Get a grip on alarm handling

11 May 2014

Workflow Alarm Processing

Remote alarm monitoring has been a huge success story for the security industry. Providing cost effective, round the clock protection and leveraging value from users’ security systems, as well as recurring revenue for the installer and alarm receiving centre, has all helped drive it forward.

The capability to provide an almost instant response to a threat is an attractive proposition, supported by monitoring innovation and rapid technology developments. Service offerings have evolved into different levels, with the basic economy version at one extreme and a highly tailored, customized service at the other. Monitoring and PSIM software has also evolved with different product offerings finding their own particular niches.

Complexity made Simple The basic monitoring service allows site and alarm information to be presented to the alarm receiving centre operator along with a set of instructions. The instructions may include, for example – ‘contact keyholder’ or ‘view false alarm warning notice’, or may even simply provide an automated, system generated response like a text message. The alarm signal is generally filtered before being presented so that the operator doesn’t have to search for real alarms amongst a multitude of technical and duplicate signals.

This has become a popular methodology, particularly for handling large numbers of similar types of sites. However, the ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work for every situation. Different users will have different objectives, some may require staff protection, site monitoring or fire detection, with varying levels of risk. They might also require specific, detailed and regular activity reports for management and investigation purposes.

The ultimate objective is to provide a customised service but as efficiently and with as little human intervention as possible. This is a bigger challenge in an integrated monitoring control room where a combination of different services, such as CCTV and alarms, may be handled together. With the increasing demand for alarm handling solutions which are more tailored to specific needs and the convergence between integrated CCTV and physical security information management systems, there is risk of operator overload.

The European Standard, EN50132-7 states – ‘There is no single model design for a CCTV system.’ This is also very true for integrated CCTV monitoring. Also, given human nature, not all operators will recognise the same event even when provided with the same set of images. This can lead to an inconsistent response with the risk of false alarms being policed or, worse still, incidents may be missed altogether.

Workflow Processing If we take a step back from the rigidly standardised approach and instead consider the site risk assessment and operational requirements, we can start to design a configurable workflow process for the monitoring operator. This can be designed around compliance with system objectives, key performance indicators and activity reporting.

The workflow criteria can be dependent on factors like operator action outcomes, time and date, and verification processes. For example, while a lone worker alarm activation received during office hours may require immediate local action, out of hours a different response may be required. A duress password will generate a different workflow process to a non-duress password.

Automating the process as far as possible allows operators, who will be of varying skills levels, to concentrate on the essential tasks. A further benefit is the potential to reduce the number of monitor displays at the workstation, freeing up valuable space and reducing power consumption in the control room.

Workflow creation should be a simple process, preferably without the need for complex text scripts. One simple option is to drag and drop linked actions onto a canvas where the required attributes can be set and made into workflow templates which can then be copied across multiple sites. System activity reporting can then be used to authenticate that those processes have been followed.

Successful Monitoring Outcomes With an easy to follow workflow, the quality of decision making is significantly improved and the need for subjective operator thinking is minimised at the same time as the process becomes more streamlined.

There are many stakeholders and components involved in an integrated security monitoring system. While the system can only be as strong as its weakest link, using intelligent workflow in a well-designed integrated monitoring system delivers the best possible service response outcome for the user.

Unit 10 Webster Court
Carina Park
Warrington, Cheshire
United Kingdom

List your business for free

Create a business listing on the UK's leading security and fire directory

Get the IFSEC Global newsletter

The latest security and fire news, trends and insights