As part of our security risk management services, my coworkers and I conduct security assessments that often involve evaluating security technology. Through our experience and research, we have noted that the use of a camera system has become an almost universally adopted security tool.

You have likely observed that security cameras are installed around almost every place you visit each day from your own home to schools, workplace and public venues. This prevalence of cameras might make you think someone is always watching. In reality, that might not be the case – at least not in real time anyway.

Every Step You Take, Every Move You Make – [Probably] Nobody’s Watching You

Over and over, we find that in practice, security cameras are not used to actively monitor a location. Rather the video footage is used as a forensic tool for after-the-fact information gathering. After an incident – whether it’s a theft or property damage or a more serious crime like assault – key personnel such as employers, facility managers, security directors and law enforcement investigators “go to the video.” This may help capture the perpetrator. But what did it really do to prevent or lessen the impact of the incident?

Even at a location with on-site security officers, effective real-time monitoring of security video can be problematic. The reality is that most security officers multi-task during their assigned shift – they answer the phone, greet visitors and vendors, and conduct building patrols while also trying to visually observe the surroundings in person and on a video screen.

The mere presence of security cameras may be a deterrent for some individuals. However, to be truly effective, one of the primary functions of security technology should be preventing unwanted activity from happening or mitigating further damage once an event has occurred.

5 Ways to Increase Real-Time Monitoring Capabilities of Your Security Camera System

  1. Integration: If your location has an access control and intrusion detection system, integrate the alarm functions of these systems along with the video into a common platform. Program the system to provide an automatic event call-up to monitor video from a camera near a violated alarm device. Provide a unique audible tone to catch the operator’s attention.
  2. Multiple Monitor Locations: If your video system allows for multiple or unlimited client-viewing access, ensure personnel are available to view the video from their workstations to serve as a force-multiplier.
  3. Built-in Alarm Features: Take advantage of your system’s built-in alarm features. Now even residential-grade video recorders incorporate some type of alarm, which can include changes in the video such as motion detection or external alarm inputs like magnetic contacts or traditional motion sensors. Many systems can send alarm notifications via email or SMS text.
  4. Remote Viewing Capabilities: If an alarm notification is received, use your laptop, tablet or phone to access your security video system.
  5. Third-party Monitoring: If you use an alarm monitoring service for your intrusion detection system, check if they offer video monitoring services. When an alarm is received, the monitoring service may be able to determine if a notification is real or a false alarm. The operators may be able to provide first responders with suspect descriptions or other pertinent information.

Like most security practices, including security video, one size does not fit all. Take advantage of the options available to you, tailoring your system to maximize real-time monitoring with the goal to not only identify someone after the fact, but ultimately prevent or minimize any damage or loss.

You have an established security program. No one could penetrate it. Right?
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