Implementing temporary security systems
Changing trends in crime in recent years have resulted in a need to protect an ever increasing range of sites. Temporary applications are increasingly in demand, whether that be for events, short term requirements such as construction sites or void properties, or to manage spikes in crime or anti-social behaviour. Advances in communications technologies make temporary and rapid deployment systems more effective than ever.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]emporary security applications have often presented a real challenge for installers and integrators. However, with changing technologies and developments in infrastructure and communications, temporary systems are easier to provide and more cost effective than before.
Given the risks associated with vacant buildings, events, remote or isolated locations and temporarily insecure sites such as construction projects, there is much to be gained from ensuring a good degree of protection is present. Trends in theft have seen such sites – often considered as soft targets – being attacked for materials, scrap and plant vehicles. Many of these sites lack permanent infrastructure, and so for anyone implementing a temporary solution considerations have to made with regard to power and data transmission, as well as the actual system installation.
Another aspect of temporary security is the need for a solution which can target potential ‘flashpoints’ or crime. These may occur due to events taking place, or in response to unpredicted circumstances within a locality or neighbourhood. Often there will be a need for surveillance to be implemented as a short-term measure, which is removed or relocated when the situation returns to normal.
Vacant properties have always carried a high level of risk, but in recent times this has increased exponentially. Arson, vandalism, theft of fittings and fly-tipping have been issues for void properties, and to put this in context it is estimated that nearly half of the cases of fire damage to commercial buildings are arson-related. Also, as financial pressure increases for small tradespeople, incidences of fly-tipping are on the rise. Whilst fly-tipping and graffiti may seem like annoyances rather than real risks, the costs of cleaning up after an incident are significant. Often, businesses are legally obliged to take action in a timely fashion. Such crimes also indicate that security at a void site is lax.
In the past, squatting was not an issue for commercial sites, and when buildings were occupied by unauthorised persons it was often for illegal activities or events rather than as a residence. However, changes in the law relating to squatting in residential properties have created a change in the risk level, to a point where it is now a consideration which needs to be addressed. Either way, the costs – both financial and in terms of timespan – of regaining possession of a site and putting right any damage make an investment in some degree of protection a necessity.
Theft from empty properties was a lower risk in the past, but the rapidly spiralling value of metal, plus increased thefts of fixtures and fittings, has seen attacks against empty buildings grow. Such sites are regularly blighted by crime. Of course, once attacked the risks of other intrusions from vandals or other intruders are increased.
Of course, not all risks are security and safety related. Often empty buildings can suffer from flooding, or the general deterioration of infrastructure. Whilst such risks may seem outside of the scope of temporary solutions to protect the site, the reality is that water leak and damp detectors, temperature sensors and other environmental monitoring tools can be linked into the alarm systems to provide a higher degree of protection.
A simple video surveillance system can be installed and configured in a day or two if an urgent situation arises. However, if the proposed location has no power of other infrastructure, this time period will need to be expanded. Thankfully, rapid deployment video surveillance has become more rapid in recent years, and advancing communications technologies have resulted in the time to operation being significantly cut.
Today, approaches to temporary video surveillance include fully integrated, communications-enabled, single unit devices, through to mobile monitoring units with on-board power and transmission capabilities, telescopic towers and support for multiple detection and video devices.
These units can be quickly taken to a specific location, for example a construction site, and be deployed and operational in a matter of hours.
There are ruggedised units that can be attached to standard lampposts, including some that use a motorised delivery unit to take the camera to the desired height, thus eliminating the need for a cherry-picker.
There is little doubt that these fully-integrated, rapidly-deployable solutions have been greatly refined in recent times. The result is that the latest generation of systems being brought to market are much faster to set-up than their predecessors, more stable and robust, include feature-rich recorders, cameras, detectors, wireless and mobile communications capabilities, and allow greater flexibility in terms of how they are powered.
Perhaps of all the applications outside of public space monitoring, the area where rapid deployment surveillance is making its mark is in the construction sector. Such sites continue to be a lucrative target for hardened and opportunist criminals as they target metal, diesel, building materials and equipment. There is also the risk of arson, which carries an estimated cost of £1.3 billion annually.
The extent to which this technology has been embraced by the construction industry is underlined by the fact that rapid deployment video towers are becoming an ever more common feature as they take their place on-site, alongside other essential plant and equipment, to smooth day-to-day operations by preventing construction site crime.
Key features to look out for include whether the rapid deployment system can be connected to a BS8418 compliant RVRC to deliver detector-activated footage, whether an audio challenge capability is built-in, what – if any – illumination is provided and the range at which evidential video can be captured.
Care should also be taken to assess the type and capabilities of the detectors and cameras, power supplies and signalling paths.
The degree of protection that can be delivered to a vacant or remote site really depends upon the condition of the buildings and/or structures which can be utilised. If they have open areas allowing birds and animals in, then suitable protection might not include detection devices. A distinction needs to be made between derelict and vacant; it must be accepted that measures designed to protect the latter will not deliver the same results to the former!
As with any solution, protecting void property or isolated and remote sites often requires a number of elements to be brought together. The final mix will be decided by the risks faced, the type of buildings (and their condition), the assets being protected, the location and the available utilities and services that are in place.
The first step is to protect the site against intrusion. This can be as simple as ensuring all points of entry are secured, or may require other measures such as shutters or grilles to be used. Permanent installations of such defences can be of great assistance, but often will not be suitable. There are a wide variety of temporary devices available, ranging from lightweight screens used as a deterrent, through to heavy duty impact-resistant metal shutters, which can also be treated to make graffiti removal easier.
When restricting access to a site, remember to also consider car parks and approach roads. If vehicles cannot access the site, then fly-tipping and theft of fixtures and fittings is made more difficult. Also, by securing the external areas, a demarcation is made so that people are aware that they should not be on any part of the site.
This effectively allows the creation of a sterile zone, in which any activity or presence can be treated as suspicious.
It is also good practice to ensure that the external areas are clear of any objects that can be used to damage or break in to the buildings, and also remove any flammable materials such as rubbish, old furniture, etc.. In many cases of arson, materials already at the site are used as fuel.
Whilst physical security devices like fences, barriers, shutters and grilles have a role to play, they are only effective until an intruder puts in the time and effort to defeat them. Once a physical barrier has been crossed, then some form of alarm system will be required to generate a response.
The first consideration with regard to an alarm system is whether a permanent or temporary system is required. Usually the choice will be dependent upon whether power and communications are active in the building. Also, consideration should be given to whether external or internal protection is required, or a mixture of both.
Many manufacturers now offer high quality wireless external detection devices, and these can be used as a part of a temporary solution. Indeed, when using quality wire-free solutions, signals can be transmitted over significant distances, and mesh-based solutions allow a high degree of flexibility with regard to how the alarm systems are designed.
Also, a number of systems are available with a full choice of signalling paths, including GSM, cellular data, GPRS and wireless networks, along with hardwired alternatives if required. Some devices can support local area network transmission over long distances, allowing nearby infrastructure to be used.
Consideration should also be given as to how alarm events will be handled. If keyholders are not located near to the site, many guarding providers and void property protection specialists will offer a response service, which can also be supplemented with regular patrols. It is worth remembering that patrols can do more than just enhance security. They offer an opportunity for checks to be made on several aspects of the site’s condition, allowing owners to stay on top of small issues that could be detrimental to the overall condition of the site.
Finally, video surveillance can be used as a temporary or permanent system, or rapid deployment systems can also be used. If external areas are sealed off to create a sterile zone, this also allows effective use of video motion detection and analytics, as well as allowing an event-based solution using external detectors to be employed with minimal nuisance activations.
The use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets for monitoring video is now commonplace, with everything from high end VMS solutions down to budget CCTV systems offering the functionality.
This enables users to interact with their sites, share video with security personnel, and receive real-time notifications of events – both security-based and with regard to site management – allowing a swift reaction if an incident occurs. This approach can also eliminate the need for a manned central control room.
Risks against vacant properties and temporary applications are certainly on the increase, and cover a diverse range of potential incidents. Assessing the risk accurately does very much hinge upon the location, the condition of the building, the types of fixtures and fittings it contains, how long the risk will exist for, etc..
To deliver an effective degree of protection, solutions cannot be one dimensional. All too often, the attitude towards temporary security is to simply employ physical measures, but these can and will be defeated if an intruder is determined to gain entry.
A layered solution is required, but with the right design and well considered implementation, this can be both cost-effective and very efficient.