PPVAR completes video verification best practices in time for ESX

The best practices identify three different threat levels for video verification
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Meeting the ESX deadline it set for itself late last year, the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response has completed a best practices document for video verification, which distills feedback from more than 30 security companies, 12 law enforcement agencies and four insurance industry associations.

The guidelines delineate three different threat levels, while operationally defining a host of terms germane to video verified alarms, and important both for security companies and PSAPs.

Steve Walker, president of PPVAR, is optimistic the recommendations can be incorporated into the existing ANSI-approved verification standard (CS-V-01-2004), noting that PPVAR intends to collaborate with the Central Station Alarm Association toward that end.

“The CSAA governs those standards today, and they’ve agreed to reopen their video standard shortly for us so that we can bring our best practices forward and engage in good healthy discussion again about how we adopt and incorporate some of these best practices into the existing standard,” Walker explained. “We want to take that approach as far as we can.”

Under the guidelines, threat evaluation is based on a numeric system in which the observed presence or lack of presence of human activity dictates the actions taken by an operator. Threat level 1, for instance, is assigned when actionable video shows no apparent human activity. Threat level 2 shows human activity but no discernible suspicious or criminal activity and no apparent criminal activity about to take place. Threat level 3, the highest priority tier, shows human activity (suspicious or possibly criminal) either in progress, having just occurred, or about to take place.

The threat level evaluation system crystallized after several months of cooperative discussion and debate, Walker said.

“The consensus was achieved through a collaborative process, and I was really pleased with how it was built in a relatively short period of time,” Walker said, adding: “There was a lot of good healthy debate. I think the concepts are fairly straightforward around the different threat levels that have been identified, and the way to talk about video and the threats presented through looking at the video.”

Walker, who serves as vice president of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, is confident about the prospects of the best practices being adopted by a growing number of jurisdictions. Putting the recommendations to use, he said, will allow them to gain momentum and credibility.

PPVAR plans to create training and support materials for the best practices, including a set of video files reviewed by law enforcement that illustrate the different threat levels outlined in the guidelines. The PPVAR education committee is also preparing central station operator training materials, including a complete curriculum for central stations. It’s also developing PSAP training materials requested by law enforcement to help train PSAP personnel.

Steve Dye, a PPVAR board member who serves as chief of police in Grand Prairie, Texas, and as chairman of the alarm committee for the Texas Police Chief’s Association, said the best practices will go down as a landmark achievement for the industry and law enforcement. He described the tiered, numeric system for threat evaluation as a “game changer” that helps “protect the integrity of the video.”

“We wanted to retain that value of the video,” Dye said. “We wanted to make sure it was properly filtered and properly vetted, while ensuring the process was efficient so there wasn’t any lost time.”

He added: “When we are increasing our response priority we are doing so with the benefit of having a higher level of credibility that it’s an actionable alarm.”

Because each alarm scenario is unique, it became vital that the criteria minimize subjectivity and provide operators with precise, detailed steps to follow in a video alarm event, Dye said.

The process of developing the best practices could have been stalled by a number of factors, Dye said. But the fact that the parties involved were able to work together to complete the project on an ambitious timeline is testament to the sense of responsibility, shared by law enforcement and the alarm industry, for making video verified alarms more effective.

“I think what really helped us is that we all were open to listening to each other, and open to suggestions from each other,” Dye said. “At the end of the day we had the common goal of better protecting the public. I commend the alarm industry because they listened to us.”