You don’t have to go far these days to hear stories in which video surveillance plays a critical role in catching the bad guys… in real life and on TV. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen how an organization can end up with a huge — and costly — headache when its video surveillance system isn’t working properly.
The 2010 security lapse at Newark Airport was a case in point. After a serious security breach, Transportation Security officials discovered that the surveillance camera covering the area in question wasn’t recording. Not only was the situation dangerous and embarrassing, but they had to close the airport for six hours!
Airports aren’t the only place problems turn up. I’ve seen many situations where something has been overlooked or changed, and the camera is no longer providing video you can count on.
To avoid getting caught in an embarrassing and potentially serious situation, I recommend a little spring cleaning of your video surveillance system.
Not every picture is worth a 1,000 words
Your video security is only as good as the picture you’re capturing. Whether you have one surveillance camera, hundreds or thousands, you need to make sure that the images you’re getting are serving your security objective. Some things to consider:
- Camera focus and direction: After a surveillance camera is installed and in use for a few months, it’s a good idea to check that the image you’re getting is the one you want. After that, I recommend an annual checkup to confirm that the video quality is still there. Cameras can shift — due to building vibrations for example. The movement may be slight but it can have
a significant impact on your picture.
- Field of View: If you’ve opted for a wide open lens, you may be getting a broad view but poor depth of field. Are your surveillance images detailed enough to be useful? Or maybe the focus is too narrow, creating blind spots. You need to find the best balance for your security needs. You may even want to consider a new HD camera that will expand your options.
- Different lighting conditions: Most surveillance cameras, whether located indoors or outdoors, have to contend with varying light. Bright sunlight can cause glare or washed out images, and low light conditions may capture an image that is too dark or grainy. Check images at different times of the day to make sure you don’t have clear images at 9 a.m. but silhouettes at 3 p.m.
- Blocked cameras: Staff may have unwittingly blocked a camera with signage, displays or other barriers. It seems simple, but it’s an important factor to check.
Hold on to that image!
Now that you’re sure the cameras are doing their job, you need to check that the video is recording correctly. Does your video management software client indicate that everything is working? If you
rely on manual system checks, there will always be a gap in your security because a problem could occur right after you’ve checked it, and you won’t know until you conduct the next check. To be confident that video is recording correctly, you need a health management system that alerts you the instant something goes wrong.
To check the effectiveness of your surveillance system, create a video outage:
- For analog cameras, simply unplug the camera input at the recording device.
- For IP cameras, unplug the network connector cable.
The disruption should trigger an event in your video management system. Make sure that the type of alert the system generates is helpful. For example, is the email alert being directed to the
correct individual? Use these tests to verify that everything and everyone responds appropriately to a potential security breach.
Once you’ve conducted these tests, you can rest easy knowing that your video surveillance solution is working the way it’s intended to. But don’t wait until next spring to check again. It’s a good idea
to conduct regular audits of your security system, to make sure that the video you capture is useful and recording properly. You and everyone else involved will be thankful you did.