by Allan B. Colombo
Perhaps the most important issue surrounding effective building security is the need for accurate, timely information. Without it, central monitoring station (CMS) operators may be unable to respond in the most appropriate manner and law enforcement may overlook a critical fact during the initial response of police officers to the scene of an alleged crime in progress. In addition, without enough information about an alarm or trouble event, management may not be able to conduct a thorough post investigation and thus come to the right conclusion.
Take for example when the burglar alarm goes off in a commercial building and the CMS receives a signal that indicates that the back door to the building was illegally entered. Unless the CMS has enough information, the operator may be forced to dispatch the police without knowing for sure whether the alarm is valid. We all know what happens when the police arrive and there’s no one at the scene--the police report oftentimes will list the incident as a false alarm, and that means a fine.
Methods of Alarm Verification
Traditionally one way the CMS can verify the alarm is to call the premises and ask for a password--if someone answers. But this method only works when the cause of the alarm is an authorized user or a criminal that is stupid enough to answer the phone. In communities where verification must be performed before dispatching the police, this can result in a denial of response. A second option is to send a runner to the location for the purpose of scoping out the situation prior to dispatching the PD (Police Department). And a third is to log into an on-site video surveillance system and review the video saved from a cameras positioned in the vicinity of the door where the alarm allegedly took place.
Of all three, the most effective at establishing the validity of an alarm for the purpose of foregoing police involvement is the remote video option. It is also a great way to collect valuable and accurate information. Real-time video can also be used for other purposes, such as verifying a fire alarm signal at the CMS. By logging into the on-site video surveillance system, the CMS operator can determine whether a fire signal is valid. This is done by viewing cameras in the vicinity of the offending initiating device, such as a single smoke detector (addressable), or they can view several cameras within the general area of the fire alarm zone that alarmed to see if there is any sign of smoke or fire. Time is of the essence, however, as CMS operators must first dispatch firefighters to the scene and then do research to verify the signal’s authenticity, hopefully before the fire trucks roll.
The problem associated with all of the scenarios above is “response time.”
On the fire alarm side, unless the CMS is able to verify the alarm quick enough to determine that a fire alarm signal is false, the fire trucks will already be at the client’s place of business. In the case of the burglar alarm signal, unless an intelligent decision to dispatch the authorities is made soon enough--based on accurate historical and real-time information derived from as many security-related subsystems in the building--the burglars will be in, out, and gone; or the fire will be well underway by the time first responders arrive.
PISM: The Solution to Rapid Building Intelligence
Integration of all the security-related platforms using a single information-oriented software may be your answer to the response time problem. Until recently, there has not been an easy way to integrate all of the disparate security platforms in use within an average facility without a whole lot of effort. Today this is not the case. High-tech security companies, like Allied Fire & Security, now have a new networkable solution at their disposal called Physical Security Information Management (PSIM).
“PSIM is a category of software that provides a platform and applications created by middleware developers, designed to integrate multiple unconnected security applications and devices and control them through one comprehensive user interface. It collects and correlates events from existing disparate security devices and information systems (video, access control, sensors, analytics, networks, building systems, etc.) to empower personnel to identify and proactively resolve situations” (Physical Security Information Management, Wikipedia, http://bit.ly/1RIoVSW).
Because of PSIM technology, the CMS has all the necessary information they need to make the right decision at their fingertips. Perhaps the alarm that took place in the opening paragraphs of this blog post was actually the result of a new employee. Using PSIM, the CMS will automatically have access to real-time and recorded video. In other words log-in is instantaneous so there is no waiting. In addition, CMS operators will have immediate access to all access control information so they know whether there is an authorized user in the facility. All of this information and much more will automatically be available for authorized individuals to review. From an investigatory point of view, which means after the fact, PSIM software will help management as well as the authorities piece together events prior, during, and after by unifying all activities with a common event log using a common time line.
Additional PSIM benefits include:
- Enhanced collection of facility intelligence
- Reduction in time when fact finding
- An increase in overall system control
- Improved situation awareness
- Advanced system analytics
- More thorough reports for management
“Ultimately, these solutions allow organizations to reduce costs through improved efficiency and to improve security through increased intelligence” (Physical Security Information Management, Wikipedia, http://bit.ly/1RIoVSW).
For additional information on the many ways that PSIM will benefit your organization, contact the Allied branch closest to you...
Call your local branch today:
Spokane: 800-448-8338 | Seattle: 888-333-3921 | Portland: 800-729-3925
About the Author
Allan B. Colombo is a trade journalist and copywriter in the physical security and life-safety markets. His award-winning work has appeared in Security Sales & Integration, Security Distributing & Marketing, Security Dealer & Integrator, and many other print magazines as well as Web-wide over the past 30 years. You can send questions or comments to him by email at [email protected] or visit his website at www.Tpromo.Com.