Having a front row seat in the call center of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) technical support center, I can tell you that having a fully functional CCTV system consistently recording is a top priority. While few things are as burdensome as staring at a video monitor looking for that one split second, whats worse is discovering that the cameras or DVR were not operating correctly.
Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will,” would be less quoted in the CCTV stations across the universe if a few simple preventative measures were maintained. With CCTV systems, it is far easier to prevent a problem than it is to remedy it.
The following is a very simple checklist, when followed, that will distance you from that helpless feeling when you discover that some very valuable evidence cannot be found.
1) Check your recording status. Most DVR’s have a viewer log which will tell you how much space remains on the hard drive (where the recordings are saved) or better yet, they will display the last day still available for viewing. The amount of video archive that your system holds is influenced by many factors (cameras set for motion detection, recording speed settings.) DVR’s that don’t restrict user privileges can have these settings changed accidentally. Check your recording status twice monthly.
Note: When an event is reported, immediately download the video clips into a folder or burn onto a CD. Do not put this off! I have seen many incidences where people waited for that quiet moment to make the clip, only to find the hard drive has failed, or the archive was full and that event was written over! It’s not coincidental, its Murphy’s Law!
2) Check for a buildup of heat and dust. Your unit runs 24/7/365. Anything that consumes electricity continuously will get warm. If you have placed your unit in a closet, above the ceiling tile, or tucked into a shelf, there is a good chance the unit is running on the warm side. Hard drives don’t like being warm! The little fans that you can hear whirring around are merely blowing the warm air around and around. They are not to be confused with air conditioners! Make sure your unit has access to source of clean room temperature air.
Add dust, and you have a perfect storm! Some units have air filters. Filters must be checked every month and replaced when necessary.
If your unit is located near a kitchen, you will need to check and clean the filter more frequently. Hot grease that vaporizes and becomes airborne will do the most damage in the shortest period of time.
3) Battery Backup Unit – This is essential. Battery backup units will support continuous power to the DVR and cameras in the event of power outage. Make sure your battery backup will provide at least 15 minutes of power . These units are available at most electronic retailers.
4) Check Camera covers and lenses. Cameras are fed a continuous supply of low voltage current. They get warm and depending on the area they are located, moisture can develop in the interior of the dome. Lenses with auto iris features will have difficulty focusing through the fog. Remove the dome covers; clean the inside with a soft clean cloth. The accumulation on a dome cover is a very slow and gradual process. Little by little, the clarity of the image is lost. Make lens cleaning apart of your annual maintenance program.
5) Burn a Video Clip– Once a month; go through the routine of burning a clip onto a CD. It will take a few minutes, and the more you practice, the faster the task gets. Sometimes CD burners and their complex programs fail. Too often I have heard the urgent cry for help that the police officers are on the scene and need a video clip, but the CD is stuck or the image cannot be seen on the burned clip. Oddly, these calls usually come in at 4 A.M. Murphy’s Law, squared!
6) Protect Your Passwords. Only authorized users should have access to the functions on your DVR. If an authorized user has been dismissed or has left the company, delete that user.
The password allows users to log in from a remote computer, view feeds, control and disable cameras and even lock out other users from having access to the unit.
7) Remote View Daily. I debated myself about adding this to the list, but when I recall how many clients call in saying they cannot view their operation remotely and the last time they have logged in remotely was two weeks ago, I realize the importance of taking nothing for granted.
Remote viewing is done via the internet, Connections can change (especially if you have a dynamic IP address), sometimes a cable becomes unplugged, or the DVR freezes. When this is performed daily, you minimize the risk of not having images available when you really need them!
In this brutal economy with margins pinched by the highly promotional and competitive atmosphere, the pressure to preserve operating capital has never been stronger.
The efforts of Management must be applied continuously to cut down employee shrink, waste, fraudulent transactions while maintaining the high level of accommodations that consumers demand.
Too often, the cost cutting process involves eliminating the mundane tasks and will attend to these situations on a “as needed” basis. While such practice can add pennies to bottom line performance, this absence to detail will have a far greater negative impact over the longer run.
With difficult economic conditions surrounding us, one thing is certain, the thieves are not going away, their activity will be more frequent and their methods more sophisticated.