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How to Protect a Power Substation from Gunfire Attacks

How to Safeguard a Power Substation From Gunfire Attacks

The importance of power substations makes them targets for deliberate attacks, especially gunfire. As such, counter-security measures should be put in place to protect them. Some of these measures include ballistic barriers, bullet protection gears, and the installation of other advanced security systems.

With a lot of people depending on a power substation for their electrical needs, the threat to the station needs to be taken seriously. Any damage to a power substation can create widespread outages that can affect the day-to-day activities of the areas linked to it and lead to possible chaos.

Several measures can be taken to improve security and reduce potential risks while increasing the operational efficiency of power substations. One of the most popular measures taken by industry experts is combining the elements of physical security known as the five “D’s.” These are; detecting, deterring, delaying, denying, and defending. 

Combining all these five “D’s” can effectively stop any damage that might be caused in the events of an actual gunfire attack.

Explaining the Five “D’s”


The first active response to a shooting attack is precise detection, classification, and reporting of threatening gunshots. The shooters need to be detected on time before they begin to fire because every second counts.


Deterring an attack involves taking the following steps and measures; 

  • Tall and visible signage issuing warnings of the potential consequences of attacking the power substation 
  • Putting anti-climb measures in place. 
  • Visible security cameras and monitoring signage 
  • Installing loud alarms and other monitoring tools. 

Importantly, for an effective deterring and detecting measure, there’s a need for gunfire detection systems. Typically, what these systems do is detect the sound as well as the flash of gunfire, using optical sensors and acoustic. It then reports the attack immediately.

However, one needs to take proper care to differentiate false signals. This means that there should be a reduction of unnecessary alerts from lightning, substation relays snapping backfires or any other noise from irrelevant sources.


Delaying the attack involves taking measures to hinder or slow the shooter. This is mainly done to buy time for law enforcement and for security personnel to arrive and stop any damage from occurring. These measures include:

  • Reducing the maximum speed level of the access from and to the substation. This can be achieved using speed bumps, gates, etc.
  • Placing intrusion detection and several perimeter fencing systems far away from the power substation.


Denying the attack involves any measures aimed at obscuring the sight line into the power substation and making target components inside the station more difficult and time-consuming to reach. By taking this measure, the shooter can’t hit the most critical components of the power substation and will not be able to cause any damage to the transformer. 

This can be achieved through the use of fence wraps or solid perimeter walls. If there is massive spacing in the power substation, earthen berms inside the fence’s outer perimeter can also be used to accomplish this.


Defending a power substation involves measures like :

  • Hardened perimeter
  • Top vigilance with armed security
  • Protected access points
  • Using surveillance systems to deter or repel a coordinated effort to attack the power substation.

This measure is applied alongside the others for most critical power systems serving facilities of national importance.

Use of Bullet-resistant Barriers to Harden Critical Power Substation Elements

One of the most effective protective methods used against gunfire attacks is the use of bullet-resistant barriers. Although this method is seldom used because of its high cost of installation, it is considered the most advanced of all methods. In most cases, it offers 100% protection against gunshots. 

Bullet-resistant barriers are often used to protect the power substations’ most expensive, sensitive, and hard-to-repair elements, such as; the transformer and switching gears. In contrast, other measures are used for other areas of the system. 

Limitations to Protecting a Power Substation

Generally speaking, protecting power substations is a difficult task. This heightened difficulty is due to the following reasons:

  • Substations are mostly situated in remote areas. This means there is no one to serve as a witness to the attack. Also, in places that take a lot of time to reach, law enforcement will respond late to any attack.
  • Since power substations are usually situated on a large expanse of land, installing ballistic-resistant barriers is expensive.
  • With how sensitive the substation components can be, there is a limit to what can be installed around it. These limitations can hinder the installation of protective enclosures within an existing power substation.
  • Most power substations are mainly protected by a chain-link fence, which makes it easy to be shot through with a rifle.

Damages that can be Caused By Gunfire Attack on a Power Substation

Damages caused by gunfire attacks on substations can be severe depending on the places hit by the gunshots. The effect of Gunfire attacks on power substations can include:

  • Destruction of the vulnerable parts of the power substation, which are the transformers and switching components.
  • Fire outbreaks in the power substation.
  • Structural damage to the architectural makeup of the substation 
  • Compromise the integrity of the power supplied by the substation to its grid lines. 

Power substations are constantly being targeted and disabled by vandals and terrorists across the globe. This is why it is advisable to have protective measures in place right from the beginning. This will help save millions in damages that would have happened right after the accident. 

Power system owners need to focus more on stopping attacks and making them more difficult and time-consuming for an attacker. Our team at DuraBarrier USA can help you with this. We can also assist with bullet-resistant blankets and hard enclosures as well as shields to provide strategic protection for the most critical, hard-to-repair elements and sensitive parts of the station. You can contact us by visiting our website here; for more information. 

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Sinisi Solutions

75 Main St, Manasquan, NJ 08736