There's a growing recognition among risk managers – and, for that matter, the insured – that there's no room for complacency where criminal attacks are concerned.

This is despite the 2000 British Crime Survey, noting that reported crime dropped by 10% in 1999, compared to 1997. After all, levels are still 50% higher than in the 1980s.

Thankfully, as technology has moved on apace, so too have the options for protection. Insurers are now able to encourage businesses to adopt ever more sophisticated and affordable approaches to security. This helps them address the risks associated with the ongoing criminal threat, controlling premiums and escalating claims costs.

The issues surrounding remotely-monitored CCTV have been brought into sharp focus in recent months with the welcome introduction of effective controlling standards. The process to develop these standards (known as the British Standards Institute PAS 38:2000) was one in which insurers were directly involved.

The case for remote monitoring has also been strengthened by a dramatic reduction in set-up costs, ensuring that it is now realistically within the reach of even the smallest of businesses.

Big brother is watching
Remote monitoring links on-site cameras, usually via an ISDN line, to a remote video receiving centre (RVRC), which can be tens or even hundreds of miles away.

At the RVRC, operators are then able to provide event-driven monitoring of a specified area, alert the relevant authorities and even issue verbal warnings to intruders.

When applied correctly, intelligent remote monitoring can reduce false alarm rates (which in some areas can be as high as 90%), prevent criminal damage, minimise disruption to business, lower security costs and maintain vital police cover. It compares favourably to more conventional options such as manned guarding.

No quality control
Until the introduction of the PAS 38:2000, business users faced a complete lack of mandatory standards and thus had to be extremely careful. With nothing to guide them in the selection of a suitable security provider, many were left exposed to dramatic differences in the level and quality of service offered – not a scenario that would sit happily with insurers wanting to make an accurate risk assessment.

At its worst, a monitored CCTV service might mean just one person tasked with the monitoring of tens of locations. This situation would be was fine if there were no incidents but, if two or more sites generated events at the same time, then the capacity would not be there to provide the required response.

The security industry has now moved to address this worrying legislative gap.

Working through the British Security Industry Association, the PAS was developed with help from groups such as the Association of British Insurers, Association of Chief Police Officers, Association of Security Consultants, National Approval Council for Security Systems, the Data Protection Registrar and the Security Facilities Division of the Cabinet Office. All of these bodies certainly have a strong interest in ensuing that systems can effectively combat crime.

The new standards will help potential users of remotely-monitored CCTV systems to readily distinguish between the professionals and the small minority of less scrupulous providers who were continuing to undermine the benefits of this technology.

What the standards will do
The PAS addresses a number of key areas. It stipulates that the right operator procedures should be in place at the RVRC so, if there is an incident, it can be dealt with effectively. This is particularly important given the potential for several incidents to occur simultaneously.

The PAS also recognises the need for on-site equipment to be adequately controlled from the RVRC and outlines the importance of the positioning of cameras and detectors at the installation stage. No matter how good the RVRC, if on-site equipment is incorrectly laid out, the result could be a multitude of unnecessary activations or gaps in coverage, offering a window of opportunity for intruders to sneak through.

The fact that even the security equipment itself can be subject to attack is also dealt with in the PAS, by the requirement for tamper detection technology for detectors and camera housings. Systems also need to be able to indicate camera, ISDN line and power failures.

Remote CCTV monitoring is now at the stage where its true potential can be unlocked both in terms of quality – with the PAS – and system economics. This is one solution that will be in ever-sharper focus when choices have to be made on how best to secure commercial premises and set corresponding premiums.

  • Adam Wiseberg is managing director of RemGuard Visual Management.