Answer the Call
Video emerges as the best enhanced verification method
- By Steve Walker
- Jul 14, 2008
Across the United States, many cities are successfully
reducing false alarm dispatches. Each
municipality is attributing success to a variety
of reasons: alarm verification requirements, alarm system
registration, false alarm fees, alarm user training
and improved security equipment technology. Two common
reasons cited for this success are the strong collaboration
among law enforcement, the alarm industry and
alarm users, and the expansion of verified response services
by alarm companies.
Per the Central Station Alarm Association, verified
response is a common term used in the alarm industry to
represent methods used by customer service centers
(CSCs) to confirm that the person on-site during an
alarm situation is authorized and that there is not an
emergency situation, thus avoiding an unnecessary dispatch
by the responding agency.
The two prevalent types of verified response are standard
verification, where the CSC contacts an on-site person via
the telephone to verify the alarm signal received is valid,
and enhanced verification, where the CSC uses more
advanced means for verifying a received alarm signal.
The methods used for enhanced verification may
include the following:
• Cross zoning: Multiple initiating devices of the
alarm system must trip before an alarm signal is
• Alarm panel programming: This allows an authorized
alarm user to electronically cancel an alarm
signal by entering a passcode into the keypad when
an alarm is accidentally tripped.
• Enhanced call verification: A formal multiple telephone
• Live audio alarm verification: An alarm signal is
verified by the CSC through audio technology.
• Live video alarm verification: An alarm signal is
verified by the CSC through video technology.
“As a standard practice, alarm companies should
offer customers basic alarm verification by programming
the alarm panels to send a cancellation signal
through the keypad,” said Bill Fitzhenry, vice president
of U.S. field sales for Stanley Convergent Security
Solutions Inc. “Then for enhanced verification, alarm
companies should offer a good, better and best option
using enhanced call verification, audio verification and
video verification, respectively.”
ECV is a two-call process in which there is a “good”
option to achieve enhanced verification and/or reduce
false alarms. With ECV, a CSC operator calls the customer’s
premises first and, if needed, a second number
provided by the customer to attempt to verify an alarm
before dispatching police.
Good, Better, Best
The Central Station Alarm Association says second-call
verification reduces the incidence of false dispatches by
30 to 50 percent. Alarm companies that offer ECV usually
provide this service free or for a nominal fee.
Using a live audio process is considered a “better”
option to achieve enhanced verification and/or false alarm
reduction. One method of live audio verification uses onsite,
two-way audio speakers and microphones that are
activated by CSC upon the receipt of a traditional electronic
alarm signal. This allows the CSC operator to communicate
with the local premises to verify the alarm.
Another method of live audio verification employs audioactivated
speakers installed at the protected premises to
detect an alarm and a means for the CSC to determine if
the alarm is valid. Alarm companies that offer two-way
live audio verification services usually do so for a small
monthly fee, while verified audio detection response services
are typically more expensive.
A live video process is considered the “best” option
for achieving enhanced verification and/or reducing
false alarm dispatches. With a live video process, a CSC
uses video images to view the protected location to verify
the alarm signal received.
Video Alarm Verification Options
Since not all video alarm verification is equal, it’s worth
taking the time to explore and select a video alarm verification
service that is supported by your alarm company’s
CSC to make sure it has the ability to view both
recorded and live images. There are two ways to get
recorded images or clips to the CSC operator from the
protected premises. The first is to have the recorded clip
sent automatically and immediately to the CSC by the
on-site video system upon an alarm activation. The second
option is for the CSC operator to connect to the onsite
video system and retrieve a recorded clip after
receiving an alarm signal.
It is recommended that the video clips sent to the
CSC in an alarm situation have at least 25 percent prealarm
video and 75 percent post-alarm video. Prealarm
images allow the CSC operator to see what was occurring
just prior to the alarm activation, improving the
verification process. In addition, live video must be a
feature offered within the video alarm verification
service. Recorded video clips sent to a CSC automatically,
with prealarm images, are essential. It also is
important that the CSC be able to view the local premises
live at anytime during an emergency. This allows
the CSC operator to determine the real-time status of
the situation and the responding agency to aid in the
pursuit and capture of suspects.
As for transmission methods, your alarm company should
provide dial-up, cellular and IP transmission options for
its video alarm verification systems. The best transmission
method is IP, because it provides the fastest means of
getting video images from a local premises to the CSC.
“Innovative alarm companies are making significant
investments to integrate their field systems with their
monitoring software,” said Tony Byerly, COO of Stanley
Convergent Security Solutions. “The investment in open
architecture technology and a single IT platform allows
a leading-edge company to offer the customer online,
real-time alarm data and video that helps a customer
improve security and business operations.”
A prediction for continued reduction in alarm dispatches
by law enforcement and alarm companies is a safe
bet, since teaming and collaboration along with advancement
in enhanced verification
response technology, especially video
verification, will continue.
This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of Security Today.