Security

Keeping track of critical alarms during a pandemic

18th May 2020
Lanna Cooper

As the impact of COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption, some critical infrastructure sites are still operating with a skeleton crew of staff, while other industrial sites begin the slow process of coming out of lockdown.

Over the last few weeks, Omniflex has seen a surge in demand for its SMS and web-based alarm alert equipment that is used by its customers to remotely warn them when alarms sound. Now, the company is rolling out the technology to others in the mission-critical sectors to keep sites safe.

This remote alarm monitoring technology is designed for applications including electrical substations, utilities, nuclear, environmental and effluent monitoring, computer rooms, facilities management and unmanned sites. The systems also work with intrusion alarms and to deliver production downtime alerts.

Omniflex has three products that can be used for these applications: the SMS-based Teleterm Silent Sentry remote terminal unit (RTU), and the web-based Teleterm D3 and M3 series of programmable RTUs.

The Silent Sentry connects to existing alarm annunciators using a standard Modbus serial connection and can take up to 12 configurable analogue or digital signals. Once it detects an alarm condition, it can send up to 64 SMS messages to 10 different mobile numbers using its built-in GSM quad-band antenna.

Not only can the user acknowledge these alarms using their phone, the unit sends daily ‘I am alive’ status messages to let the user know the system is operational. The unit has a power rating of 9-30Vdc so that it can be used with a standby battery-backup.

“Many critical businesses are worried about monitoring their emergency alarm systems during lockdown, with many relying on their key workers to periodically visit their sites or have someone permanently on site,” explained Gary Bradshaw, UK Director at Omniflex. “By fitting SMS and web-based technologies to their alarm systems, businesses can allow their workers to remotely monitor and control their alarms from the safety of their homes.

“It’s more important than ever that companies minimise the risk of fires, break-ins, electrical faults and other failures. This is why, over the last few weeks, Omniflex has been supporting its customers to fit this technology in some key sectors. One of these customers is Caltex, a brand name of Chevron Corporation, and Australia's largest fuel network, with over 1900 service stations across Australia. Caltex is using the Silent Sentry on many of its fuel distribution depots to monitor alarms during unmanned times of the day.”

For businesses that need the additional convenience of accessing their alarms remotely using a web-based system, Omniflex is offering its Teleterm D3 and M3 series of programmable RTUs. These units make use of Omniflex’s Data2Desktop web service, which allows customers to login using a desktop or mobile device to see the status of their alarms at any time and can receive email and app-based updates.

These units offer additional connectivity in the form of Ethernet for wired, desktop use, as well as two serial ports, 3G and a microSD card slot used for local alarm logging back-up. Both offer battery backups and configurable inputs and outputs and are fully programmable.

Both the SMS and web-based units are available at a competitive one-off cost per unit, with a small additional subscription cost for the web-based tools.

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