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Keeping electric meters safe with right security seals



A sealing programme is the first line of defence to energy meter protection, since it is a simple indication at the meter that something is wrong. According to Rajesh Kumar Banka, by selecting right security seals companies can not only keep electric meters safe, but also prevent revenue losses.
 
Safcon Seals Private Limited, a Kolkata based ISO 9001:2015 certified security seal company, offers a wide range of innovative patented security seals for energy meters, meter boxes, meter terminal covers, CT-PT and transformers etc to provide highest level of protection and prevention of meter tampering and power theft. Safcon is a professional manufacturer of tamper evident security seals in India and exports their quality products worldwide. With their over two decades experience in developing, manufacturing and supplying electric meter seals to domestic and international utilities, they have established themselves as meter security seals experts in the country. Safcon is the first manufacturers of polycarbonate security seals and their patented Metgrip Polycarbonate security seal is most popular meter security seal and most of the specifications of meter security seal of electricity distribution companies are derived from it. 
 
Safcon's three varieties of seals - Metgrip Polycarbonate Security Seals; Meter Sentry Cable Security Seals, and Securelab Tamper Resistant Security Label Seals (popularly known as Paper Seals or sticker seals) - have combined to design a system that provides ultra-high security to all energy meters.
 
Metgrip polycarbonate security seal is a low cost combination of high strength transparent, polycarbonate body and non-corrosive non-magnetic pull-resistant stainless steel sealing wire that offers great strength and security, tool-less application and transparent tamper indicative locking mechanism. 
 
Metgrip Polycarbonate Security Seal is especially developed for electric meters, meter box applications. The Metgrip Polycarbonate seal is designed for single use and cannot be accidentally opened. Cutting pliers required to cut the sealing wire for removal. Its transparent body gives a complete visualisation of its sealing mechanism. This mechanism is the most critical part of the seal, since most of tampering occurs at this part. Moreover, if the body is transparent, the sign of internal tampering will be easily detected. 
 
Each seal is provided with hi-relief embossed customer’s logo and non-repeat highly visible seven digit unique highly visible serial numbering. Hence even company’s own employees cannot replace these seals even if they so desire. The seals are provided with hi-relief embossed in-moulding utility's logo to resist duplication of security seal. The serial numbering is thermo engraved which is deeply penetrated into seal body and cannot be manipulated for malpractice. 
 
Metgrip Seal is a patented seal and cannot be copied by other manufacturers. The high tech manufacturing process of this seal prevents its reproduction by illegal plant of low technical standards and thus reduces the chance of duplicate seal by counterfeiter. Every aspect of the design of the security seal is based on Safcon’s years of experience in the field. Any attempt of tampering provides clear evidence of tampering.
 
Meter Sentry Cable Security Seal is a patented barrier Security Seal to secure utility meters, for HT/LT connections, transformers; meter boxes etc for protecting them from tampering and prevent power theft. The security seal is highly reliable and easy to lock. Each seal is supplied with a locking key. Just insert cable end through cross-drilled hole and tighten the locking key until locking key handle breaks. Once locked it is a keyless lock and can be opened only by cutting the cable. They are impossible to tamper as the seal withstand 800°F temperature and there is no way to open the seal with the use of any chemical, petrol etc. Cable cutter required for removal. The body is made of aluminum alloy and the stainless steel cable is used for sealing wire purpose.  The cable seal is provided with customer logo, unique consecutive seven digit serial number, barcode and hidden security mark. The all metal security seal withstand 800 degree Fahrenheit and thus impossible to open by excessive heat or boiling water. The shear-off locking mechanism is foolproof.
 
Securelab Tamper Resistant Security Label Seals inform the public of the safety risks and legal implications of tampering with electric meters and utility apparatus, plus provide an auxiliary seal. Use of the "right material” ensures over 10-year life, wide temperature extremes and exposure to UV light. The security seal is imprinted with the utility's logo and a warning message in any language. Each security label is serialised for unique identification. The tamper evident label seals provide an indication of tampering when removal is attempted. The security seal is provided with invisible unique security marks readable by special handheld detector devices for authentication and to make out duplicate seals.
 
Role of meter seals to prevent power theft 
A sealing programme is the first line of defence to energy meter protection, since it is a simple indication at the meter that something is wrong. The effectiveness of security seals is strongly dependent on the proper protocols for using them. These protocols are the official and unofficial procedures used for seal procurement, storage, record keeping, installation, inspection, removal, disposal, reporting, interpreting findings and training. A well researched designed easy to install meter security seals with a good protocol in place can provide an excellent security to utility meters for provide revenue protection. The good news about security seals is that - if used correctly - they are very effective for revenue protection. The bad news is that using them correctly can take a lot of work. You can’t mindlessly slap seals on a meter and expect them to magically solve all your theft and tampering problems.
The success of meter protection and power theft control largely depends on: 
1. Selection of right security seal 
2. Selection of reliable professional manufacturer 
3. Procurement procedures
4. Safeguarding of specifications
5. Storage and issuing 
6. Correct application & disposal
7. Inspection protocol
8. Motivation 
9. Auditing techniques
 
These are individual links of a chain and if any one link is weak, desired or expected results cannot be achieved.An important question that one always comes across is how to identify fake seals and prevent use of fake seals. The answer to this question is very simple. If each aspect of the sealing system is in place and taken care of, there will not be any place for fake seals. 
 
Individuality and integrity is most important aspect in selection of a meter security seals. Identical seals manufactured by more than one company must be avoided. All reputed, reliable and trusted manufacturers offer their own standard, time tested, patented security seals with necessary customisation to meet individual requirements whereas non-professionals manufacturers can offer you similar looking seals or you give them sample they are ready to offer you similar security seals.
 
Unfortunately, of late it is observed that few of the electric distribution companies have started demanding offers for identical meter seals from all tenderers with same design, shape, size and giving birth to a critical problem which will not only kill their own sealing system but will have disastrous affect on other electric utilities of the country in future. For example, if you are getting offers and samples of identical seals from six different manufacturers and out of them, order is being placed to one or two vendors. The rest four or five manufacturers who have invested to develop samples to participate in the tender, few of which may be morally or financially weak, to recover their investment back or even to earn money, they may sell their meter seals to counterfeiters at higher price. Such electric utilities are encouraging development of fake seals in the system. 
 
Never encourage a vendor to reproduce another vendor’s security seal as this will result in collapse of your sealing system soon. A long-term view is very important in selecting vendor and security seal design. Electric utilities all over the world never specify the size, shape in their specification. They give full weightage to the professional manufacturers, patented locking mechanism and only specify their specific customisation requirements. In selecting a reliable security seals, the locking mechanism is important and not the thickness or size of seal or diameter of sealing wire that is usually played in most specification. 
 
Even some time impossible features are incorporated in the specification like features of a paper seals in polycarbonate seals or vice versa. This results into delay and finally acceptance of a poorly crafted seal as the arrival is close to the deadline. The system uses it, to meet the crisis, as statutory requirement. Each patented seal is designed with many aspects of tamper evidence and when one start playing with the design and dimension of patented seal; one loses the reliability of the seal which is developed after years of research and experience of the manufacturers. An easy to understand seal is more effective than a complicated seal that even the utility employees fail to understand.
Another important point is that meter security seals must be procured by the Electric Utilities directly from reliable and reputed security seal manufacturers. Now-a-days, for ease and convenience, many a times, seals are procured from meter manufacturers’ alongwith the electric meters. When there is a packaged order of meter seals with electric meters, you might find a fake report of shortage of meter seals. In this situation, to fulfill the order requirements, the meter manufacturer might resupply you with the seals of the same serial numbers reported missing. 
 
Now the counterfeiters are having access to original meter seals with same serial number which enable them to tamper the meters and reseal the meter with original seal and it becomes impossible to trace the tampering. Thus the revenue loss is to electric utilities and this experience sets their minds that no meter seal is effective to protect the meters. Even to the meter installing contractors, meter seals must be provided by the electric utilities to keep authenticity and integrity of the company’s official meter seals.
 
A hologram seal as popularly used on meter seal is not a proper tamper evident security seal in itself. Often the electric meters are installed in difficult to reach and poorly lit places, making it impossible to differentiate between original and fake/duplicate hologram.  Being 2-3 dimension designs, it requires sufficient light and tilting space to ensure proper verification. It is almost impossible to differentiate between an original and duplicate hologram when they are pasted on installed meters at consumer site. They are required to be enlarged minimum by 50 times to make out the difference, which is not possible at consumer site. It is often found that the hologram seal is intact but the meter is tampered. Hence the purpose of hologram seal gets defeated. 
 
Experience and technical knowledge of Safcon has led to the development of a unique new range of most reliable security seals which offers a precise solution to many security and protection related problems. By combining the benefits of special materials and security features, together with a clear understanding of a customer's requirements, Safcon Security Seal technology is unsurpassed.
 
Rajesh Kumar Banka is Director of Safcon Seals Pvt Ltd, Kolkata, and has more than two decades’ experience in international security seal business. Safcon is one of the few handful companies in the world, who provide complete security seal solutions – be it plastic, metal, adhesive or combination of plastic and metal seals. He can be reached on email sales@safcon.co.in

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