Maintaining Security Systems

Video MaintenanceWhat do YOU do if 1 of every 7 surveillance cameras in your facility has failed?  This is the situation facing the Hawaii State Capitol Building where 9 of 64 surveillance cameras don’t work.   They all worked three years ago and it was only six years ago that the entire system was installed.  Apparently the ongoing maintenance contract ran out and that was the beginning of the system’s downfall.  Frankly, it all sounds like a very poor excuse.  From the hand-wringing of the State Representatives in the Capitol to the dismissive statements attributed to the Deputy Director of Public Safety, the issue of a substantially weakened security system (now made public, no less) almost seem to be a non-issue. 

It would seem to me that making the decision to invest in a sizable surveillance system for any facility (let alone your state capitol) would warrant making the ongoing investment to keep that critical system in peak operating condition.  Yet, it is not uncommon to see facilities make these large purchases and later neglect ongoing operations, inspection, and maintenance of the systems.

In the United States, I wonder if we will reach a time where local ordinances, state laws, or even federal codes require surveillance system owners to have regular inspections and maintenance of their camera systems. 

Of course we already have a model for this in the fire protection industry.  It is a given that if you have fire extinguishers, they must get inspected and repaired if damaged or if age warrants specific maintenance.  The same applies to building fire alarm systems, fire sprinkler systems and other fire suppression systems—codes require all of these fire components to be inspected and maintained and various local, state and federal officials (as well as insurance companies and others) all work in unison to ensure fire code compliance.  This results in working systems that protect what they were designed to protect.

We don’t have that in the security industry—yet we do have systems that need to be in working condition, protecting the safety and security of building occupants and visitors.

While I’m not a fan of the government enacting more laws to force private business owners and facility operators to do more to safeguard their facilities, the security industry may someday be facing that prospect if building owners and facility operators don’t begin to exercise that responsibility on their own.  As Security Professionals, if you have surveillance systems that have been installed in your facilities you have a responsibility to ensure they are maintained and functional.

In the United Kingdom, far ahead of most of the world when it comes to video surveillance, they have licensing requirements for individuals operating video surveillance systems but I don’t believe that covers any requirements for maintaining the operability of the systems.  I have no idea if it will gain any traction, but there is a promotion going on in the UK (in conjunction with the 2012 London Olympics) to do more to ensure having a properly functioning surveillance system.  It is being referred to as “National CCTV Improvement Week” and is scheduled for May 6th – 12th, 2012. 

On the surface, that United Kingdom promotion appears to be a step in the right direction.  While the lack of industry codes makes security equipment maintenance contracts a harder sell, it is something our industry integrators need to address with more urgency than most do now.  If we can do more to prevent the system neglect that appears to exist  at the Hawaii State Capitol–and buildings like it–then facility visitors, staff, and the public will all be the beneficiaries.

About Vince Regan

Vince Regan, CPP, PSP, PCI is one of the most highly credentialed security professionals in the world. As Voice of Security President, he works full time to inform and educate colleagues in the security industry.

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One Response to Maintaining Security Systems

  1. Jon Apr 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Hi Vince,

    Greetings from London, England.

    Just to quickly clarify a couple of points in your article.

    Here in the UK, there isn’t actually any specific formal requirement for CCTV operators to be licensed as such, but we do have a data protection law that governs the way in which commercial CCTV systems are operated. Needless to say, it isn’t quite as exhaustive as perhaps would be desirable, but at least it does provide some degree of oversight in terms of possible privacy concerns.

    There are a number of other minor bits of legislation that have some relevance to the use of video surveillance, but in the great scheme of things there isn’t really any cohesive degree of joined up regulation.

    The first UK National CCTV Improvement Week (NCIW 2012) isn’t being developed in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympics. It is however being supported by a rapidly increasing number of individuals and organisations, including the very recent announcement of the Counter Terror Expo and IFSEC International major security events, being formally appointed as “Official Supporters”

    Given that security concerns are significantly raised both in the lead up to the Olympics, and also the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June, it just seemed like an appropriate time to try and encourage CCTV users to look carefully at how they are currently operating their security camera systems, and then determine what if any simple improvements could be made to help raise effectiveness.

    As such, NCIW 2012 is very much a private initiative and isn’t currently being funded from any external source …. more’s the pity! :-) )

    A number of CCTV evaluation documents are currently being developed specifically for NCIW 2012, and as such, if the event proves successful (and certainly on the strength of interest that it’s generated since it was announced), it’s quite possible that it will not only be repeated as an annual event here in the UK, but also possibly trialled in a number of other countries.

    For anyone that’s interested in finding out more, you’re very welcome to visit the event site at http://www.trustedcctv.org/NCIW2012/nciw2012.html

    …. or drop me a line for further details.

    Regards,

    Jon
    CCTV Advisor – NCIW 2012 – UK