the California air resources Board (CarB) has jurisdiction over any device, other than a padlock, placed on a vapor recovery system in California. Most other states also have adopted the CarB requirements. as a result, any device placed on a vapor recovery system should be CarB-approved.
Disgruntled employees and ex-employees represent
one potential risk. Clear company policies, good employee
management and reasonable safeguards for protecting the
fuel will help dissuade disgruntled workers from causing
harm. The goal is to make the theft or vandalism so difficult
or risky that the disgruntled worker will simply move on
without creating an incident.
Good lighting, cameras and clear space all around
the fuel drop area will deter trouble. But don’t forget
physical security. In recent years, several products have
been developed that guard the entire spill container area
with high-security locks. The most effective include non-duplicable keys or convenient combination padlocks.
aT THe DiSpenSer How can you address unauthorized access at the dispenser? The majority of dispensers use universal keys for access. Some employ security screws that require a unique screwdriver bit to open them. Frequently, security tape is applied on top of the screws to provide a visual alert of a potential access breach. Unfortunately, because retail cus- tomers have a tendency to tinker with the tape, the station’s employees may not investigate every tape tear. For this reason, security tape is best used in a more limited role—as a tool to monitor specific activity during a short span of time. Until recently, low-security disc tumbler locks were more than adequate security at the dispenser. That changed when fuel jumped to more than $4 a gallon. In the current economic climate, thieves have proved they will go to great rouble to learn about and disable dispensers. A universal key makes it easy for thieves with some
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technical knowledge to get inside the dispenser and attack the information system, collect credit card data or disable the mechanisms that track the value of fuel dispensed. Small to medium losses are hard to detect when pumps are running. Usually, the theft is recognized only after the thieves are long gone. Again, the best approach is to remove the thieves’ or vandals’ cloak of invisibility. Good lighting, camera coverage and employee training can all help the store owner discourage or at least identify this type of thief. The most basic defense is a high-security lock that uses a unique key and key blanks that are not available commercially. If a standard lock is used, a spare key can be made at almost any locksmith—very simple for any thief. For more robust protection, high-security systems that actually can alarm and monitor each dispenser are available. Another strategy is to shield the mechanisms inside the dispenser. Protecting the pulser and totalizer mechanism, while making sure the pump is not improperly engaged, should foil the free-flow thief. Because some dispensers can be attacked without even opening the machine, shielding attack points also is required. If a specific dispenser gets hit frequently, consider cameras that will record the perpetrators and reveal how they are tampering with the machine. If the thief or vandal is caught, a successful prosecution usually requires evidence of what was done inside the machine.
THe Bo TToM line
The loss of fuel can be a devastating blow to small
petroleum marketers. Implementing the simple upgrades
suggested in this article will provide good protection at a
relatively low cost.
Effectively securing fuel is never an either/or strategy. It
requires action on several different fronts. When employees
understand that their jobs depend on eliminating losses,
they will be motivated to remain vigilant. Add to that a mix
of mechanical locking and shielding, and a clear, clean,
lighted area with surveillance as needed, for even greater
A good fuel security plan will give thieves and vandals
every reason to move on—to another, easier target.
Larry Springgate is director, National Accounts, for CompX
Security Products, which has been serving American industry