Centralized Monitoring of Remote Locations

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

CCTV systems can also be programmed to conduct video guard tours. During periods where there are no alarms, the security officer at the central station can keep an eye on a single screen as the system electronically walks through the facility. This allows the officer to look for non-security problems, such as leaking water or smoke. The video tour, of course, is overridden by any alarms that need the officer's immediate attention.

Remember to plan sufficient lighting for your CCTV systems at night. Nothing impresses a CFO less than walking into the central command center at night to see all the monitors dark because of insufficient lighting. In some off-site locations, multiple exterior lights can upset the neighbors. In those cases, don't forget infrared illumination. Some CCTV cameras are designed to work in color during the day and then to switch to black and white during low-illumination periods. Infrared illumination during these periods will let you clearly see activity without disturbing the neighbors.

Emergency Call Boxes
We have talked about monitoring the access to a facility as well as watching a facility from a great distance. But consider designing in a little more interaction with the site. Let's say you have emergency call stations in the parking lot of one of your buildings, or in the lobby or elevators. You can tie these call boxes into the other facility systems. For example, if someone presses the emergency call button in the building lobby, the access control database can record that action as an alarm. The lobby camera and other nearby cameras can automatically be displayed in front of the officer in the monitoring station. Thus, when the officer answers the call he or she is not only talking to the individual, but seeing the individual and the surrounding area and being told by the access control system where the individual is located.

If another individual is bothering the person calling, the nearby cameras may allow your officer to see the suspect. The officer can then describe the suspect to responding security or law enforcement personnel.

Public Address Systems
Two-way verbal communication can be useful in crime mitigation. If the facilities you are monitoring are subject to potential criminal activity, consider the use of a public address system as part of your integrated monitoring system.

Perhaps one of your facilities has a side alley that is a haven of criminal activity. Using your integrated security system, you can tie motion detectors to your access control system to alert you of movement in the alley. You can also position a CCTV camera in the alley that can alert you to movement.

If you receive an alarm, you can see the individual in the alley on the CCTV camera. The system can be programmed to then automatically switch the monitoring officer's headset to a public address system in the alley so he or she can announce that the individual is under surveillance and should leave immediately to avoid being arrested for trespassing. The officer should describe the subject??You in the red jacket???so he or she knows this is not a pre-recorded message.

It is important that the officers monitoring in the central station are trained in all the functions of the system. Remember, when a system is installed, the installers will provide training. But what about the officers who will be hired a month or a year later? Will they get the same training or will they depend on existing officers or a manual? Existing officers can train new ones, but then any bad habits may be passed on to the new generation. I recommend developing audio/visual training sessions that teach the officers the procedures, so there is no question how they will handle emergencies.

Make sure the officers you select for these posts are qualified. If the officer will have to communicate over an emergency call station or public address system, make sure he or she has a good speaking voice and can be understood over the PA. Create checklists at the central monitoring station. When there is an emergency, the checklist will walk the officer through the response process step by step.

While setting up a central monitoring station can have some high up-front capitol costs, the long-term money saved in staffing at remote sites will soon offset this initial outlay.