers