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.