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BS 8418, An intelligent approach to CCTV

BS 8418 is the standard bearer for detector activated, remotely monitored CCTV.

Pauline Norstrom, Worldwide Head of Marketing at Dedicated Micros and Chairman of the CCTV Section of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), takes an in-depth look at BS 8418 -- the standard for detector activated, remotely monitored CCTV -- and in particular the benefits of this wide reaching quality standard for end users.

By Pauline Norstrom



Time and again when applied correctly remotely monitored, detector activated, CCTV has demonstrated its ability to stop crime at the earliest possible stage on commercial and industrial sites and, crucially, to assist the police to apprehend the culprits.  The types of site where remotely monitored CCTV is applied are many and varied, ranging from out of hours protection for commercial vehicle depots, with valuable vehicles parked-up, to schools which face the threat of vandalism and arson attacks.  More recently we have even started to see it being adopted to protect the homes of high net worth individuals.

The growing interest among end users in this intelligent approach to CCTV has been fueled not only by the positive experience of end users on the ground but also by the introduction -- for the first time -- of an all embracing standard BS 8418.  By pulling together the key elements associated with this type of security, BS8418 is the only standard in the industry today which defines best practice across all aspects of a remotely monitored, detector activated CCTV system including: ensuring that the purpose of the CCTV System is defined clearly, there is a consistent high quality installation with effective positioning of cameras and detectors, that the right user operational procedures such as fault reporting are in place and the Remote Video Response Center (RVRC) meets key requirements including having a response plan.

It was certainly encouraging to see in a 2005 survey of British Security Industry CCTV Section members that more than 90% of respondents were either reasonably aware or very aware of BS 8418, so from an industry perspective the message is getting through.


Intelligent CCTV


Looking more closely at remotely monitored CCTV the overriding attraction has to be the fact that there is visual confirmation by an operator regarding the cause of a specific activation.  This minimizes false alarms and, crucially, enables the fastest possible appropriate action.  In practice, this means transmission equipment linked to CCTV cameras and detectors on commercial, public sector and, increasingly, domestic sites.  If an alarm/detector is triggered images from an associated camera can be transmitted to a specialized Remote Video Response Center (RVRC).  Here operators can manage an incident by accessing a site plan, issuing audio warnings (via on-site speakers) to intruders -- a sufficient deterrent in over 90 percent of incidents -- and if necessary alerting the emergency services, who as the incident is confirmed visually, should provide a priority response.  Images of offenders can even be stored for evidential purposes.


Stopping Crime in Its Tracks


Oldbury Aluminium Alloys in the West Midlands, England, is a good example of the positive impact which this technology can have on the ground.  Here aluminium is refined from scrap metal into “added value” ingots, has been able to successfully combat out-of-hours attacks on its Halesowen premises using event driven CCTV.

During an incident when a detector was activated, operators at the RVRC realized that one of the cameras on site had been knocked out of position.  With the help of the site plan stored on their system and other cameras they were able to track down an intruder and alert the police who were able to quickly come to Oldbury’s premises as the incident had been confirmed visually.  When the police arrived not only were they able to arrest that individual but also another suspect nearby.  In the local area there is a high theft rate for scrap metal and without measures such as this to deter them, criminals are more than willing to attempt to climb over a fence onto site and grab specific items -- often stealing to order.

Another business, Spinney Motorcaravans which now employs the latest remotely monitored CCTV to protect its site from unwanted intruders, underlines how security measures have had to keep pace with the criminal threat.  It is certainly a far cry from the early days in the 1970s of open frontage, with no walls in sight, when organized gangs travelling out of the big cities to try to steal a motor home was simply unheard of.

At Spinney which is home to what is arguably the largest stock of new and used motor homes and touring caravans in the Northwest of England security is taken extremely seriously.  When they moved to a new purpose-built site in the late 1990s they put in a series of walls, a personnel fence around the complete border of the site, and sturdy access gates -- essential with a frontage of 200 meters.  It was suggested to by their insurers that CCTV would be a better option given the size of the site than a night watchman.  The result is that today Spinney has adopted a remotely monitored event-driven CCTV system linked to a RVRC out of hours.  So far Spinney’s experience with remotely monitored CCTV has been a positive one.  The latest transmission equipment, which is connected to the CCTV cameras and detectors, is extremely flexible allowing images to not only be supplied to the RVRC but also giving Spinney the ability to monitor on-site activity locally when the dealership is open.  This intelligent CCTV solution has proven its worth helping to detect and crucially lead to the arrest of two thieves on site at night and in another incident images helped the police to catch two more individuals and, vitally, recover stolen caravans.

The fact is that it is all about early detection, catching individuals before they have the opportunity to cause damage so preventing disruption to business and keeping all important insurance premiums under control.


RVRC operators responding to an incident (Photo by Dedicated Micros)


BS 8418 in Perspective


By any measure the introduction of BS8418 has to be viewed as a major landmark for remotely monitored CCTV, being very much a framework for best practice, underlining as it does the need for the right operator procedures to be in place at the Remote Video Response Center (RVRC) and -- vitally -- the difference that layout and installation can make between the detection and non-detection of crime.  

The fact is that the CCTV industry has historically not had many standards to work from and both the police and insurers in Britain had long indicated that they needed such a document in order to effectively embrace detector activated CCTV.  In the case of the police, the adoption by ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) of confirmation technology as a requirement for a police response served to make the implementation of effective and practical controls in this area even more pressing.

In many ways the Code is pioneering, particularly given the fact that is probably the first standard in the industry which actually addresses each of the individual components of a security system -- the installation, monitoring and user procedures.


Taking Control of False Alarms


When it comes to the promotion of detector activated CCTV; the good news is that the police through ACPO are strong advocates of BS 8418.  They have a vested interest in the success of the Code of Practice, recognizing the potential it offers to drive down unnecessary call outs -- a considerable burden on their limited resources -- to a sustainable level, with false alarm rates of 5% now a realistic prospect.

ACPO has confirmed that the issuing of a Unique Reference Number (URN) for a detector activated CCTV system is conditional on compliance with BS 8418.  Designated Type A, such systems will automatically benefit from a Level 1 police response -- effectively immediate.  This contrasts with non-compliant systems, where a Level 1 response is not available.


Insurance Matters


From an insurance perspective, this intelligent, event-driven, approach to CCTV also ties-in, with the overriding priority of insurers to stop damage being caused to property and keep claims firmly under control.  CCTV as a remote “watchman” tends to be seen as preferable to continuously recorded CCTV, which is really only of help after an event to secure a conviction.  When speaking to insurers they are particularly enthusiastic regarding the potential for an audio challenge to trespassers, again actively attempting to stop attacks before they really start.


Best Practice


For those considering detector activated CCTV there is the reassurance that there are a growing number of providers whose solutions comply with BS 8418.  As the Code of Practice for the “installation and Remote Monitoring” of detector activated CCTV, BS 8418 reflects the reality that, to be successful, this type of CCTV solution requires all parties -- whether that be the installer, the RVRC operator or end user -- to adopt best practice.

The sort of areas which BS 8418 covers include:


BS 8418 compliant solutions benefit from a level 1 police response. (Photo by Dedicated Micros)


Great care needs to be taken in the specification and set-up of detectors.  BS 8418 recognizes that detectors need to be suitable for the environment in which they are to be used, that detection should not overspill the boundary of the protected area and that detection should fall within the camera’s field of view.


Camera Field of View

If the method of actually specifying a system is correct, starting with the identification of the areas of detection and then working out how to view them, then this should be relatively straightforward.  Ultimately, it is all about ensuring that nothing is missed so an effective assessment can be made of what the cause of a particular incident is.


Audio Challenge

With regards to the issuing of audio warnings to intruders, in 9 out of 10 incidents this measure alone is sufficient to deter criminal activity.  BS 8418 recommends that an audio challenge facility be made available (something which ACPO consider as mandatory for sites which wish to receive a URN) and that it should be “clearly audible, without undue distortion within the range of all detectors.”

The only exceptions being “there it is judged to reduce the effectiveness of the system or where there are noise pollution implications”  In the former case, criminals may have targeted a site using the warning as a stopwatch, so they have an indication of their window of opportunity before the police arrive on scene.  Here keeping the intruders unaware of the fact that the police have been alerted, possibly before the crime is initiated, can be a significant factor in achieving a successful outcome.



Lighting conditions can be a major issue for all sorts of CCTV and detector activated is no exception.  Not surprisingly BS 8418 notes that “there should be sufficient lights on site to illuminate the camera’s field of view”  Where there are issues regarding keeping the site illuminated at night (cost or light pollution) then consideration can be given by installers to setting-up the on-site transmission equipment to drive a relay to turn lights on for five minutes on command or when there is an alarm.


Training and Staff Access

It is also important, as BS 8418 notes, that end users staff have been trained to use the CCTV system, understanding for example the procedure if they deviate from the agreed entry route and are aware of set and unset procedures.



This is a critical moment for a remotely monitored CCTV solution.  This provides the opportunity for users to ensure that the system meets their specific requirements, any faults which need to be rectified should be highlighted and that they should be involved in the installer and RVRC walk test so they can understand what needs to be done on an ongoing basis as part of the maintenance of the system



Once a system is up and running it needs to be maintained effectively and BS 8418 stresses the critical nature of this area.  End users should ensure that there are ongoing contracts for service and maintenance, that lighting is checked on a regular basis and walk tests are conducted at specific intervals in conjunction with the RVRC to check that the system is functioning correctly.


A Remote Future

Ultimately, a BS 8418 solution gives end users the confidence that there are quantified controls in place throughout the Specification, Installation, Operation, Remote Monitoring and Maintenance processes allowing them to reap the benefits of a secure controlled environment, ready to combat the threat of attack, and a priority police response.  The emergency services should also see significant reductions in false alarms and, crucially, more effective prosecutions through video evidence.



Pauline Norstrom has become a key figure in the development of CCTV standards.  She is Worldwide Head of Marketing at Dedicated Micros ( and is Chairman of the CCTV Section of the British Security Industry Association and heads-up a technical committee within the BSIA which looks specifically at CCTV best practice.



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