Centralized Monitoring of Remote Locations

Integrated systems make remote monitoring an easier, more cost effective option.

With the ever-tightening security budgets nationwide, security managers must consider creative ways to maintain their programs without increasing the risks to the persons and properties for which they are responsible. This is especially true when a security manager is responsible for multiple facilities, whether they are across the street, across town or across the country from each other.

In the United States, security began as night watchmen or firewatchers who sat in a building after hours to make sure no one broke in and the facility didn't catch fire. While this was then the easiest method of securing a facility, it has now become the most expensive. Paying one or more security officers to guard multiple buildings on-site, day and night, is cost prohibitive.

The alternative is the installation of an intrusion alarm system monitored either in-house or by an outside security firm. If the alarm is activated, a facility employee, security officer or law enforcement agency is dispatched to the site to check out the condition. This approach may be sufficient in most cases.

The monkey wrench in this intrusion alarm approach is the increase in false alarms. More and more law enforcement agencies throughout North America are fining facility owners for responding to false alarms or for refusing to respond after a set number of them. Some law enforcement agencies are considering policies that call for them to respond to alarms only if they have confirmation of a criminal act in progress.

Using intrusion alarms as the only method of security is also problematic in facilities with 24 x 7 activities or after-hours deliveries. A security manager wants to be able to keep an eye on the activity at the site but wants to avoid the monumental expense of paying a full-time, on-site guard.

This is where the centralized monitoring of remote locations can be physically effective and cost efficient. Such programs allow for the security staff in a central command center to maintain watch over a large number of buildings. But before you jump into such a program, you as a security or facility manager need to be aware of the different types of systems available to you for remote monitoring and how they can best serve you.

Access Control
Let's say you are a security manager in charge of five buildings spread across North America. The employees who work in each of these buildings may have work that brings them back to their facility after hours. In the past, you'd have given the employees a key to the front door and hoped they didn't lose it. You may have also given them the code to the intrusion alarm so they could disarm it when they entered. Many intrusion alarm systems allow for each employee to have his or her own code. The system can then create a record of who armed or disarmed the system and the time the action was taken. When an employee is terminated, his or her code is removed from the system. This is a perfect scenario for the majority of small facility security programs.

But let's say your buildings are of a good size?large enough so that more than two persons could be working in the same facility and never hear each other. Will one person leave the premises and arm the intrusion alarm, leaving the second employee inside to set it off? In this situation, an access system monitored at a central location may be the perfect answer. For example, you can install an access system in each of your five buildings. The system will have a locked panel in each building?a small computer that runs the access control program of that building. These systems can be equipped with battery backups to keep them active in the event of a power failure. Either through a dial-up connection or a local area network (LAN), this building panel can communicate with the central computer at your central monitoring station.

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