Updates in RED! Hey, I wanted to send you an update with responses and some information I got from Erico.
New update – someone told me that they spray all of their copper with cold zinc galvanizing spray to deter thieves and that seems to work.
Responses to deter theft were: 1) Change to copper clad and relocate them showing only 18 inches of copper, 2) Engrave your NOC number on the bus bars, 3) CADweld all the whips together showing less copper, 4) paint them all black and cover them in tar, and 5) remove all buss bars and CADweld the wires together.
From a white paper I got from Erico. They have alternative conductors and ground bars to the standard copper. If you go to http://www.erico.com/public/library/fep/LT21426.pdf you will see what they have. From the White paper, “This is solid high carbon steel (1018 grade) core and molecular bonded with a minimum of 250μm copper. These conductors cannot be removed from the grounding system using normal copper cutting hand tools and has a significantly lower scrap value than the equivalent solid copper conductor. This type of cable is usually a fraction of the cost of copper cables.” So in other words it won’t look like copper or get the price of copper and it’s really hard to cut through with a normal wire cutter that could easily cut copper. I will put more of the white paper in a future blog. For more information reach out to Rohit Narayan at RNarayan@erico.com.
First off, my new book should be out this weekend, it will be an introduction for new tower climbers. I intend to make it the first in a series. I will release it in PDF and Kindle versions for now. Also, like my page on Facebook when you get time.
So copper thieves are still out there. The easy target is a tower site, why? If you don’t know why, maybe you should not be reading this. It’s because most sites are remote where no one is watching.
I will go through why, what and how before I get into why prevention is so hard.
The “why” is because copper is worth quite a bit of money at the scrap metal places and because there is a lot of exposed copper at a tower site. Copper is used for grounding because it is a great conductor. Copper is used for grounding of almost everything at the site. It is strapped onto the RF coax to prevent any lighting surges from entering the shelter. So they are grounded outside to pull the lightning straight to the ground. They used to have lightning rods at the top of the tower that would have a copper band or strap running all the way to a ground rod which would be physically put in the ground. They normally use ground straps, which are flat straps instead of wire because of the possibility of skin effect on the round wire may cause problems in a lightning hit. They usually all terminate at the bottom of a tower to a ground bar which is basically a big solid bar of copper with holes in it to bolt wires to. Then the copper wires and straps are run to a ground rod, in the ground, usually 3 foot to 6 foot long. Then, depending on the purpose of the tower or if it’s near an AM tower there could be a ground array underground all around the tower. This is a lot of copper. So the payoff could be hundreds to thousands of dollars if they have the means to remove it and haul it away.
Now the what, the stealing and vandalism. I know you think it may be a lot of work to remove it, but remember these are thieves, they cut and run. They connect up the copper in the ground to a hitch on their truck and pull out the copper. They don’t care to leave the site in good condition, thieves and vandals. They are there to steal and run, get it, they don’t care about the site in any way shape or form. They are thieves and vandals. They are doing this to make a few dollars on the side and they may or may not get caught. Now sometimes thieves are stupid and try to steal power cables, this usually ends badly for all parties involved. The thief and vandal can die from shock and the location loses power interrupting service for a long time because you have to replace everything.
Don’t think this is a problem, well look at what the insurance companies are saying, http://americancityandcounty.com/law-enforcement/trade-group-says-copper-theft-growing-problem-related-video. You will see that there have been 32,568 insurance claims for copper alone.
I know of many sites that got hit. One was in southern New Jersey at a public television site. They had it all on video, and all we could do what watch them drive away, we didn’t get the license number and they had jackets and hoods on. No ID.
One was outside of Providence, and they took everything they could, including the coils from the inside our air conditioning units. We lost cooling in the site until we could get replacement units. This was a site where the police were very interested because they had equipment there as well. Again, we had video of them driving away. The local TV station covered that incident.
OK, so now you know more and I will put articles and websites in at the end of the blog, but what can we do to stop it? The most popular answer is to add cameras. When we tell them that we have done that then they say add HD cameras. I guess them we can watch them leave in HD, or we could pray that someone opens up a lab that has all the abilities that NCIS does on TV to do facial recognition in a massive database and hope that their face is in the database. I don’t think the real NCIS would really be interested in helping us out. We could hope we get a shot of their license plate assuming we see it and they didn’t remove it or cover it up prior to getting on site. Let me tell you, in all the cases I have seen the best we have done is identify the number of people and the vehicle. It is very hard to find them. They usually are from another area and take the copper far away to cash in.
We want to alarm the equipment somehow but with so many workers at a site that is hard to do. Every time someone adds something to make a change then the alarm would go off. There could be 5 to 10 different groups on one tower, carriers, services, governments, and more. So then all these people would have to be given the code to turn the alarm on and off and what if one of their crew is the culprit? Many of these sites do have alarms on them, but by the time someone gets out there, they would be long gone. Remember the process is that the alarm would need to go off then someone, either the police or a tech or site manager would need to go out and investigate. Chances are it would be a tech or a site manager because they would investigate the problem before calling the police. If the site is remote, then it may be a few hours before someone gets there. Reality check, it takes time to get to the site and see what’s going on.
We could ask the scrap places to ask for ID when someone turns something in, oh, they already do that. We could have the police alert them of a theft, well most police do that as well. We could put a holding period on the copper payout, but I don’t think that would work because the price changes all the time. Think who the main customers are at scrap metal places, you have businesses that turn scrap in who may get mailed a check but the walk in people just want cash on the spot for any scrap they may have had around their house. I don’t think they will want to wait for 2 weeks.
Someone came up with the idea to stamp the ground buss bars with an ID, that may help, but there is a lot of wire at the site that could still be stolen.
I did see where they are running trials with replacing the copper with alternatives to copper. This may be a way to deter theft. If they can use some type of steel that is less valuable than it may not be worth their while to steal it. I think it may come to that. We need to see how the metal holds up to the whether and how the grounding capabilities are. A good ground is very important at a site so if there are any problems with noise or after a lightning strike, then it’s back to copper.
I have seen one company that painted all of their copper with a type of tar that really seemed to work because the site got hit and they didn’t touch any of their copper. The thieves had no interest in dealing with that mess. So there is something that I saw worked. If you had to make future connections it would be messy but it is something to think about.
OK, here are some links that go over copper theft.