Security managers, installers and integrators look into a wide variety of factors when selecting a remote video monitoring receiving centre to provide continued real-time surveillance of their sites. But there’s one factor which isn’t often taken into consideration, when it really should be. That’s the welfare of the CCTV operators who are tasked with responding to alarms and ensuring on-site incidents are dealt with appropriately.

The fact is, in most UK monitoring centres those operators are working extremely long hours: typically 12-hour shifts, often four days in a row. The cumulative effect of that regular extreme shift pattern can be a level of fatigue which is detrimental to the performance of the operators, as well as to their own physical health and mental wellbeing. The result is a reduction in effectiveness of client video security systems. If the operators are compromised when it comes to clear decision-making, the entire monitoring operation suffers.

The central aspects of concentration and alertness

I’ve worked in monitoring centres for most of my adult life, starting just out of school. When I had the opportunity to begin my own CCTV and security alarm most In UK monitoring centres, those operators are working extremely long hours: typically 12-hour shifts, often four days in a rowmonitoring centre with my business partner Andy Saile, we were clear that operator welfare was a priority. After all, the operator’s job is literally to be alert and responsive, so why would we want to do anything to detract from that?

That’s certainly not the case at all remote monitoring centres, though. The vast majority follow the 12-hour shift template, usually in four days on, four off patterns. Anyone who has done any job knows that at the end of a 12-hour shift, fatigue kicks in, and the ability to focus diminishes. That’s particularly the case in roles where concentration and alertness are central to the job.

For a CCTV operator in a monitoring centre, fatigue starts to affect the ability to work effectively during the stretch between 9 and 12 hours. That’s the danger period. If an operator misses a criminal incident because of fatigue, that means the security system the client is relying on is not working. The operator is the link between the technology and the police. They are a key component of the whole system.

 

If an operator misses a criminal incident because of fatigue, that means the security system the client is relying on is not working

Government guidance

After working in remote video monitoring centres and experiencing what we considered both good and bad practice, when Andy and I established our business, we were clear that our operators would work in shifts that were no longer than nine hours at most. This delivers the best results for our customers and our staff.

Our feeling was backed up by UK government guidance on designing CCTV control rooms. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has produced a detailed publication called 'Human factors in CCTV control rooms: A best practice guide'. This publication says: “12-hour shifts, although common in many settings, rIf the operators are compromised when it comes to clear decision-making, the entire monitoring operation suffersepresent a greater risk to health and performance than 8 hour shifts in terms of higher perceptions of workload, fatigue and stress, risk of more errors and accidents, and higher health risks.

Negative impacts on health and wellbeing

It further says: “Research confirms that the interruption of circadian rhythms (the 24 hour natural bodily cycle) by shift work can have a negative impact on both general wellbeing and physical health (short and long term), as well as on performance due to general fatigue (i.e. an increased likelihood of errors). Shift-patterns are often designed to meet commercial and operational requirements, but serious consideration should be given to minimising negative effects on health and well-being by the use of appropriate shift patterns.”

The majority of our shifts cover seven or eight hours, and our operators never work more than four in a row. That allows for an average of three or four days between each batch of shifts. The idea is to avoid running staff into the ground, and that in turn makes our company more efficient and effective in the service of our clients. We’ve seen the results in practice: our operators only took four sick days in the past year. That’s four sick days in total, not per operator. It’s a CCTV operators have intense jobs, responsible for monitoring and responding to CCTV and intruder alarm events from commercial and domestic propertiesremarkably low figure in the remote video monitoring industry.

Full readiness

CCTV operators have intense jobs, responsible for monitoring and responding to CCTV and intruder alarm events from commercial and domestic properties. They liaise with the police, the customer keyholder, end users and any relevant authorities as required.

Our customers are equipped with both cameras and motion sensors, which generate alarms on movement. When a movement in a specified zone occurs, the alarm is raised directly with the operator responsible for that site. The response differs from customer to customer depending on their own protocols. If there are dome cameras in place, for instance, they can be utilised to provide additional situational awareness.

Escalating risks

Traditional intruder alarm monitoring centres required the operator to react to an alarm by calling a keyholder, who would then respond to the incident. But remote monitoring requires concentration, focus, and deductive skills. The information required to make an informed decision isn’t immediately obvious – the The operator must be able to snap to full focus at any point over the course of their shift, and it’s tiringoperator must work out what has moved and establish its cause. There’s no one to provide extra detail. The operator’s art is in working out for themselves what is relevant information in a scene and what isn’t. That requires their full attention.

When operators work four days of 12-hour shifts in a row, risks escalate as a result. The risk that the wrong decision can be made. The risk that customers or police are not notified when they should be. There is a real-world cost associated with those decisions. The operator must be able to snap to full focus at any point over the course of their shift, and it’s tiring, whether there’s an incident to respond to or whether the operator is simply prepared to act.

Operator skills are diluted if their shift patterns are not considered. Why would you hire someone based on their skillset, and then work them into the ground until they’re too tired to execute those skills?

Choosing a monitoring centre

Security systems and modern technology are crucial ingredients in protecting people and property, but they also require interpretation. A CCTV operator is an Security systems and modern technology are crucial ingredients in protecting people and property, but they also require interpretationinvestigator and a conduit, bridging the divide between images, alarms and authorities, be they police, security guarding operations or keyholders. To run them into the ground is to diminish their ability to make intelligent decisions.

It makes sense, then, to opt to work with a monitoring centre which puts the welfare of its operators at the forefront of its business. Start by asking your prospective RVRC about their shift patterns. A monitoring centre with respected and happy staff is a monitoring centre best able to provide a fully effective service, optimising your security systems and maximising your investment.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

In case you missed it

What are the security challenges of protecting utilities?
What are the security challenges of protecting utilities?

Utilities are an important element of critical infrastructure and, as such, must be protected to ensure that the daily lives of millions of people continue without disruption. Protecting utilities presents a unique range of challenges, whether one considers the electrical grid or telecommunications networks, the local water supply or oil and gas lines. Security technologies contribute to protecting these diverse components, but it’s not an easy job. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the security challenges of protecting utilities?

Q&A: how the ‘secret service of Hollywood’ protects celebrities
Q&A: how the ‘secret service of Hollywood’ protects celebrities

At a major music festival, a fan in the crowd aggressively leapt over a barricade to approach a famous artist. Personnel from Force Protection Agency immediately implemented extrication protocol to shield the artist from physical harm, quickly reversed course and calmly led the client away from the threat. Force Protection Agency (FPA) personnel intentionally did not engage the threatening fan in any way, as local venue security personnel were present and tasked with apprehending the rogue fan. FPA’s efforts were directed expressly toward the protection of the client, avoiding unnecessary escalation or complications and minimising physical, visual, and legal exposure. Dedicated to the safety of clients Force Protection Agency is a unique, elite-level agency inspired by a vision for excellence and innovation Specialising in protecting celebrities and high-net-worth individuals, Force Protection Agency is a unique, elite-level agency inspired by a vision for excellence and innovation, and dedicated to the safety and success of clients. The agency was formed in 2017 by Russell Stuart, a California State Guard officer and security and entertainment industry veteran. The agency is the culmination of 20 years of experience in the fields of security, military, emergency management, logistics and technology, media and entertainment, and celebrity management. We interviewed Russell Stuart, Founder and CEO of Force Protection Agency (FPA), which has been called “the Secret Service of Hollywood,” for his insights into providing security for celebrities. Q: What unique need in the marketplace do you seek to serve, and how are you qualified to serve it? Stuart: The needs of celebrity and high-net-worth clients are complex and constantly changing. When dealing with a high-profile individual, discretion is paramount, extensive communication is required, and adaptation is ongoing. A critical objective is anticipating and planning for all types of potential negative scenarios and preventing them from even starting, all while not disrupting the normal course of operation of the client's day or their business. Force Protection Agency is poised to serve these needs by innovating and intelligently managing the planning, procedures, and personnel used in every facet of protecting the client’s interests and achieving their objectives. Q: What is the typical level of "professionalism" among bodyguards and security professionals that protect celebrities? Why does professionalism matter, and how do you differentiate yourself on this point? Stuart: Professionalism is an overall way of approaching everything to do with the business, from recruiting, to training, to making sure the right agent is with the right client. Nothing matters more; polish and precision are not only critical to mission success, but also support the comprehensive best interest of the client while preventing costly collateral damage and additional negative consequences. True “professional protective services" is intelligent strength and proper execution, not emotional or reactionary violence. Unfortunately, the latter is frequent among many celebrity bodyguards, and often incurs extremely expensive and even dangerous repercussions. Q: Your company has been described as "the Secret Service of Hollywood." How true is that comparison, and how does your work differ from (e.g.) protecting the President? Force Protection Agency prides itself on providing its services with discretion, precision, and poise Stuart: Totally true, and for this reason: the keys to success in protection are prioritization, and planning. Most people fail to even recognise the first, negating any level of effort given to the second. Establishing the true needs and the correct priority of objectives for each individual client and situation, and firmly committing to these without deviation, are what distinguishes both government secret services and Force Protection Agency from the vast majority of general security firms. Also, the term “secret service” implies an inconspicuous yet professional approach, and Force Protection Agency prides itself on providing its services with discretion, precision, and poise. Q: What is the biggest challenge of protecting celebrities? Stuart: The very nature of celebrity is visibility and access, which always increases risk. The challenge of protecting a high-profile individual is facilitating that accessibility in a strategic and controlled manner while mitigating risk factors. A client’s personal desires and preferences can often conflict with a lowest risk scenario, so careful consideration and thorough preparation are essential, along with continual communication. Q: How does the approach to protection change from one celebrity (client) to another? What variables impact how you do your job? Stuart: The approach is largely determined by the client’s specific needs, requests and objectives. The circumstances of a client's activities, location, and other associated entities can vastly disrupt operation activities. A client may prefer a more or less obvious security presence, which can impact the quantity and proximity of personnel. Force Protection Agency coordinates extensively with numerous federal, state, and municipal government agencies, which also have a variety of influence depending on the particular locations involved and the specific client activities being engaged in.  Q: Are all your clients celebrities or what other types of "executives" do you protect – and, if so, how are those jobs different? Stuart: Force Protection Agency provides protective services for a wide range of clients, from the world’s most notable superstars to corporate executives and government representatives. We also provide private investigation services for a vast variety of clientele. Force Protection Agency creates customised solutions that surpass each individual client’s needs and circumstances. The differences between protecting a major celebrity or top business executive can be quite different or exactly the same. Although potentially not as well known in popular culture, some top CEOs have a net worth well above many famous celebrities and their security needs must reflect their success. Q: What is the role of technology in protecting famous people (including drones)? Technology is crucial to the success of security operations Stuart: Technology is crucial to the success of security operations and brings a tremendous advantage to those equipped with the best technological resources and the skills required to maximise their capabilities. It affects equipment such as communication and surveillance devices like drones, cameras, radios, detection/tracking devices, GPS, defensive weapons, protective equipment, and more. Technology also brings immense capabilities to strategic planning and logistical operations through the power of data management and is another aspect of Force Protection Agency operation that sets us apart from the competition. Q: What additional technology tools would be helpful in your work (i.e., a “technology wish list”)? Stuart: The rapidly growing and evolving realm of social media is a massive digital battlefield littered with current and potential future threats and adversaries. Most mass shooters as of late have left a trail of disturbing posts and comments across social media platforms and chat rooms that telegraphed their disturbing mindset and future attacks. A tool that could manage an intelligent search for such threats and generate additional intel through a continuous scan of all available relevant data from social media sources would be extremely useful and could potentially save many lives. Q: Anything you wish to add? Stuart: Delivering consistent excellence in protection and security is both a vital need and a tremendous responsibility. Force Protection Agency is proud of their unwavering commitment to “Defend, Enforce, Assist” and stands ready to secure and satisfy each and every client, and to preserve the life and liberty of our nation and the world.

How custom solutions meet customer needs for access control
How custom solutions meet customer needs for access control

The software-based technology running today’s access control systems is ideal for creating custom solutions for very specific end-user needs. Those needs may vary from delaying bar patrons’ access to a shooting range to reducing the risk of diamond miners pocketing precious stones. The ability to tightly integrate with and control video, intrusion, and other equipment puts access control at the heart of enterprise security. Often, off-the-shelf access systems provide most of the features an end user requires, but due to their type of business, facility or location, some organisations still have unaddressed needs. That’s where a custom solution can fulfill an essential task. Custom solutions are frequently requested by end users or the reseller to expand access control to meet those needs. Here’s a look at some custom solutions designed for end users. Area & time-based access control The owners of a popular shooting range also operate an onsite, full-service bar, and the owners wanted to delay entry to the shooting range once a customer had consumed alcoholic beverages at the bar. The custom solution works with the access cards customers use to enter the range. When a patron orders an alcoholic beverage, the bartender presents the patron’s credential to a reader at the cash register.  With each drink, the access control system puts an automatic delay on the card being used to enter the shooting range. An area and time-based control solution was created An area and time-based control solution was created for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer concerned with potential contamination between laboratories testing viral material and others designing new vaccines. If an employee uses a badge to enter a room with viral material, that employee can be denied access to a different area (typically a clean room in this case), for a customised period of time. This reduces the potential of cross contamination between ‘dirty’ and ‘clean’ rooms. The software can be customised by room combinations and times. Random screening A mine operator wanted to prevent easily portable precious stones from being taken by miners. The custom solution uses the access control system integrated with time and attendance software. As the miners clock in, the system randomly and secretly flags a user-defined percentage of them to be searched as their shifts end. Security guards monitor displays and pull selected employees aside.  A nice feature of this solution is that the random screening can be overridden at a moment’s notice. For example, if the process causes excessive delays, guards can override the system to enable pre-selected miners to pass until the bottleneck is relieved. The solution has also been adopted by a computer manufacturer looking to control theft by employees and vendors. Scheduler The system automatically unlocks and locks doors A custom solutions team integrated a university’s class scheduling and access control software to lock doors to classrooms that are not in use. With the custom solution in place, the system automatically unlocks and locks doors 15 minutes prior to and after a class. The doors remain unlocked if the room will be used again within the next 30 minutes. Readers mounted at each door enable faculty to enter rooms early for class setup or to work in a lab knowing students or others won’t be able to walk in. Event management This solution simplifies the visitor check-in process, especially for larger events with multiple guests. Efficiently moving people in and out of events booked at a working intelligent office building and conference center required integrating the access control system with a web-based solution storing the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of invited guests. Before an event, guests receive an email invitation that includes a link to a downloadable smartphone mobile credential. Upon arrival, guests present that credential to Bluetooth readers at the building’s gated parking garage. The same credential enables smaller groups (up to 50 guests) to enter the building through turnstile-mounted readers – also used throughout the day by hundreds of building employees. To avoid long lines for larger groups of visitors, the turnstiles are kept open with security guards using handheld readers to authenticate credentials as guests enter the lobby. Additionally, a third-party emergency notification system was added to this custom solution. Guests receive instructions on their smartphones should there be a need to shelter in place or evacuate during an event. The credentials and notifications are disabled as guests leave the building through the turnstiles. This allows the hospital to maintain a secure environment while providing a simplified, efficient access solution Similar custom solutions have been deployed at hospitals searching for a way to provide secure access to patients only expected to be staying a short time for surgery.  Patients are emailed a mobile credential to access both the hospital’s parking structure and surgical reception area. They can also designate family members and other visitors to receive emailed mobile credentials.  This allows the hospital to maintain a secure environment while providing a simplified, efficient access solution for patients and visitors. Custom solutions are about problem solving. It’s finding answers to needs not specifically addressed by an access control system. The robust software of modern access control systems enables the design of custom solutions to efficiently enhance security, save time and reduce redundant tasks through automated processes.