Leveraging Surveillance

Leveraging Surveillance

Video provides the tools for operational efficiency and risk mitigation

Mitigating loss is a primary objective of retailers everywhere. Historically, this has meant taking preventive actions against shrinkage, employee theft, and Organized Retail Crime (ORC). Today, retailers are confronted with a new threat as a rise in active shooter incidents has presented new challenges.

Several incidents in the past few years, such as the shootings at a King Souper’s supermarket in Boulder, CO, a Federal Express facility in Indianapolis and a Walmart retail distribution center in California are examples of new threats that present safety and security issues for customers, associates and the general public.

These incidents are not isolated to retail, however, and it is a growing nationwide trend of both random and directed attacks making the daily news. The pandemic has also escalated tensions among store-going consumers, while simultaneously seeing the proliferation of self-checkouts, another asset retailers need to effectively manage.

Video Moves Beyond Surveillance
With mass shootings on the rise, shopper and worker safety is at the forefront of every discussion by end users in the physical security market. Video surveillance serves multiple capabilities beyond security and safety and has tapped into new intelligence including active shooter detection.

Layering technology and culling data from camera streams can augment detection and provide early warning of potential breaches and events, tracking suspicious activity such as intruders breaking glass or other predictive behavior by leveraging violence detection analytics throughout the premises.

Video management software helps retailers assess the harbingers of violence, identify the presence of firearms and configurations of weaponry, as well as detect shots fired. Using video surveillance and cameras tied to analytics quickly creates enhanced critical situational awareness – while next-steps are delivered to users in a formulated response approach. Coupled with protocols and tools to address active shooters and armed criminal violence, these analytics can provide preventive measures for retailers.

Here are four ways to use your existing camera system to mitigate risk, increase business viability and address active shooter detection and prevention.

Be Proactive with Pre-Incident Detection — Engage Preemptive Detection and Alerts
Critical to any security and safety strategy is identifying events before they escalate and keeping threats at the farthest reaches of the protected premises whenever possible.

Video surveillance is your ally in early detection of active shooter events. Leveraging analytics and pre-incident intelligence yields early warnings to retail organizations of potential weapons on the premises, in addition to acoustic gunshot detection that identifies the discharge of a firearm. Shotgun and weapon analytics determine the sound of a discharged weapon. Separate analytics actually identify a weapon based on its configuration.

Analytics identifies weaponry and provides a quick-reaction management sequence so users can alert local law enforcement, other responding authorities or staff or company management while providing as many specifics as possible to mitigate potential loss associated with the event.

When a weapons threat is detected in the camera’s field of view, the attendant or operator managing the system receives an automatic pop-up alert and can immediately click on the camera view for greater detail, along with directions, phone number, contact person or other next steps. For brick and mortar stores without a Security Operations Center (SOC) or dedicated command center, the system can be adapted and the software scaled specifically to the retailer, and the alert sequence required to notify remote staff or other company staff can be customized.

Make It Your Own — Configure and Customize Alerts Specific to Your Facility and Decide How You Want the Response to Play Out
No retailer or location is the same. Some are massive distribution centers, while others may be simple pop-up stores or “shop and go” grocers. There may be SOCs, or a desktop computer fielding alerts and notifications. Each location has different needs, challenges and pain points and users need the ability to determine how to navigate and clear the alert, based on their unique operations, facility and other risk factors.

Open architecture video management software tailors the collection and dissemination of data specific to the user and their facility for a more targeted response. Retailers need software that can seamlessly accelerate and enhance an existing or future emergency response program, whether localized at the store level or handled nationally.

Ensure a Flexible and Customizable Approach to Incident Response
The VMS detects or determines a threat, takes the data and then presents it to whomever is designated by the retailer to receive the alert. Retailers often need to layer in a web of responders trained in what to do to validate the threat, remove people from the threat area and execute the steps that have been already outlined by the retailer.

These responders can include store managers or others at the store level, operators at a regional or centralized SOC or local authorities, so retailers need a VMS system that provides a maximum of flexibility in the types of alerting and response. For example, a store manager is likely not always at the front of the store to visually see an incoming active shooter enter from the parking lot, but the VMS system can detect the threat and send a local alert from the VMS.

The system can provide a visual picture of the threat, and also potentially crucial information to aid in contacting local authorities directly or send an advisory from the regional SOC that first responders are already en route to the store or warehouse location.

Develop an Integrated Program Blending Technology and Emergency Training — Seamlessly Accelerate and Enhance Either an Existing or In-progress Emergency Response Program or Mitigation Directives with Video at Your Back
Alerts and notifications are crucial, but technology can’t effectively stand alone and needs to fit seamlessly into the user’s overall emergency response program or protocols. Challenges remain for retailers in active shooter incident prevention and response, including the responsibility to protect massive open environments that often have no physical security presence; the potential for an active shooter to be a customer or employee (front and back of house); and other facility vulnerabilities that vary dramatically by type, size and location of the retailer.

Retailers should also look for a VMS vendor with the in-house expertise to assist them with the design and development of an emergency response program in concert with their video surveillance solution and active shooter detection.

As active shooter incidents tick up, video surveillance and analytics yield both the technological data and the tools to minimize threats and prevent risk proactively. VMS vendors that employ an open architecture approach, and who maintain multiple integrations with different threat detection systems are more able to offer a flexible and customizable approach that allows retailers to deploy multiple or single threat detection solutions.

While we can’t predict crises, we can plan for them and active shooter detection is a key example of how retailers can marry technology and internal policies and procedures to make their environment safer for customers and staff.

This article originally appeared in the May / June 2022 issue of Security Today.

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