The aim of preventing intruder access to a premises encompasses a number of components stretching all the way from physical barriers around the site, through devices like sensors and cameras, to control room monitoring that could even take place off-site and many kilometres away.
Many technologies exist to fine-tune a solution to a site’s particular requirements, but it is important to have an holistic approach in order to get an effective system that fits the budget. To learn more about the issues involved, we interviewed Rex Pennefather, head of business development at IDS (Inhep Digital Security); Maurice Williamson, CEO of Stafix Electric Fence Centre; and Kevin Monk, technical managing director at Stallion Security.
What are the best practices when installing or upgrading a system?
Rex Pennefather: Clients need to ask themselves exactly what their environment requires to ensure the solution is fit for purpose. For example, factors to consider are how simple the system is to interact with, and how intuitive it is for their needs. It is important to have an in-depth discussion with the sales consultant during which you advise them where you would like devices mounted, which areas are most vulnerable, any environmental issues such as animals on the premises, and the normal set of expected activities for the particular application.
Maurice Williamson: In the case of a perimeter electric security fence installation, the customer should start by ensuring that the system they are proposing to install meets all the current requirements of the OHS Act, namely that the energisers have valid certificates of compliance (COC) and letters of authority (LOA); that the installer quoting is registered with the Department of Labour and has completed a certificate of competence course; that the installer is competent to install the system it is quoting on; and that it can provide reference sites.
It is also always a good idea to have a professionally drawn up tender spec sheet and to have two or three installers quote on the same specs for an apples-for-apples comparison. Then the customer should make sure they are aware of exactly what the system can and cannot provide.
Kevin Monk: In terms of the perimeter, it is important to understand who the client is, what they do, and what risks they have, to determine what is put up for perimeter detection.
If you have an electric fence that stretches over multiple kilometres, your zoning is not as precise as a thermal camera’s detection accuracy. Also, by the time you reach the place where an electric fence alarm was triggered, the intruder may have moved and you don’t know where they are. Thermal cameras allow you to track them within the detection area in real-time.
On the other hand, for a commercial business in a built-up area with a relative small yard to monitor, electric fencing is the better means of deterring and creating an alarm, combined with CCTV cameras with virtual tripwire analytics.
What visual verification methods are recommended?
Rex Pennefather: Essentially visual verification is available in two current formats. Firstly, a detector with built-in GPRS chip which sends images from the device directly to the control room or end user. This will send a few snapshots but cannot stream in most cases due to the data intensity of video footage and the cost of data. Secondly, a fully integrated IP CCTV system that allows the user or control room to access the camera and view live or retrieved footage to validate an alarm. An alarm trigger can come from the cameras themselves or from an input via a detector or device.
Visual verification is the most effective method of confirming an alarm. Faster response minimises losses in a genuine robbery situation, and reduces the inconvenience and penalties associated with false alarms. Less time spent reacting to false alarms means that private security companies’ resources are freed up to react immediately to genuine alarms. This also creates peace of mind for the end user.
Maurice Williamson: It is important the client gets usable information from his system. On a basic one- or two-zone house system, a keypad in the house will give them fence information like voltages and alarms in the house. Better keypads will keep a log of the last events and times of problems. On larger sites, PCs and tablets are added to the system to give visual graphical site displays easily showing the controller where the problems on the estate are and the exact condition of each energiser in the system, such as battery condition, fence condition, log history etc.
Optional extras such as Wi-Fi and GSM can also get the site information off-site to secondary control rooms and storage facilities. It is important the controller has good, understandable graphical representation that is backed by logs so that the controller himself can be managed too.
Kevin Monk: Visual verification is becoming more of a necessity than a trend. Stallion Security performs visual verification and has constant communication with the armed response, continuously updating them with high-level info about how many people are on site, whether they are armed, and so on. This type of info is vital so they don’t end up getting into a situation where lives are put at risk.
Armed response companies are instituting higher levels of occupational health and safety nowadays, so it is more important than ever to avoid the situation of ‘cowboys’ running into engagement scenarios. You won’t see a situation where an armed response officer will scale over a wall anymore – if there is no safe ingress/egress to the premises he instead waits until the key holder gets there. This has driven the stronger demand for visual verification, since the control room can see a lot more than the security officer standing outside.
What makes for an effective control room?
Rex Pennefather: The South African Intruder Detection Services Association (SAIDSA) provides a detailed control room setup guide, which is a good reference to work from. Essentially for video verification, a control room will need to have either a proprietary GPRS base or an IP Enigma-type base station, allowing images or data to be transferred into monitoring software, and integrated with alarm events to offer meaningful data than can be acted on.
To be operationally effective, it is important that a control room implement redundancy principles in its systems. Depending on the requirements of its clients, it may also need to provide robust support for multiple platforms to cater for a broad variety of needs.
Maurice Williamson: The ergonomics of the control room are very important. All too often the control room is an afterthought and is a pokey little corner overfilled with badly situated equipment, leaving very little room for the
controller to operate in. The control room is the heart of the system and as the controller has to stay focused for long periods, it is important that their needs are catered for.
The operator’s seating should be at a comfortable height and the monitors set at a height that doesn’t strain their neck. Depending on the degree of sophistication of the system and the number of monitors installed, the operator should be able to observe them all from his seat at eye height. Curving the control panel can also make a difference. Finally, ablution and catering facilities, and even some recreation facilities, should be considered.
Kevin Monk: The main point is to understand the software platform that the control room runs on, to ensure it provides a full audit trail, an occurrence book, and that all the alarms coming in have to be acknowledged before they are dismissed. Make sure the platform the service provider is using has full compliances and a full audit trail.
The video management system (VMS) being used should have comprehensive facilities for acknowledging an alarm, being able to type in the circumstances that took place, and the site operational procedure (SOP) needs to pop up with a list of instructions for the control room operator to follow.
What big-picture issues must be considered?
Rex Pennefather: To boil it down to three simple points:
• Know clearly what your objective is – do you want to stop, defend or deter?
• Make sure you have as much visibility as possible at your fingertips, without having to rely on an armed response company.
• Know what your system can do, to make the most of the technology and ensure your return on investment.
Maurice Williamson: The customer should ensure that the system installed covers, as many aspects of perimeter security as is possible within their budgetary constraints. Will it deter would-be intruders – does the barrier look formidable while at the same time not detracting from the aesthetics of the premises? Will the system give adequate warning in the form of sirens or lights? Can the controllers visually monitor the suspected break-in point via cameras? What is the access control system capable of, e.g. number plate recognition and facial recognition? What form of backup will the controller receive, the company’s own armed response or will they be relying on an outside source?
Kevin Monk: One must never forget the ‘delay’ aspect of a detect-deploy-delay security strategy. You can buy the most advanced detection technology in the world, but if someone can gain easy access into the premises, pick up a couple of PCs and be out in three minutes, no armed response company can react quickly enough. Something as simple as securing computers with locks and bolting screens to walls can limit the number of items a perpetrator can make off with, or even serve as a deterrent altogether.
The intelligence on-board modern equipment such as cameras and sensors on fences is advancing rapidly, and the power of these analytics is making huge differences to the perimeter security options that can be deployed. Light detection and ranging (Lidar) is an up-and-coming technology that I expect to see a lot more of in this arena in the near future, as its capacity for identifying the physical properties of objects is far more advanced than radar.
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