The Power of PSIM Protects Utility Giant’s Critical Infrastructure

Duke Energy is one of the first electric power companies in the U.S. to successfully deploy PSIM


NICE Situator enhances efficiency for security operators by automatically analyzing and correlating information and alerts across security subsystems in real time. Adaptive, predefined response plans embedded in NICE Situator then guide security operators to follow specific standard operating procedures based on the indicators of what’s happening. The solution also documents incidents for investigations and compliance reporting.

 

Greater than threefold increase in monitoring capabilities without adding staff

Prior to implementing NICE Situator, Duke Energy’s former Security Command Center (known as the “Security Console”) was able to monitor 15 critical sites with fewer than 100 sensor points. Today, with the addition of NICE Situator, the new ESCC has been able to grow its monitoring capabilities by more than a factor of three, without adding staff. Security operators use NICE Situator to keep watch over 53 critical sites (a number anticipated to grow to 110 by year-end). Critical sites include substations, office buildings, operations centers, transmission lines departments, hydro facilities, generation facilities, etc.

Alerts that come into the Security Command Center are either security-related (e.g., door-forced-open alarms and door-held-open alarms), or of the system variety (e.g., communication failures of access-control panels and readers).

When an alert comes in, NICE Situator displays the core information the security operator needs to respond or deploy local security forces.

The alarms are overlaid on a map-based interface complete with building graphics, and supplemented by structured and easy-to-follow action plans. That allows operators to quickly pinpoint and direct response personnel to the alarm’s exact location, even if it’s on a sprawling campus or in a very large building.

 

But it wasn’t always that easy.

Before NICE Situator, security operators would have received general details about the alarm location, but not in a visually intuitive way.

“An alarm might have come up as ‘door number 123’ at a particular operation center, but the operator really wouldn’t have a clue where that door was because most of them would have never visited the location,” explains Marcello.

In contrast, the ability to visualize the alert on a facility’s floor plan is very helpful, Marcello says. “Some response procedures require the operator to call local personnel and notify them of the alarm. Without the visual reference, the operator can only say it’s ‘door number 123.’ The person on the other end of the line may not know where that is. But if operators can visualize alarms, they can explain ‘it’s near the computer room,’ or give other directions.”

 

Streamlined processes cut training requirements, accelerate response times

The ESCC has also benefitted from NICE Situator’s ability to automate response procedures. Before the PSIM system was deployed, when an alarm came in, the security operator would have to manually look up the response procedure in a notebook, and that was time-consuming. Plus, there’s always potential for error, even for more senior operators who believe they know the procedures, Marcello points out.

Now, standard operating procedures (SOPs) can be stored in NICE Situator’s database and linked to specific alarm-sensor conditions. When an alarm is triggered, the right procedure is automatically displayed for the operator to follow. If the operator doesn’t acknowledge the alarm or misses a step, the system automatically escalates the alert to the next level of supervision in the ESCC.

Currently, Duke Energy has 185 standard operating procedures implemented in Situator.

“Operators see the alarms coming in, they see where the alarms are physically located, and they see the steps, the actions they’re required to take,” says Marcello. “If there are other devices available, video cameras for example, they see the on-scene video as well. The PSIM solution helps operators better assess situations and respond in the appropriate manner.”

Security operators are now able to do all their work in one integrated, automated system, and Marcello says that streamlined process has cut training requirements and accelerated response time by 50 percent. Because SOPs are maintained in the PSIM database instead of on paper, workspace clutter is eliminated, and procedural changes can be easily implemented.