Shumate Constructors Inc., an Albuquerque, N.M.-based construction contractor, builds educational facilities in the Albuquerque area. In addition to building schools from the ground up, Shumate completes school additions and remodels. Three years ago, the company began having problems keeping thieves out of its construction sites during non-working hours. Unwatched construction sites are hot beds for a variety of thefts — from copper pipes and wire, to hand tools, to heavy-duty machinery.
The loss of machinery, such as front-end loaders, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sometimes workers will arrive to a site in the morning only to find materials — such as copper pipe — gone along with their tools. The result is the loss of a whole day and sometimes multiple days of work. On top of the lost time, the contractor has to cover the cost of replacing materials, file an insurance claim for each theft and complete additional administrative paperwork.
Between the unexpected claim filing and inability to work, time-sensitive project hours are eaten up. It only takes one or two significant events in the life of a project for a contractor to experience a major loss in profitability and time — especially difficult in today’s economy.
Securing Construction Sites
The common method for attempting to divert criminals at construction sites has been perimeter fencing. Every site has some sort of perimeter barrier to keep people from wandering into a potentially dangerous construction zone. Installing a fence around the perimeter of the project notifies people that they are not supposed to be in an area; however, criminals who are determined to enter the site and steal materials will find a way to get in.
Standing guards can be more effective at preventing security breaches than fences. They often will sit in a car, walk around the site, or place themselves in a small building that acts as the base of operations. However, this solution can be expensive — a guard on-site can cost a minimum of $6,000 to $10,000 per month. Additionally, while having someone physically there can be beneficial, it is nearly impossible to ensure they will always be in the right place at the right time. In a few unfortunate cases, guards have contributed to the theft, allowing other people to come and steal equipment when they turn their back.
A New Approach to Perimeter Security
At a contractor trade show a few years ago, Mark Shumate, president of Shumate Constructors, met Dave Meurer, president of Albuquerque’s Armed Response Team. Meurer introduced Shumate to the idea of a flexible, reliable wireless solution that could continually monitor the entire site without the need to trench around the perimeter.
“Mark [Shumate] was fed up with theft at his construction sites so we started to discuss some prevention ideas,” Meurer says. “I knew this was a great fit for the combined Inovonics transmitter and Optex sensor solution. Shumate was not aware of any reliable solutions that could provide this type of theft prevention.”
Shumate decided to allow the Armed Response Team to implement the joint Inovonics and Optex solution. Inovonics wireless transmitters, embedded in Optex passive infrared sensors, were installed atop four-foot, free-standing steel posts with a base plate. Once installed, a wireless signal was easily achieved. The amount of sensors needed at Shumate’s different construction sites vary — for some sites, it can be as few as a dozen, and others it can be as many as 30 or more.
“The sensors can handle varying weather conditions and wireless connectivity offers less signal drop and more consistent reporting signal than any of the other transmitters we have tried,” Meurer says.