The impact of the heatwave on security

Fan & temperature control inside a Tower
CCTV designed to cope with extreme weather

by Ewen Tyson, Head of Product Development, VPS UK Ltd

Many people with security equipment installed are asking if their CCTV or alarm systems will work during the current exceptional heatwave.

By and large, the short answer is yes for the current expected temperatures, providing the equipment used is of a certain quality: otherwise they can fail, or the functionality of the systems may be negatively affected.

Today’s security technologies are heavily dependent on semiconductors, Internet Protocol (IP), video capture and management software, as well as the cameras themselves, so, particularly in digital CCTV systems, which have more components than analogue, there is potential for overheating to affect their reliability.

The current heatwave is expected to reach temperatures of over 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit), and so when we select components for our security systems, we do not just ensure they are CE or UKCA marked, but that they have been tested for a wide range of weather extremes, from freezing conditions through to extreme heat, the latter most commonly up to 60°Celsius (140° Fahrenheit).

Of course, those tests are often conducted in a laboratory, so it is not until the systems are operating in the field that their true reliability can be assessed, and as VPS have bases throughout Europe, we have had some ideal ‘out in the field’ testing in Germany, Spain and Italy recently. It won’t help that a semiconductor or a circuit board can withstand high temperatures, if a simple solder joint melts.

Whilst it is a good starting point that specifications for the equipment meet these extreme weather conditions, there are several measures taken that keep the equipment running to operational expectations. The most basic is to ensure that the housing of the equipment meets the Ingress Protection standard appropriate to the installation – commonly IP65 or 67. Severe storms often follow high temperatures, so the equipment needs to be protected from both.

Quality CCTV Towers, for example, have an environmental control box built-in. Apart from the IP housing, they also contain a variable speed fan controlled by the temperature, and an air filter to prevent dust and dirt being drawn into the cabinet. Another measure we take to reduce the impact of extreme heat or cold, is to hang the main component box on, effectively, shock absorbers, inside the Towers so that they are not touching the external cabinet.

For wireless systems, the chargers, which must also be able to operate under extreme conditions, can be a source of heat themselves, so the latest designs separate the charging devices from the main security components.

All in all, today’s best security equipment will have a ‘healthy status’ dashboard facility to relay back to the monitoring centre, and include a temperature monitoring device for inside the units.

Of course, there are other factors that the heatwave can influence and impact upon, other than the equipment. How and where the systems are installed, for example, if PIR detectors are facing into sunlight, that can affect their dependability. Guards and canine units will be affected by the heat if they are patrolling outdoors all day, and in occupied premises, people may leave windows and doors open for extra ventilation, and forget to close them when they leave the premises.

Specialising in protecting and securing vacant properties, our inspectors do not expect an increase in open windows during heatwaves. Nevertheless, there is the potential that the heat can cause damage to roofs, and while roofs are designed to handle expansion of joints and rafters, a heat wave can cause significant expansion, with the most damage to the flashing on the roof. Damaged flashing can allow water ingress, which inspectors will spot.