By Armando Perez
The security camera requirements within I-502 are a mess.
I have compiled some simple guidelines to help ensure compliance and to simplify the process of buying the right camera system.
This is not a small expense and is a critical part of the approval process, so breaking down the requirements is advantageous, and understanding what is truly required can save you a ton of money.
Let’s start with the basics. The regulations require that the cameras must have a “minimum camera resolution of 640×470 (pixels) and be IP compatible.”
This is meant to ensure that the cameras can be remotely viewed. However, the way it is written, it means that to be 100 percent compliant, you must run IP cameras and not just an IP-compatible system. This is critical, because the last thing we want to do is spend thousands of dollars on a system that should be compatible and meets all the other requirements, but is not running IP cameras and therefore must be scrapped.
This is a major concern, because this one mistake doesn’t just mean new equipment if your inspector sees it, it also means all new cabling.
Make sure you know what you’re buying. An IP-compatible system is not the same as IP-compatible cameras, and the regulations, as written, require IP-compatible cameras.
Another requirement is a resolution of 640 pixels across by 470 pixels vertically. This standard simply means that you must run a high-resolution system. High-definition is not required, but high-resolution is, and this means that all cameras must be able to record at this resolution simultaneously.
This is an important measure and one that most spec sheets ignore, so ask that question. I’ve found it is often less expensive to use a higher resolution camera to capture multiple area requirements than it is to use a single camera at the minimum resolution for each and every requirement. So think about camera placement when laying out your flower room or the entrances to your drying rooms. Paying attention to this detail in the planning stage could save you several thousand dollars in cameras down the road.
Let’s also talk about recording time. The regulations require a minimum of 45 days of non-stop recording. This requirement means that most off-the-shelf recorders are not going to be compliant. You’re going to need a custom recorder, and with some thoughtful setup you should be able to get away with somewhere in the range of 15-20 terabytes (or 15,000-20,000 gigabytes), although this is entirely reliant on how many cameras you will be running. Make sure your system is designed for more hard drives than you will be using, and make sure the camera bitrate is adjustable. This way, if you’re two days short, you can tweak the bitrate and be compliant without spending any extra money.
The quality requirements of the regulations are nebulus at best, and trump the more concrete resolution requirements. “Clear and certain identification” is the term used to describe the placement and quality of surveillance video. The only way to achieve this with any certainty is to use design software that calculates PPF, or pixels per foot, to give a concrete quality rating to this wishy-washy requirement. If we latch onto the term “identification,” we can use industry standards to assign a minimum quality of 76 horizontal pixels per foot covered on the video.
There are a myriad of other concerns when designing your system and ensuring I-502 compliance. We’ve covered some of the hardware requirements, but it is a wise idea to ask your provider about some of these issues to ensure you won’t have a surprise at your inspection.
Armando Perez is the general manager of CCTV Dynamics (www.i502CCTV.com), a surveillance equipment distributor with a focus on system design and custom security camera systems.