National South African CCTV standard: a call to action

June 2010 News

I read with interest your latest edition (2010) of the CCTV Handbook, particularly the round table group discussion on technology standards and certification. One of the members of this group bemoaned the lack of any national SABS standards, stating that he was on an 'SABS Board' that tried to put national standards together for CCTV. He went on to state that their efforts only went as far as delivering a draft document. He also made the comment that “the authorities, unsurprisingly, had no interest in it". This is not true. As chairman of this SABS CCTV working group (not a board) I should know. These draft documents went on to be published by the South African Bureau of Standards as national standards. These are as follows:

* SANS 0222-5-1, CCTV surveillance systems for use in security applications.

* SANS 0222-5-1-1, Operational requirements.

* SANS 0222-5-1-2, System design requirements.

* SANS 0222-5-1-3, Installation planning and implementation requirements.

* SANS 0222-5-1-4, Testing, commissioning and handover requirements.

* SANS 0222-5-1-5, Maintenance requirements.

* SANS 0222-5-2, Application guidelines.

The one big drawback is that they were written over 10 years ago and were obviously based on the analogue technology of that time and are now outdated in many respects. In addition, they were only issued as Best Practice Guidelines and not as enforceable standards. However, in the hands of the right client, consultant, project manager etc, they can still be used to judge the standard on a CCTV installation. Although the basics have not changed (an example of this is the Application Guidelines and the Operational Requirements standards; and to quote Rob Anderson in the 2010 CCTV Handbook, “good pictures start with good lenses”), the challenge is to revise them where necessary and bring them up to date in terms of the latest digital technology, and where applicable to add enforceable clauses.

The quote from John F Kennedy 'Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country' is very applicable in this instance, as the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has neither the expertise nor the resources to update these standards. Unfortunately, these round-table types of discussions appear (in many instances) to be mainly talk shops with no follow up action. The CCTV industry should take a leaf out of the books of the electrified fence industry and the South African National Committee for Illumination (the SANCI exterior security lighting standard also refers to the above CCTV standards) as both have written the relevant national standards for the SABS. Having served on both these committees I can attest to the effort put in by the members to these documents. It is not an easy task and requires a dedicated individual to drive the process.

After several years the electrified fence standard has now reached the point where the draft standard is ready to be voted on by the main SABS security technical committee (TC 69) and then on to publication. Unfortunately the time between approval and final publication can also take an inordinate amount of time – 12 months or more.

An interesting feature of the original CCTV working group was that the initial attendance was standing room only, but once members were asked to actually do some work and not simply criticise or make inane comments this number dwindled rapidly. It would seem these lapsed members were simply there to protect their own (or the company they represented) interests. The cry of 'I would like to help but I am too busy' was heard on a regular basis. The majority were not too busy, simply too lazy, and some of the others lacked the writing skills – which is acceptable.

The few that were left, including the round-table member, provided invaluable inputs, but in the end completing the standards was down to an individual effort. So I know the effort and time taken in writing standards. However, it should not be difficult to compile the revised standards as the basic content and format is already available, the latest technical information is also available, the knowledge and skills are out there. All it takes is the will and commitment by the few, but in particular, it needs an individual to step up to the plate and drive the process.

Another issue raised by the round-table forum was “who polices the standards”. The authorities do not have the resources to undertake this arduous task. So take another leaf out of the Electrified Fence Associations and Fire Detection Installers Association (FDIA) books; they intend setting up their own structures to police installations. These inspections and certification will be based on the appropriate published SABS standards.

To conclude on a favourite hobby horse of mine: “technology has and always will be only an aid to the security function and not an end in itself. Without competent operators, installers and maintenance technicians and well-trained response personal guided by comprehensive standards (the client/customer needs them) and operating procedures, even the best technology will be futile.”

So CCTV security industry, what are you waiting for, you have no time to lose? I can also state with the utmost confidence, that you will have the full backing of the South African Bureau of Standards in your endeavour.

Dr Brian W Barnes

Security consultant

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