Save our surveillance
September 19, 2012 2:04 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to protect surveillance equipment from lightning?

SURGE PROTECTORS! Yes I know, but Florida.

The company I work for has for years had problems with lightning taking out multiple cameras and surveillance DVRs on several occasions. The last severe storm knocked out a bunch of equipment in 12 locations, leaving us to replace almost 50 cameras as well as 4 DVRs and 2 HDTVs that we use to monitor the cams.

We have these cctv surge protectors that apparently didn't work. After the fact, we were told that they are only for protecting the DVR, although we asked specifically for cam protection as well (from the third party that installed them) and the description from Ditek themselves says it's for camera protection. Even though there was a major failure on the part of either the equipment or installation, nothing is covered due to the third party claiming it came from other sources like the HDMI line - the HDTV that is connected as the monitor (plugged into a surge protector as well!?!).

What we want to know is what we can do to minimize lightning damage to the surveillance systems. Each DVR has a UPS, the Ditek cctv protector strip grounded to our telecom ground, network surge protectors (these work great, by the way - saved our VOIP phones!) and whole-building surge panels on the breaker box.

We've looked at these inline cam surge arrestors but before we spend $4000 for as many as we'd need I'd like to know if anyone has experience with them? And does anyone have any ideas on HDMI surge protection?

So, hive, does anyone have any advice on what we'd need to do to save our equipment? We've looked at lightning rods but they don't attract lightning so a strike in the parking lot would not be protected against. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
posted by dozo to Technology (8 answers total)
I'm currently building a new website for a company that manufactures lightning detectors. Here's their old website.
posted by davebush at 4:32 PM on September 19, 2012

Here's a heavy-duty HDMA surge protector. Your current CCTV surge protector won't protect the cameras, you are going to need a surge protector at the camera end of the connection, too. Even then, nothing is guaranteed.

Equipment loss due to lightning strike is part of the cost of doing business in FL, and needs to be factored into the operating budget.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:16 AM on September 20, 2012

IF you have a ups at the end where the power box of the cameras connects to the wall shouldnt that be good enough? Unless you run IP cameras then you would have to put one at every switch.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:43 AM on September 20, 2012

The CCTV co-ax can carry current, even from an indirect strike.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:01 AM on September 20, 2012

davebush, I'm interested in what the detector can do. After discussing this with my boss, we may get in touch to see how we could implement this. Although going around unplugging stuff is not ideal, most of our customers wouldn't be out and about during lightning storms most likely.

Slap*Happy, I wonder why I couldn't find that product in my searches; every site I found said that if the surge made it to the HDMI port, you could kiss your equipment goodbye. As for the cost of doing business, you're absolutely right, but I've never had this much carnage from lightning before - and I've been doing IT for 10 years now. I was hoping we'd been doing it wrong but I think we might just limit our surveillance to indoors. Not that that would definitely stop all losses, but I think it would bring down how much exposure we have.

By the way, is an amazing resource! I've been looking for clear, specific information like that for quite some time. This is something I can give the less technical higher-ups that will help them understand the difficult job we're up against. Thanks!

majortom1981, as we have UPSs all over the place, apparently not. Slap*Happy's link explains why.
posted by dozo at 7:04 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Almost nothing protects against lightning. It's a giant spark that's miles long. It isn't going to give a shit about some piece of plastic. Even then, you can have all the protection you want, but if something hits near enough, ground/zero/neutral will briefly become very much not.

Honestly, you need to consult an actual engineer who does this stuff. Ebay surge protectors just aren't going to cut it.
posted by gjc at 6:33 PM on September 20, 2012

I was hoping we'd been doing it wrong but I think we might just limit our surveillance to indoors.

If switching to indoors helps, lightning is hitting close enough to your equipment that you need to talk to someone who protects buildings from lightning. Perhaps an architect or structural engineer.
posted by yohko at 9:47 PM on September 20, 2012

The lightning has hit across the street and in the parking lot when we've been able to determine the approximate strike, never a direct hit to the building. We've reached out to a couple of lightning protection system installers in the area but after hearing our story have yet to contact us for follow ups. We have a problem here with reliable third party contractors.

I suspect that the cameras outdoors were possibly the route into which the spike entered, so I figure that if we were to only have lines running inside the office (in which very few electronics not connected to the DVR system has been damaged) we might lower the immense cost of replacement. At least only replace 3 or 4 cams as opposed to 8 or 12 or more.

The links to eBay are just the most convenient, safe links that I could find. The APC surge protectors have saved several $350 VOIP phones on more than one occasion, so they're not entirely worthless. It's just strange that these systems are burning out with incredible regularity while most other office equipment is relatively safe.

Thanks everyone!
posted by dozo at 7:44 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

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