Under pressure of law, stations adapt to video monitoring

SSN Staff  - 
Saturday, July 1, 2006

As more monitoring facilities adopt video-based methods, the video verification standard available this summer will provide the alarm industry documented guidance to curb false dispatches and work with authorities having jurisdiction.
In cities dotted throughout the United States that have enacted verified alarm ordinances, such as Dallas, which instituted the first commercial-only policy earlier this year, many dealers that cover the area had to act quickly.
Barry Brannon of Marlin Central Monitoring said his dealers in Dallas "scrambled very quickly to put in either audio or video for verification."
Though it's chiefly used on commercial side, where Dallas requires alarm verification, Marlin has had some residential customers with multiple homes using video monitoring, Brannon said.
Brannon said dealers now see this service as a revenue maker, rather than just an option to reduce false alarms. "They see it as a natural progression to secure a security system, if they want to maintain their customer base and the net worth of their company," when city ordinances pop up.
Bud Wulforst of A-1 Security, which operates central stations in Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., also experienced a shift in the market when a portion of the area his company monitors went to a verified response policy. A-1 added video monitoring five years ago, so it was ready to take advantage of the law change. "I would sell this as a video monitoring solution that had the added benefit of having a remote video alarm verification," Wulforst said
Typically, "video monitoring is a difficult sell by itself," Wulforst said. "If the person doesn't have video, or a compelling reason to have video monitoring, then the end user generally would not make the investment."
However, industry members interviewed by Security Systems News agree acquiring video monitoring technology is a step worth taking for central stations to be prepared.
"[Central station managers] are looking for an integrated solution that makes it seamless to the operators, so that the video and the alarms are tied together and will show up at an operator's console without having to do any additional steps," Brannon said.
Jim McMullen of C.O.P.S. Monitoring concurred, "If I have a dispatcher, we need to be able to determine if it is reasonable to dispatch or not dispatch an alarm," McMullen said. Nor should video verification be a standalone, but rather used with other verification methods. As an example, "We highly endorse ... two-call verification in conjunction with video verification," he added.
Wulforst said in order to implement video monitoring in a rational way, "You have to have enough video coverage to give a decent picture of the building." Further, "If there is not sufficient illumination, then an operator might not be able to decipher what is happening at the location."
When the standard becomes available, alarm companies will have documented support to back up the video technology they are already out there selling.
"I would bring this to the police chief and say, 'Here is a standard that we have developed. Would you prioritize this at a much higher level, than a regular alarm system?'" Wulforst said.
"This is not just an alarm, this is an alarm that we see something happening," he added.