The art and science of using video to confirm the status of alarms detected at a protected premises continues to improve with affordable technology and an updated standard set for release as early as the end of this month.
Even the definition of alarm verification has gotten a makeover in the revised standard, guided by a wide range of stakeholders, including the security industry, law enforcement, associations and others whose overall mission is to quell false dispatches and ensure authorities respond to residential and commercial alarms quickly and effectively.
The draft Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard prepared under direction of the Security Industry Standards Council: CSAA CS-V-01-20XX Alarm Confirmation, Verification and Notification Procedures (DRAFT, Version Oct. 12, 2015) has undergone the comment period and will be sent to ANSI.
“Verification in the standard involves video and audio,” said Lou Fiore, principal of LT Fiore Inc., Sparta, N.J. “Confirmation is what the industry commonly refers as ‘two-call verification,’ in which the central monitoring station contacts two responsible parties on the alarm user’s list before referring to authorities. Now we have a much stronger standard and a better way to know there is a crime in progress.”
Holdup and panic alarms are generally excluded from verification requirements.
Fiore chairs the CSAA Standards Committee and the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC).
Adding video to the mix
Verification and video have become increasingly important as law enforcement agencies with reduced manpower work closely with the security industry to develop ways to relieve the burden false alarm dispatches impose on these public safety departments. The idea is to free up resources to address real emergencies, and the security industry continues to work with law enforcement and first responders to ensure the correct, prioritized response to alarms.
Video verification is defined as an electronic picture, pictures or images of the protected premises from which an alarm signal has been received. Such visuals permit personnel to view the area to verify whether an emergency condition exists. For contractors with low-voltage divisions offering security work, video verification adds value to the customer’s specification and a differentiator to the business.
According to the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), Frisco, Texas, fewer than 30 U.S. police agencies out of 18,000 have some form of verified response. The agencies that have adopted verified response have done so because of proactive industry involvement, which has become especially important because some agencies have threatened to not respond to problem customers without verification.
Ron Walters, director of SIAC in West Hills, Calif., said the standard has been an important part of elevating the technology stature in the eyes of the industry, law enforcement and users.
“It’s important to continue to tweak the definitions and educate people,” he said. “[Video is] not part of every alarm system yet, but it has a huge place in commercial specifications.”
Cameras have become much less expensive for indoor and outdoor video verification applications.
“There are two possibilities for video verification,” said Keith Jentoft, president of Videofied-RSI Video Technologies Inc., Vadnais Heights, Minn. “[One is] Internet-protocol [IP] cameras, which are becoming cheaper and in which onboard analytics are becoming more common. The other option is Videofied. We are unique in that we don’t need a power cord. The monitoring is also becoming less expensive and with more options. For about $4 per month, you can have outdoor monitoring.”
Jentoft is also the partnership liaison for Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response (PPVAR), Henderson, Nev. He said consumers are becoming more educated and alarm contractors more aggressive about leading their sales and marketing efforts with video verification.
The CSAA/ANSI standard has adopted the language law enforcement (through the PPVAR and originally the Texas Police Chiefs Association) agreed on: “Verified Alarm shall be defined as an electronic security system event in which a trained central station operator using a standardized protocol has determined the presence of humans and the high probability that a criminal offense is in progress.”
It also states: “A law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to respond to Verified Alarms has the autonomy and authority to increase the priority of Verified Alarm calls to increase the arrest of offenders and reduce property loss.”
The standard reflects law enforcement’s preferred definition, instead of the alarm industry’s.
“The existence of a standard in itself is not important at all,” Jentoft said. “The adoption of the standard by the most important stakeholders (in this case, law enforcement responders) is the most important issue.”
Adding video to security provides another layer of detection and may accelerate the response to real alarms. There is no better value for both users and contractors.