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  The Climate Crisis: How Alarm Monitoring is Adapting to Extreme Weather Patterns

In the face of climate change, we are witnessing an uptick in natural disasters and more extreme temperatures. In 2018, 108 million people needed help from international agencies to cope with natural disasters and this may increase by 50% by 2020.

As such, it’s become crucial to ensure the security systems we rely on are robust enough to function in volatile conditions. So, how exactly is the security industry evolving to counter the challenges presented by changing weather patterns? And how are alarm monitoring systems adapting in order to alert users about weather-related threats? Read on to find out.

How is Climate Change Affecting Alarm Monitoring?

Increased Extreme Weather Events

CCTV monitoring equipment and sensors used outdoors might experience more frequent damage or malfunctions due to severe weather conditions. As a result, they might require more frequent maintenance or replacement, and companies will need to invest in more durable CCTV systems appropriate for the new weather-related risks in their location. 

There is also the indirect impact of natural disasters – not only will the number of genuine alarms for the emergency services increase, but they may trigger more false alarms due to disturbances in the environment that are not related to any incidents.

This will put a strain on monitoring services, so more advanced algorithms may need to be developed, along with more widespread use of AI-enabled analytics and other advanced monitoring technologies. This will help improve the accurate detection of false versus genuine alarms.

Temperature and Humidity Fluctuations

Each CCTV system and monitoring device has optimal operating temperatures, and so the prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures can affect their lifespan and reliability. In addition, increased humidity can cause condensation within electronic devices, leading to potential short circuits or malfunctions. Again, companies will need to invest in weather appropriate hardware.

Rising Sea Levels

Facilities that house the infrastructure for alarm monitoring services located near coastlines may be at risk, so they might need to be relocated or fortified against potential flooding. (Flooding is also one of the main environmental risks for data centres, among other rising physical security threats.)

Increased Power Outages

Increased extreme weather events may lead to more frequent power outages. Alarm monitoring systems often rely on continuous power supplies, so there’s a need for reliable backup power solutions to ensure the systems remain operational during blackouts.

Network Vulnerabilities

If the infrastructure of a region is damaged due to extreme weather events, the communication link between alarm systems and Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) could be disrupted.

A report on the climate risk to the UK’s infrastructure lists the following risks:

  • Flooding and the corresponding water and salt damage
  • Subsidence to buildings and masts
  • Cable heave from uprooted trees
  • Flooding, storm damage, and heat damage to base stations
  • Underground cable damage due to water ingress
  • Access problems for engineers in affected locations/a lack of safe access

PSTN is on the way out in the UK. By December 2025, it will be replaced by fibre to the premises (FTTP) and Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA), while voice services will be delivered using Voice over IP (VoIP).

Using fibre is advantageous when it comes to environmental risks – to an extent. Unlike copper, fibre cables are resistant to corrosion and perform well despite temperature fluctuations. Copper cables may be damaged by lightning or electrical surges, while fibre cables do not conduct electricity and are not affected by electromagnetic fluctuations.

On the other hand, fibre optic cables that remain submerged are at risk of damage. While they are water resistant, they are not designed to be exposed to water for sustained periods and signal attenuation can occur as a result. This means that land-based infrastructure is at risk due to rising sea levels. In addition, cable connectors would corrode, causing signal loss.

Other natural hazards such as submarine landslides pose further risks. In areas susceptible to severe storms, the stability of the continental shelf could be compromised. This would cause more abrasion to cables and if they are exposed above the seabed, they would be subject to water ingress.

How is the Security Industry Adapting to Climate Change?

Durable CCTV Monitoring Hardware

As extreme weather events become more frequent, security companies will need to invest in more durable equipment, and assets already designed for extreme conditions may be used in more everyday scenarios. 

For example, areas that did not used to experience heavy snowfall may require equipment designed for use in the arctic, while equipment deployed in areas that experience high-velocity winds may become more common in locations with an increased risk of hurricanes.  

Security cameras may need to be placed in enclosures made of metals that resist corrosion, temperature fluctuations, and other extreme conditions. Quartz glass and zinc-selenium glass may be used in camera lenses in regions experiencing extreme high temperatures.

Companies may acquire these assets as part of the normal replacement cycle, but if the needs of the region are more urgent, earlier action may be necessary.

Managing Telecoms Network Risks

Researchers have identified hotspots of increased risk of submarine cable damage. By identifying these areas, measures can be taken to minimise the consequences if any natural disasters were to occur in those areas.

For example, the International Cable Protection Committee have advised to disperse cable infrastructure to provide redundancy – that is, multiple paths for data so that it can be transmitted despite failure in one of the paths. This is important because the extent of the damage caused by extreme events could cause outages for large regions.   

Other measures include waterproofing existing infrastructure that may be affected by rising sea levels.

Smart Alert Systems for Weather Threats

While traditional alarm systems primarily focused on intrusions or breaches, the modern alarm is becoming more multifaceted. More things are monitorable than ever thanks to the Internet of Things, and with meteorological data, systems can provide users with real-time alerts about impending weather threats.

The predicted cost that would be caused by natural disasters in 2030 is USD 20 billion per year. According to the UN, early warning systems would bring a tenfold ROI as a result of preventing deaths and injuries but in 2020, only one in three people were protected by such systems.

While early warning systems are already in use in many developed countries, some scenarios are harder to predict, such as flash flooding or earthquakes. In addition, time is of the essence in any disaster scenario, so researchers are exploring ways to reduce data latency, an important challenge to overcome in these systems. For example, for every millisecond delay in sending a message, the radius of the area the earthquake reaches increases by eight metres.

Integration with Smart Building Systems

In future, we may see early warning system integrated with building automation systems, allowing for more effective responses to disasters. For example, in the event of a predicted flood, an integrated system could automatically trigger the shutdown of electrical outlets at ground level, minimising the risk of short circuits and related hazards.

In Closing

The intensification of extreme weather events has brought to light the vulnerabilities in our existing alarm monitoring infrastructure, prompting a re-evaluation and subsequent adaptation. From the durability of hardware to the flexibility of network systems, the need for resilience has never been more pressing. In addition, early warning systems will save lives and hopefully, we will see more advanced systems being introduced in the near future. 

GeminiSense is the UK’s leading provider of alarm monitoring solutions. We go beyond the basics of video surveillance monitoring – we provide lone worker protection, tele-care, and our NB-IoT module lets you monitor alerts from any IP-enabled device. As our solutions are cloud based, they also support remote access. To discover how we can advance your organisation’s security operations, contact us to book a demo.

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Supported Systems

This list shows those CCTV products where at least minimum functionality is supported. As manufacturers improve their products and GeminiSense is continuously enhanced, the integration functionality is subject to change.