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How important is video surveillance camera-based verification for fire safety

How important is video surveillance camera-based verification for fire safety
When video verification is implemented, a central monitoring station can “see” the fire. When they notify the first responders, they will relay relevant information such as the fact that it is a real fire, how big the fire is at the time, and the exact location of the fire, so the responders know where to enter and can prepare to fight the fire.

“From a life-safety standpoint, video verification can be implemented to monitor a fire event,” said Cristina Aragon Vandenbent, Fire Protection Consultant at Telgian Engineering and Consulting. “The personnel at the monitoring station can “see” the fire and be able to relay information to the first responders so they can respond accordingly.”

How does video verification help?

The most obvious benefit of using surveillance cameras to verify fire is reducing false alarms. However, the use of this solution offers more to the customer. For instance, traditional fire detection systems work only when smoke or heat reaches the sensors, which are often on the ceiling. Cameras, on the other hand, can detect a fire almost as soon as it breaks out and provide first responders with at least a few seconds of additional time to deal with it. 

“Video-based fire detection delivers a huge time benefit compared to standard fire detection solutions because the fire can be detected directly at the source, allowing alarms to be triggered much earlier,” Theresa Grunewald, Global Business Development AVIOTEC  at Bosch Building Technologies. “In addition, video-based fire detection can be installed in locations in which conventional systems cannot be used effectively, like in dusty and humid environments or in building with high ceilings or in open areas. Video images provide an easy way of verifying the alarm. It also allows combining fire detection with video surveillance in one system.”

Rodger Reiswig, Fellow and VP of Industrial Relations at Johnson Controls, pointed out that video verification has traditionally been used more in the security world but has started to be utilized in fire safety systems. Owners/managers and first responders more than ever are short on time and resources. In many parts of the world, an event has to be verified as an actual incident which requires first incident responders. 

What about regulatory approval for this?

Fire safety regulations differ from country to country, and when using any new technology, there is some confusion on its legal validity for compliance purposes. 

Reiswig explained that as such, NFPA 72 has first started to address this with supervising station verification as an allowance. If the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) approves, there is now an option for a fire-alarm system monitoring company to contact the property first. If the property representative states there is a need, then the supervising station can call the first responders for them to take action. 

Of course, fire safety is mostly a traditional industry in which solutions like cameras are still in nascent stages. To Reiswig, this is a good start, but the journey has just begun, 

“There is much more that needs to take place, but this is the basic idea of verified alarms,” Reiswig said. “Video verification is the next step towards this for life safety. It is important to remember that fire alarm systems have become more of a life safety system as they are monitoring gas detection, elevator integration, mass notification, etc.”

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