SP&T News

Protecting government buildings — much more to be done

The rule of thumb in protecting government facilities is simple: any application with a large area that needs to be covered is a candidate for a video surveillance system. That includes the perimeter. Since most government facilities have limited manpower to employ in security-related tasks, video surveillance systems are perfect because only a few people can watch over areas that would be virtually impossible to patrol with 100 per cent effectiveness.

July 13, 2010  By Brian Leland

As a result, governments are massive purchasers of video surveillance systems and equipment. And “government” means more than the federal government. A single order from a provincial or municipal government can include hundreds of cameras alone. One of the advantages of working with government customers is that most of them are familiar with video in one flavour or another.
So, what is a government building, and what are they buying when it comes to surveillance? That depends. A military base commissary is a retail implementation. At a provincial prison, they’re promoting high-end perimeter protection, among other applications. Surveillance is extremely important in preventing inmate misconduct, ensuring the safe transport of prisoners and keeping guards safe. Municipal government hospitals, just like any private medical institution, need a healthcare solution. Courthouse surveillance helps stop the escalation of disturbances and prevents incidents from happening in the first place. In other words, there isn’t a “government” installation; there are application solutions used by government entities.
Depending on the application, government building customers have a need for basically every surveillance technology available — from simple, plastic-housed indoor dome cameras to those that provide IP66 weather resistance, zoom to 320x, offer day/night capabilities and supply wide dynamic range to yield clear images in all kinds of conditions.
There are things government customers can do to help their integrators provide the best solutions at the best price. Integrators look at government sales as a long and time-consuming process. That’s because all sales involve providing a bid. They not only have to sharpen their pencils (yet also assure profitability) but also need to get creative. Do their cameras install in 10 minutes? They need to make sure that benefits like that show up in their bids under installation. Is the line they are selling broad so that they can mix and match the most efficient camera or storage option for each location?

Can you make your installation worth it to local integrators? Let’s take a city of 250,000 people that covers about 20 square miles and that wants to create a citywide surveillance network. How many cameras and DVRs does that city need? Hundreds of each — and that’s the point. Let them know that. Governments are good business and can be very profitable. Ask them to provide systems that are easy for your people to use and simple for the integrator to install.
What does a government building customer want?
As the commander of a military base might say, “The purpose of installing the system was to give our personnel additional tools to work with to provide security for the base. It increases our response time, decreases the incidences of theft and provides us with video documentation for prosecution of criminals. It is an extremely critical asset for enhancing the safety and security of our personnel.”
The typical system that watches over the perimeter of a military base is becoming common in many government installations. Mounted on 30- to 50-foot poles surrounding a base, video is transmitted via microwave from day/night cameras to a master control at the desk, which is monitored 24 hours a day. These cameras, which switch automatically between a colour mode for daytime and a more sensitive monochrome mode for nighttime viewing, provide 24-hour coverage in all lighting conditions. They eliminate the need for separate daytime and nighttime cameras, for twice the number of enclosures and for extra lighting — greatly reducing equipment, installation and maintenance costs.
That is similar to a system used in cities. There can be over 450 dome cameras deployed through a full wireless network IP solution, plus 50 domes for maintenance and upgrade purposes. Specifications for such cameras are stringent. The camera needs to provide super high resolution, IP 66 outdoor housing, full continuous autofocus, WDR (wide dynamic range) and wireless networking capabilities.
The camera should feature a 432x zoom and support various focus modes, including AUTO, MANUAL AND SEMIAUTO. With full auto focus, the system needs to produce crisp images free of glare and shadow over a wide range of illumination levels at all times with a wide dynamic range of 128x (NTSC) and 160x (PAL).
Transmission is typically wireless and the transmitter is the encoder, turning the analogue signals into digital. The monitoring room will be totally digital. Storage of images will be in servers.
Cameras are mounted on poles 45 feet high. Sharing the top of the pole with the cameras is the wireless encoder and the antenna for the camera. Below them reside the metal cabinets for the UPS and power supplies. Directly below them are metal security prongs facing downward to stop anyone from climbing up the pole to tamper with the cameras.

Up to the actual mounting of the cameras themselves, installing the system can be a difficult job, as electricity must be run to the pole and then up the pole. Oftentimes, this is right in the middle of city traffic. Plus, there often have to be many people and organizations involved, from the power company to traffic enforcement. Being able to mount the camera itself in about 10 minutes has been a big help.    
As in private industry, as security requirements in government facilities have increased, so has the need for additional manpower to provide adequate security coverage. Video surveillance, however, decreases their need for additional manpower and allows them to have real-time warning systems. The video can alert them to events as they are unfolding and allows them to react quicker.
What are government buyers looking for in cameras?
Again, that depends upon the application. For instance, a complete family of products provides comprehensive video surveillance for the prison system of one of the largest nations in Latin America. It includes a broad range of video surveillance solutions encompassing a wide selection of high performance anti-vandal cameras selected to meet location and environmental specific needs in the prison system, including indoor and outdoor applications and accessories.
Often, government building cameras, because of the need for perimeter protection, will leverage a vandal and weather resistance camera featuring a housing that is fully IP66 compliant, resisting rain, dust and cold. The housing could also feature an optical grade, polycarbonate transparent bubble combining optimum optical capabilities with strength and durability. The robustness of such a camera system can also be enhanced with quality motors, belts and bearings to provide superior lifetime operation. The typical operating temperature is between -45 C and 50 C.
Oftentimes, their housing will also feature a fan design optimized not only for cooling but also for even airflow and ventilation throughout the entire PTZ assembly as well. Instead of using the customary plastic frame, a proprietary aluminum frame supports the assembly, providing superior panning alignment and greater reliability.

Many government buildings are in cities. To block viewing of specific areas within a picture, especially important in urban public venues, privacy zones must be set. Typically, areas are monitored on a time and day schedule.
Object placement and removal analytics can couple intelligence with video for government sites and alert operators to potential issues. Thermal cameras, which don’t rely on light but pick up heat signatures of subjects and display them as an image on screen, ensure effective detection in any lighting or weather conditions and are suitable for a host of applications, including perimeter protection.
Moving from analogue to IP…or not
One definite trend is the move from analogue to digital video systems. Although the great majority of currently installed government facility video surveillance systems are analogue, these systems are giving way to IP solutions. The migration gives government security officers higher quality images, more coverage and video analytics.
In some cases, government organizations are continuing to use analogue but with a twist. In the Colombian scenario, earlier described, analogue cameras are being replaced with a new 43x optical zoom model, which incorporates features such as video analytics, normally associated only with digital video cameras.
Government building security — increasingly important
The use of video security by local, provincial and federal government organizations is growing as the need for public security continually increases with threats from abroad and at home. The argument over increasing the protection of staff, visitors and assets no longer focuses on whether or not it is needed but on how to do it. The difference between government building protection and that in the private sector is that one government entity may have a wide variety of applications. That makes protecting government facilities more complex and more challenging.


Brian Leland is vice-president, North America Sales, Samsung Security


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