How Perimeter Protection Is Improving Rail Line Security

Rail security is an ongoing challenge. As the Association of American Railroads (AAR) puts it, the railroad “factory floor” is outdoors and more than 140,000 miles long, making it virtually impossible to secure the entire network with physical infrastructure.

Fenced or gated rail yards can be easily circumvented, and switching devices along the track bed are often unlocked, making it possible for unauthorized persons to redirect and potentially derail a train by simply pulling a lever. Rail vandalism also costs the industry millions of dollars.

Even though it is unlawful for anyone to enter or remain on railroad property without the consent of the owner, enforcing these laws with conventional resources is expensive and often ineffective. The sight of graffiti-covered tank cars, some carrying toxic chemicals, is a jolting reminder of the seriousness of the situation and the critical need for security. It’s also a stark warning that someone who can gain access to a rail yard with the intent to cause vandalism could just as easily place a bomb on a car carrying toxic chemicals.

The railroad industry’s recognition of the need to improve the security of its vital assets provides security dealers and systems integrators with tremendous opportunities in the space. Forward-thinking individuals have the opportunity to win more projects while building a reputation as experts in railway security, which could have a significant effect on profits and business growth.

Meeting Difficult Security Needs With Technology

To combat the vulnerabilities that exist, the rail industry is fighting back with smarter integrated security technology including smart thermal cameras, pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) tracking solutions and target-mapping display software. These video-based systems can automatically detect, locate and verify intrusions in real-time, solving the toughest outdoor and perimeter security problems – from preventing theft and vandalism to addressing situations of national consequence.

RELATED: Visualizing Superior Perimeter Protection With Video Surveillance

Smart thermal cameras in particular have emerged as an effective and cost-efficient intrusion detection solution. Rail perimeter applications typically involve low-light conditions, and thermal video analytic cameras represent a beneficial detection source, detecting intrusions that might occur even in complete darkness and removing the need for illumination. Because they “see” heat, thermal cameras are a reliable human detector; what’s more, recent advances in thermal technology now allow them to operate in full sunlight as well as in complete darkness.

Smart thermal cameras employ a high degree of image processing to amplify small differences between the temperature of an intruder and the background, accurately detecting intruders even in less than ideal conditions. Integrated GPS technology is used to accurately determine the size and speed of detected targets even over large distances, minimizing nuisance alerts while providing critical information about an intrusion’s location.

The on-board image processing is also effective in eliminating nuisance alarms caused by wind, rain, small animals and other anomalies. Additionally, these smart cameras use built-in electronic stabilization to deliver a high probability of detection without false alerts caused by vibrations from wind or train movement.

RELATED: Combining Outdoor Video Surveillance With Security

Smart Thermal Camera Application Example

Theft and vandalism are serious issues affecting the nation’s rail companies. Freight cars with valuable cargo are often left unattended at wayside locations, making them ideal targets for theft. It goes without saying that while you can’t place a physical barrier like a fence directly across the operating area of a train, you can place a “virtual” fence using smart video to detect someone entering the operational area. For this and other reasons, smart thermal video solutions are proving to be an effective way to resolve many issues for rail organizations.

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