“How effective is your security when your business is closed up at night?” asks Jacques du Toit, MD of Vox Orion. “You almost certainly have an alarm system linked to an armed response company, and possibly a night-time security guard patrolling the premises as well. But is that enough?”
An armed reaction unit is fantastic to have if someone does in fact try to break in to your offices. But armed response companies fight a constant battle against false alarms, which account for far more call-outs than genuine incidents. And when they do arrive at your premises – probably after being delayed by one of those false alarms – will they be able to get in to the property to find out what is going on? Gates and fences keep out the good guys as well as the bad guys.
In theory, that’s why people have night guards. But in practice, most security guards are poorly trained, poorly paid and vulnerable. A man who is being paid less each month than you probably spend in restaurants cannot be relied on to put himself in harm’s way to protect your business – especially if he’s cold, tired and alone at 3am in the morning.
Remote video monitoring offers additional protection for your premises, while also cutting down on false alarms, helping to make armed response more effective and providing backup for on-site security guards.
Until recently it was the stuff of science fiction, but with the telecommunications networks now in place in all South Africa’s cities it’s easy for a handful of trained operatives in a secure control centre to monitor thousands of cameras in hundreds of different places.
A ‘double knock’ alert system is what makes video monitoring practical and affordable. It’s not helpful for a monitor to sit and watch a wall full of screens on which nothing is happening. Instead, the system can be programmed to put your video feed on screen when, for example, a motion sensor is triggered or a perimeter alarm goes off. Then the monitor can use the camera to check out what is happening, zooming in on areas of interest if necessary.
If it turns out that the first alert or ‘knock’ was just a stray cat or a tree blowing in the wind, nothing further happens. If there is a genuine intruder, the monitor can instantly alert the armed response company – who will know for sure that it’s not a false alarm. The monitor can then also remotely operate gates to give the armed response team quick access to the premises.
It’s also possible to stream voice from the control centre to a loudspeaker on the premises: Sometimes a loud “Hey you, I can see you!” is enough drive an intruder away, with no need for an armed response.
Not only is this far more effective security for your site, it’s also great for armed response companies, who get far fewer false alarms. That in turn means their costs are better controlled, which in turn should lead to fewer price increases.
It also means that as an armed response customer, you have another way to monitor their performance. If an alarm is sent out from the control centre, you have a record of the exact time that happened, and video evidence of when the team arrived and what they did.
Video evidence can be critical in criminal cases as well. If you do decide to opt for remote video monitoring, check that video feeds are not only recorded, but that they are recorded in a format that will stand up as evidence in court. This means, at the very least, resolution high enough to make facial details clear, a camera with adequate night vision and proper date and time codes.
It’s also important to work with a service provider who will carefully assess your individual needs and create a customised incident management procedure. This should include, for example, a specification of how particular kinds of incidents should be dealt with, who to call and whose desk the incident report should go to in the morning.
Properly done, remote video monitoring is a powerful way to enhance the security of your premises and your business. It’s also, thanks to telecommunications technology that can empower one person to monitor many sites, remarkably cost-effective.