Video surveillance can complement devices such as smoke detectors to verify fire alarms so firefighters will not be needlessy dispatched in the case of a false alarm.
©iStockpoto.com/ Lasse Kristensen
Fire, security, video and building automation technologies are slowly but surely converging. One example of this involves the mixing and matching of sensor technologies, thus putting the best of both worlds together to create a slew of hybrid product offerings capable of providing more features and benefits than any one of them could possibly provide on its own. Another example involves the use of video surveillance technology as a means of verifying not only burglar alarms but also fire alarm signals.
We'll take a look at some of the ways video technology is being used to offer assistance in detection and verification. We'll also look at a few code considerations based on recent changes in NFPA 72, 2010 Edition.
Video Surveillance Plays Dual Roles
A mere decade ago cameras were only expected to do what cameras do best — show people doing things they're not supposed to. Cameras also made it possible for those in authority to watch such events in real-time from afar. And where it's not possible to be positioned at the head-end to watch a suspect's every move as it happens, cameras enable campus police and security to view relevant video clips at a later time for a variety of purposes.
Probably the most obvious use of video cameras is to verify alarm signals. The value becomes apparent when the dispatch operator decides not to dispatch police, security or firefighters to the location because there's nothing happening. In this case an operator, who has established a connection with one or more cameras in the vicinity of the alarming device, has made a conscious decision not to dispatch based on real-time and recorded video.
Where disptach centers and central stations have the most experience with video verification, of course, is in the area of electronic intrusion detection.
"Video verification allows our central station operators to get a clear picture of what is happening on the protected premise," says Ray Jones, executive assistant, Buckeye Protective Service Inc., Canton, Ohio. "This reduces false alarms, and in most cases provides a faster response from authorities."
In this respect, having an eyewitness to a crime is a benefit. "The responding party knows that you have video verification of an intruder, [so] they know that the chances of it being an actual alarm are very high," Jones adds.
Where it comes to dispatching firefighters to the scene of a purported fire, having access to a full complement of cameras inside the facility proves to be a definite advantage.
Fire Detection Can Use Video Imaging
Another application for video surveillance cameras involves the actual detection of smoke or the flame of a fire in seconds. This relatively new development is ideal for huge warehouses and other types of structures where conventional detection methods are difficult or impossible to implement.
As you can well imagine, this technology has the potential of turning an entire array of cameras into a fire detection system. Not only do the cameras act as fire detection devices, but the dispatch operators are able to glean additional information through viewing relevant video.
This information can be channeled to security officers, administrators and responding firefighters at a moment's notice.
At the heart of a video-based fire detection system lays a DVR. Unlike a conventional recorder, however, this one carries the necessary listing that says it's fire-related.
Video Fire Detection Basics
Because of the use of DVR-based technology, you have the ability to create a variety of effects. Each camera represents a zone, just as in a conventional fire alarm system. Each zone can be configured to detect a specific type of event or situation. Examples include fire, smoke and motion. Windows can be defined enabling the system to alert personnel when one of the above conditions is met.
Through scheduling, the campus fire officials also can assign days and times during which the system will or will not operate as programmed. This is an ideal way to handle construction zones as well as high activity areas.