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The Top 3 Ways Animals Sabotage Your Remote Sites - and How to Stop Them

Animal hazards at your remote sites cost money and time
Animals can cause big damage at your remote sites - but
you can detect and stop it with the right tools

Your remote sites are often deep in the wilderness. This reduces that chance for human theft and vandalism, but the local wildlife can sometimes surprise you. Even small creatures can cause equipment damage and network downtime by:

  • Chewing cabling
  • Removing insulation and clogging air vents
  • Entering electronic equipment (seeking warmth) and being electrocuted
  • Physically plugging up air vents themselves (flying insects)

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to counteract pesky critters. Here are 3 of our favorite strange-but-true stories of animals causing chaos at your remote infrastructure sites:

1. Squirrel takes down microwave link by storing 35 gallons of acorns

You probably wouldn't believe it without proof, so check out this (very funny) video:

This relentless squirrel stored acorn after acorn through a small hole in the microwave waveguide cover. One day, the link went down when the squirrel added one acorn too many.

How to detect and stop microwave debris storage:
This problem wasn't detected until the link went down because the link wasn't monitored using any analog measurements. The signal received on the far end would have been getting weaker and weaker during the weeks and months of acorn storage, but this wasn't monitored. Only a total failure of the microwave link triggered any action, and it was already too late to prevent a service failure.

Monitoring RSL (receive signal level), forward power, and reflected power using analog inputs on an RTU would have made it very evident that something was increasingly wrong. You would have seen a signal getting weaker and weaker - even though data was still getting across the link. You would have been able to remove the acorns and discourage future storage by repairing the hole. Service would never have been lost.

2. Rodents chew up coax insulation, clog vents, attract big rattlesnakes

Our next tale of animal mayhem comes from someone we met on the floor of the NENA public safety (911 dispatch & radio) trade show. Here's what (repeatedly) happened to one county radio technician:

  1. Rodents chewed insulation around a coaxial cable to build a nest.
  2. The site overheated, requiring an expensive and time-consuming site visit.
  3. Upon arrival, the technician opened the vent to discover: a 6-foot rattlesnake! (which had recently consumed the rodents and used their warm nest)

It's not hard to see the many hazards here. Your equipment is at risk of thermal damage. Your service is at risk of going down. You have to make an unplanned site visit. Your technician is at risk of a venomous snakebite.

How to detect and stop rodents from removing coaxial insulation, causing overheating, and attracting lethal snakes:
On the trade show floor, we brainstormed with the technician who reported this unfortunate series of events. Together, we came up with a monitoring strategy that might well detect this ongoing problem.

Detecting the removal of coaxial insulation is difficult, as rodents are unlikely to damage a normally closed circuit while removing insulation. Using a temperature + airflow D-wire sensor attached to an RTU, we would be able to detect both a lack of airflow and rising temperatures around a vent that is being filled in with rodent debris.

3. Insects in Alaskan winter clog air filter

We recently presented at a remote-monitoring conference with a DPS client in Alaska. In northern climates, bugs have a limited summer window to continue the life cycle. Mosquitos and other winged pests are a huge nuisance to humans, but they can actually take down a site with their sheer volume.

We were very surprised to learn that insects can clog the air vents of a remote site. They get trapped by the air flow and pile up in the filter.

How to detect and stop insects from clogging your air filters:
As one of our veteran clients, this telecom manager had a good plan to handle this problem.

Using a temperature + airflow D-wire sensor attached to an RTU, he can detect when the bugs are reaching "critical mass". There's not much that can be done to stop the bugs completely, but he CAN make well-timed site visits to clean and replace filters when needed.

Got a story of your own? Need remote-monitoring advice?

If you have your own story of animal mayhem at one of your remote facilities, email us at sales@dpstele.com or call us at 1-800-622-3314.

Even if you're not sure how to handle it yet, we'd love to hear your story and help you build a good strategy for remote monitoring.

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