Better installation and preventive maintenance are essential keys to effective security video, especially with the growth of video use. Security cameras have gone from a luxury for most businesses to one of the most common security measures. Whether it is a large corporation or the local convenience store, the majority of businesses now seem to have surveillance cameras installed and recording. Law enforcement now has cameras in vehicles to observe and record traffic stops, arrests and pursuits. Cameras now record ATM machines and gas pumps to protect both patrons and businesses. Video equipment also has come a long way, with the ability of providing high-quality images. Backlight compensation and digital signal processing can ensure the best image quality even in adverse conditions. Yet the video that always seems to make the evening news or the “Worlds Most” TV shows are the blurry, poor resolution images that give security video its undeserved bad reputation. Granted not every video is of such poor quality; but all too often the suspect in an incident is indistinguishable and the incident occurring can barely be seen. In other cases it seems that the camera has a very poor angle to capture activity and it is often obvious that not much thought was put into the system installation. There are many excellent technicians out there who would not allow one of their systems to produce such poor video quality; still all too often the system is put in and forgotten about until it is needed. This abundance of bad video and plethora of poor quality should make two things clear: there’s a need for better installation training and an abundance of customers in need of a good preventive maintenance contract.

Training Wheels Turn

There is plenty of training available to the average security practitioner on security video equipment and components. Many manufacturers provide classes on their equipment and the application of that equipment for a system. Many offer basic security video classes, which cover how systems work and what comprises a system. Few go into great detail about the art of security video installation and design. Unlike fire systems, guided by codes and regulations, security video is often more of an art form and the layout is open to the interpretation of the designer. While there are many classes available, many installers and salespeople learn everything they know about security video either on the job or from their peers. Often new installers get teamed with more experienced installers to learn how to install and set up systems. This means that the new installer will learn only as much as the veteran understands and in addition will pick up any of the veteran’s bad habits and incorrect techniques. This is not to say that anyone who learns in this manner is doing it wrong or poorly. There are many excellent technicians who have learned this way and many veterans who are outstanding at teaching this way. Often though, neither the new technician nor the veteran is aware of the training that is available to them. They also often do not have the opportunity to learn all of the capabilities and details of the equipment they are installing and new equipment that may be available. Opportunity is really the second thing that many security professionals should see when viewing these poor quality videos. It is a good indication to upgrade existing security video systems or provide good preventive maintenance (PM) contracts to many businesses. Many end users are probably in need of preventive maintenance and unaware of the benefits. When it comes to security equipment, a little creativity can make PM very clear. Seeing a video from a properly maintained system and a video from a system with a dirty recorder, dirty and misadjusted cameras and a monitor with image burn-in is proof enough for PM needs. Comparing the life span of a system with and without maintenance to the life span of a car with and without maintenance will also make it clear – you wouldn’t spend all of that money on a new car and never change the oil, get a tune up or wash it would you? Of course not, you would not expect the car to last very long if you did. The same holds true with the camera system. A system that is installed and forgotten will not last nearly as long as a system that is cleaned and adjusted on a regular basis. Not only will it help to protect the your investment, it will provide clearer, sharper images. Poor video will probably not go away anytime soon and will rear its ugly head often. But upgrades and preventive maintenance to make good equipment operate properly makes good sense for security video. There is always room to learn new installation and design techniques and tricks as well as to learn about new features and new equipment as the technology changes. Equipment changes have made security video systems more reliable yet more complicated. Many systems only use a small portion of the functions they are capable of, mainly because users and security professionals are unaware of the advantages and proper uses.