Home System Design BS8418: Standardise on Quality

BS8418: Standardise on Quality

by Benchmark

BS8418 has been in existence for a good few years now, and the latest version of the standard offers benefits to many. Despite its success in many applications, coupled with its ability to achieve a first response from the Police, it could be argued that BS8418-compliant systems are still thin on the ground. Benchmark takes a closer look at the potential from such solutions.

BS8418 is a standard that addresses the design and operation of triggered video surveillance solutions which are remotely monitored. The standard started life as a code of practice, and was very much aimed at promoting best practice. It was originally championed by RVRCs (remote video response centres) who looking to reduce the issue of false alarms created by detector-activated video systems.

Much of the standard is based around common sense, and the document itself is refreshing for a standard in the security sector, as it allows a high degree of flexibility with regard to the system design and the components used, instead concentrating on eliminating potential failures and/or nuisance alarms caused by incorrect or ill-conceived implementations, along with issues relating to the operational side of the system. The latter element ensures that end users understand what the system will deliver, and can be assured that those involved in the monitoring of the system comply with pre-arranged criteria when dealing with events.

The standard was always based upon best practice, and made certain that protected sites received credible and efficient degrees of protection. In turn, the elimination of issues ensured that RVRCs could be more effective, spending their time responding to events rather than filtering out problems.

Even in the early days of BS8418, its potential was recognised by ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers). At that time, the police would only offer first response to internal intruder alarm systems which met with detailed and rigorously enforced criteria. However, they extended the option of first response to BS8418-compliant video surveillance systems, albeit with a few additional requirements (which are now written in to the latest version of the standard, BS8418:2010).

The reduction in issues relating nuisance activations and system failures was also noted by RVRCs, many of whom specified that they would only monitor video surveillance systems which complied with BS8418 in order to ensure high efficiency. Even where police response was not sought, BS8418 became the de facto standard for triggered remotely-monitored surveillance systems.

Designed for response

First, it has to be said that there is no substitute for a full copy of the BS8418:2010 document. For those who might dread dipping into a new standard, it has to be said that BS8418 isn’t intimidating. Because it is predominantly based upon common-sense design and operations criteria, it won’t leave you puzzled as to what it is actually stipulating. It is relatively jargon-free (what few acronyms and technical terms used are clearly explained) and written, for the largest part, in plain English.

The basis of a BS8418-compliant video surveillance system is relatively simple. The video surveillance system can be operated and viewed by the end user as normal. However, the system is supplemented by detection devices – there are a number of options which are considered later. When an incident occurs, resulting in a detection device being triggered, images and alarm data are transmitted to a third-party RVRC. An operator at the RVRC then views the images, along with live footage, to assess the incident. If it is a nuisance activation, they can dismiss the alert after this assessment. If it is not, they can further investigate and – if necessary – issue a live audio challenge to anyone on the site. If it becomes clear that a genuine security breach is taking place, they can pass the information to the police for immediate response, or can notify another enforcement agency or response service.

In normal use, the RVRC will only view images from the site following an alarm incident, viewing transmitted footage, along with live information whilst the incident is being dealt with. However, RVRCs offer a host of other services, and the scope of the contract between the user and the monitoring company will decide as to which services are offered, and at what times and under which conditions the RVRC operators view the site. Also, actions to be taken following an incident are largely dependent upon such contractual arrangements. In general, users are free to negotiate a wide range of response actions, varying from alerting a private keyholding service, through to triggering other systems. However, where a police response is requested, the criteria laid down by ACPO, including full adherence to the standard, must be observed.

The standard itself dictates information that must be included in a design proposal from the system integrator or installer to the end user. This ensures that the customer has a clearly defined document explaining the system parameters, and allows a reference to ensure that the system operates effectively.

With regard to the actual design of the system, the standard gives guidance on detector positioning and configuration, camera positioning and configuration, illumination and audio challenge. Some of the advice is obvious – consider the rising and setting of the sun on an east-west plane when positioning cameras – but the document does work as an aide-mémoire. It also allows the integrator or installer to use their skill and judgement to create a solution that will be effective for a specific site. For example, the stipulation on audio challenge is that the function should be ‘clearly audible, without undue distortion, and within the area of coverage of the relevant detectors…’. How the challenge facility is designed and implemented is open, and allows for adoption of new technologies and working practices.

The standard also specifies system performance when an alert occurs and is being monitored by the RVRC, along with criteria to ensure the integrity of the system. It should be noted that much of what is required by the document is for performance during an incident. At other times, and during periods when the system might be used for other purposes, such as when the site is manned during business hours, the user retains the freedom to operate the system in accordance with their own needs.

The final element of system design and installation covers commissioning; testing and the transfer of documentation are covered here.

The standard then covers setting and unsetting procedures. Whilst video surveillance is used around the clock, and indeed offers a number of additional benefits above and beyond security, any detector-triggered event monitoring will typically not be possible during working hours. Whilst the system can still be used by the business or organisation, signalling to the RVRC needs to be unset, then being set when the site is unoccupied. This must be done securely to ensure that intruders cannot disable the system.

The standard then dictates the responsibilities of the system owner, and procedures that must be carried out by operators at an RVRC. It also stipulates requirements for an RVRC to be able to monitor BS8418-compliant systems, along with administrative procedures which must be followed.

Finally, the document includes a number of Annexes which cover diagrammatic information relating to detector positioning, factors affecting design requirements, detection technologies, illumination criteria and a checklist for system commissioning.

In summary

Detector-activated video surveillance is a significant benefit for those wishing to create an effective and credible solution. Even where police first response is not sought, BS8418 adds value and offers a framework for enhanced system design.

It is not uncommon to see devices offered which are stated as being ‘BS8418 compliant’. This has led some to believe that BS8418 dictates what type of devices can and cannot be used. If anything, BS8418 is a standard that covers system design (through appropriate installation) and operational use. It does make a number of references to product functions, but these are far outweighed by system design specifications.

For example, with regard to detection devices, the standard does highlight that detectors should be adjustable on both the horizontal and vertical axis, and that wireless (or semi-wireless) detectors should signal low battery, communications loss and fault conditions, support 10,000,000 differs with regard to ID codes, and be identifiable as a device associated with the BS8418 system via that code. Realistically, any hard-wired device with a bracket or adjustable detection heads, or any professional quality wireless device with the same, should meet such criteria. Equally, with regards to cameras and illumination, the only product-specific mention is that cameras with integral IR-illumination surrounding the lens should not be used.

Often the statement that a device is ‘BS8418 compliant’ is associated with detectors, and is the manufacturers’ way of highlighting that the unit is suitable for use with detector-activated video surveillance solutions. A more useful description would be for manufacturers to state that their devices can be used as a part of a BS8418-compliant solution, so long as the relevant design and operational requirements are met.

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