In providing security consulting and management services to a number of security estates throughout South Africa, ranging from small six-unit developments to large residential-themed estates, the need for a centralised control room facility is a key aspect in ensuring the safety and security of homeowners, residents, employees and visitors.
A number of small to medium size developments have seen the need to improve security technology as better, more efficient and cost effective security systems became available. The crime situation and perceived value obviously has an impact on decision-making.
The single biggest hurdle to be overcome in existing estates as a result of any upgrade is creating space to house new equipment and the monitoring thereof. A number of clients have needed to undertake major building works as a result, in most cases by adding a new floor for a control room facility and equipment storage above the current gatehouse, or extending an existing building. A new facility would also require air-conditioning and secure access to the control room itself.
There are also a fair number of large, older, established estates that have over the years also expanded their control room facilities. Thankfully developers of newer larger estates recognise the need for sufficient space as these control rooms are often operated by more than one controller, and have control room managers not only to manage the estate security systems, but also the estate security service provider’s operations.
Management and processes
Just think for a moment of some of the many systems and associated equipment that could be situated in a control room of a security estate:
CCTV: PTZ and fixed cameras (access/egress controls and perimeter, and in some cases lifts).
Access control systems: Biometric monitoring and recording authorised entry/ exit of residents, owners, visitors, domestic employees, deliveries, contractors’ vehicles and labour.
Communications: Radio, telephone, emails, audio monitoring internal/external.
Perimeter: Electric fencing systems, zones, fibre, voltage monitoring.
Alarm monitoring: Management of alarms and responses to residential properties within the estate.
Fire systems: Clubhouse, kitchens, offices.
Tracking systems: Security officers, patrol and response officers, HOA vehicles.
Backup power supply: UPS, generators.
Equipment racks: UPS, power supplies, DVRs, NVRs.
Now consider how critical it is to have well trained control room operators and managers responsible not only for operational purposes, but also for regular testing and ensuring effectiveness of all the systems utilised.
Critical to the smooth operation of a control room is a detailed security operational policy, with clearly defined job descriptions for all personnel. For an operator to be effective he/she needs to take regular breaks away from the control room, there have been several articles written on the subject and the benefits obtained.
Control room console layout
Another key component when planning a control room layout is for CCTV monitors of high-priority camera views, and alarm monitoring by the operator, such as perimeter and residential homes alarm systems, which should be placed directly in front of the operator. Our observations are that the trend among larger estates is to place cameras’ monitors on a wall in front of the operators, but at some distance, only allowing the operator to drag a camera to a larger monitor on the console for clearer or closer inspection.
Camera monitors with alarm inputs, such as the perimeter cameras, should be in close proximity to the operator. Think about the software required in the operation of a camera system that should be set to receive an alarm input view, software should not be able to automatically ‘override’ this view should another alarm input be received almost simultaneously. Criminals will often trigger one area initially and almost simultaneously trigger another to test the response, and to ascertain if an override is in place.
Ergonomics and aesthetics
A control room operator needs to be 'comfortable' as well as effective, spending hours in a chair that is not suitable for the job can lead to discomfort and lack of concentration. Lighting obviously plays an important role in control room design. It is always ideal to have a small kitchen area/rest area nearby, so food is not brought into the control room environment.
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