Answer the Call

Video emerges as the best enhanced verification method

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.

Enhanced Verification
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 generated.

• 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 call process.

• 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.

IP Transmission
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.

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