The Eyes Have It: Hotels Need to Consider Design Issues and Their Intent to Get the Most out of Any Surveillance or Monitoring Equipment They Install. (Lodging and CCTV)

By Hudak, Richard G. | Security Management, August 2002 | Go to article overview

The Eyes Have It: Hotels Need to Consider Design Issues and Their Intent to Get the Most out of Any Surveillance or Monitoring Equipment They Install. (Lodging and CCTV)


Hudak, Richard G., Security Management


CCTV systems can help lodging establishments accomplish a range of objectives, from deterring criminals to observing staff interactions with clientele. But pitfalls can arise if the CCTV system has not been properly integrated into the overall hotel security plan. CCTV system designs at new hotel properties are often too sophisticated, too complicated, and too costly, and do not take into consideration the security realities of site management. These problems arise when the professionals designing or installing the system, including architects, construction engineers, integrators, and consultants, are not familiar with a hotel's operating strategies or security standards.

TO AVOID MISTAKES when creating a CCTV system for a hotel, system designers, product vendors, and hotel security managers should first analyze how the system will be used and the related question of where it will he located. They should then review the technological options. Lastly, they should consider how the system will be managed.

Use. The first question to ask in developing a hotel CCTV system is how the system will be used. Usage breaks into two broad categories: security monitoring and surveillance.

There are privacy, liability, and public relations issues related to each category. Therefore, hotels should have different procedures that must be followed for each purpose. The purpose will also affect system placement and features used. For example, CCTV systems with audio capabilities should be avoided in a surveillance capacity unless authorized by a court of law. However, audio would be acceptable for monitoring access control at an employee entrance leading into the hotel where persons must use an intercom before entering. The intended purpose of the CCTV system and its design may also become relevant in the event of a lawsuit.

Surveillance. Surveillance is most often implemented as part of an investigation in response to suspicious activity or ongoing criminal activity. To limit the potential for abuse of surveillance that could result in liability, authorization to install and operate CCTV surveillance should be given only to the hotel general manager (or the director of corporate security, based on the possibility that the general manager is engaged in an unlawful or unethical activity). Moreover, any surveillance-oriented installation should be restricted in scope in terms of the time the system will be used for that purpose, the type of system to be used, and the number of locations in which it is to be installed.

The security manager should work with counsel to ensure that the surveillance operation comports with any legal restrictions. For example, courts have generally ruled against CCTV surveillance in locations where employees disrobe or use restroom facilities or showers, despite any justifiable reasons for doing so.

Cameras to be used for surveillance are placed out of site or disguised (for example, as smoke detectors, motion detectors, or exit signs). These disguised cameras often use pinhole lenses, which don't allow as much light or image into the camera. Therefore, security personnel will need to make some manual adjustments and do a test run to see that the pictures axe acceptable when the camera is initially installed.

Monitoring. There are many effective monitoring applications for CCTV systems in hotels, but the most frequently applied is the monitoring of access and egress at all portals. The objective is to produce an identifiable image of everyone arriving and departing and to a lesser extent to determine what is being brought into or removed from the facility.

Cameras used for monitoring are visible, although they may be protected in housings or domes. Fixed cameras with varifocal and auto-iris lenses are most effective for monitoring, as they automatically adjust to focal points and light levels, to create the clearest image. …

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