Commissioning — the process that verifies a substation security system operates in a manner consistent with its design — commonly starts in the final weeks before the system is handed over to the security operation center. But that can be a mistake.

Outcomes are usually far better when the commissioning process spans multiple stages of the substation security design and installation. Consider these steps:

Step One: The Commissioning Plan

Commissioning schedules, inspection checklists, a network schedule, and site and floor plans can be created as soon as the substation security system design is issued for bid or construction. These documents provide a commissioning agent with the tools needed to precheck the security system during factory testing and other early testing opportunities.

Step Two: Factory Testing

Factory testing can be valuable in solving integration issues before installation. Performed at the system integrator’s offices, these tests involve setting up a security system to test individual devices as well as to conduct integration testing between security systems.

Step Three: Security System Installation

Periodic site visits during security system installation can be used to verify that equipment, devices and cabling are installed and labeled according to the construction documents. Once installation is complete, a commissioning agent can also verify that the as-built drawings and O&M manuals correspond with the commissioning checklist.

Step Four: Security System Pretesting

Many troubleshooting issues are traced to incorrect labeling of cables and minor programming errors. Pretesting helps identify these errors, while also confirming that programming is finalized, and security devices are connected to the correct points on the security equipment.

Step Five: Security System Burn-In

A security system needs to operate in real-world conditions for two to four weeks so the equipment can “learn” from analytics and integrators can detect system anomalies. Substation personnel use the system during burn-in as if it has been accepted, creating punch list items that can be resolved as they occur.

Step Six: Acceptance Testing

Acceptance testing — the final tests before a security system is turned over to the owner — is performed primarily at the substation, where testers will activate alarms, verify device installation and perform other tests to verify the system is functioning properly. Especially critical is security system device verification, which confirms that card readers, cameras and other security devices are operating properly. Final checks of label accuracy on cabinets and field devices is also important.

If the integrator and commissioning agent have worked well together in resolving issues throughout the project, acceptance testing should be relatively simple and trouble-free. Such a multistage approach to commissioning sets the table for owner satisfaction and timely handover of the system to the owner.

Jerome Farquharson is managing director of the governance, risk, cybersecurity and compliance group at Burns & McDonnell. With a multidisciplined 25-year background in physical and cybersecurity, information systems and business advisory consulting, Jerome has worked on projects ranging from compliance, network design and implementation to risk assessment, program management and strategic planning.