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CCTV Systems - Guidelines for Purchasers [Hardfacts]


The presence of a CCTV system is widely accepted as a useful means to deter, or otherwise help to detect and limit, unauthorised access and criminal activity.

There are many types of CCTV system available; but whatever type of system is used, it is important that it is reliable, resilient against interference, has adequate coverage of ‘at risk areas’, i.e. areas attractive to trespassers/criminals and, very often, a suitable method of ‘real time’ monitoring and response to viewed events.

Before deciding to install a CCTV system, a careful analysis of the problem(s) you wish to address should be made, as only then is it possible to:

  • Decide if, or to what extent, a CCTV system is likely to be a solution
  • Clearly discuss your requirements with prospective installers

This ‘Hardfacts’ outlines some matters to consider when purchasing a new CCTV system. ‘Hardfacts’ 3001: CCTV Systems - An Introduction, provides more general advice and 'Hardfacts' 3005: CCTV Systems - Glossary of Terms, explains some common terminology.

Technical and Procedural Considerations
Whilst individual circumstances will dictate precise system requirements, which should be captured/recorded in a formal 'Operational Requirement' (OR) in conjuction with an installer, the sections that follow outline some general features to consider for various types of system: 

All Types of Systems

  • When and where the system will be operating, e.g. day or night, inside or outside and any related lighting systems required.
  • If colour or black and white pictures will be most useful. Colour is helpful when live viewing (e.g., to help establish the colour of a car or a persons clothes); whereas black and white may give better picture detail - useful for recording fine features such as car number plates.
  • Whether fixed or moveable cameras are appropriate, and whether they are will be visible (overt) or concealed (covert). If the latter, staff privacy concerns may need consideration.
  • Will the system always be transmitting images to a viewing/recording point, or only for events you particularly wish to monitor, i.e. will cameras be activated by alarm inputs.
  • Are images to be viewed and/or recorded, and if so on site and/or at another location.
  • Ensure that system cameras and other components are sited to minimise the risk of vandalism/interference.
  • Is the provision of a back up power supply required and if so is it feasible.
  • What routine maintenance or cleaning of cameras and housings is required.
  • Will the system meet the ‘UK Police Requirements for Digital CCTV Systems’.
  • Staff will need training in the correct operation of the system, their legal responsibilities under the Data Protection Act, plus safety and legal considerations when dealing with any observed criminal acts.
  • Under the Data Protection Act most CCTV systems will need to be registered. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a CCTV Code of Practice with which all CCTV users should comply.

On-site Recording Systems

  • The operational and capacity advantages of digital recording over videotape.
  • Recording equipment should not be sited in unmanned areas, as it may easily be interfered with. If recorders are to operate when the premises are unattended they should be in a secure, and preferably concealed, area or enclosure to hinder theft of the tapes and/or the equipment.
  • If using time lapse recording, ensure that pictures from all cameras will be recorded sufficiently often that key moments in any event will not be missed
  •  Recorders should be correctly set to undertake accurate ‘picture tagging’ i.e. noting the date/time within each image.
  • A procedure is required for regular checking of recorded image quality.
  • You need an adequate number of video tapes, or data recording capacity, to allow time for delayed discovery of an event and still have the appropriate recording available for viewing. Police generally recommend one month's worth of storage.
  • If videotapes are used, these will need replacing, and tape heads cleaning, in accordance with the manufacturer's guidance.

Detector Activated Remotely Monitored Systems

  • In accordance with the relevant Standard, BS 8418, ensure that failure of, or deliberate interference with, all vital parts of the CCTV system e.g. the power supply, wiring, video signals from cameras and the transmission link to the remote monitoring centre can be detected/notified to the Remote Video Receiving Centre (RVRC).
  • Systems should store/transmit to the RVRC ‘event/alarm image’ pictures to give operators a clearer idea of what caused the activation and what response may be appropriate
  • When connected to the site, remote operators should be able to view any camera and alter camera views.
  • Ensure RVRC operators can speak to the site, via loudspeakers, to issue audible warnings to challenge any unauthorised persons seen.
  • If a RVRC is to be able to quickly and reliably ask for police attendance, your CCTV system will need to have a URN issued by the Police force in whose area the premises are located.
  • Clear instructions should be recorded in a ‘Response Plan’ or ‘Service Agreement’ which outlines the actions that are required after any activation or fault signal. These should cover notifying the Police, internal or external security staff, keyholders, maintenance engineers, or any appropriate combination of them. Those who attend site should know how to operate all the site security systems, have authority to authorise essential repairs and be prepared to remain at the premises until adequate security has been restored.
  • Certain personnel who monitor CCTV images or respond to site, e.g. security guards, need to hold a suitable licence issued by the Security Industry Authority - by virtue of the Private Security Industry Act 2001.

    Key Action Steps
  • Decide what your problem is and what you wish the CCTV system to do.
  • Create an outline "Operational Requirement" to discuss and firm up with prospective installer(s)
  • Choose suppliers carefully and fully discuss your requirements. Obtain several quotations and check references.
  • Consider the need for routine maintenance and access to service engineers in case of breakdown.
  • Establish clear procedures for staff and RVRC operators to follow.
  • Check if you need to register your system with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  • Check that appropriate personnel hold Security Industry Authority (SIA) licences.
  • Inform any interested insurer and seek their advice. This is particularly important if you want the CCTV system to replace any existing security measures, e.g. manned guarding or a conventional intruder alarm, as failure to do so may jeopardise your insurance cover.
  • Regularly review system operation.

Sources of Further Information

Other Hardfacts in the Property Protection - Security Series, which are available in our ‘Knowledge Store’ at

Your CCTV provider

Your local Police Crime Reduction Officer. See also ‘UK Police Requirements for Digital CCTV Systems’, downloadable from various sources, e.g.

National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Tel 0845 006 3003 or see

  •  For BS8418 installers, use the website’s 'Find NSI Approved Companies' facility, then under ‘Filter Results by Service’ select 'CCTV to BS8418 2010'.

    Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). Tel 0191 296 3242 or see
  • For BS8418 installers, use the website’s 'Find a Registered Firm' facility, then insert your  postcode and in the ‘Select Activity’ field choose 'Security Systems' before choosing ‘Detector Activated Systems’ in the ‘Select Scheme’ field and, finally, choosing a company within so many miles of your postcode.

The RISCAuthority (the UK insurers technical advice body) See In particular, these two detailed guidance documents, available as free downloads, at:

British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Tel 0845 389 3889 or see             

Information Commissioner’s Office. Tel 01625 545700 or see

Security Industry Authority. Tel 0870 243 0100 or see

Next Steps:

  • Source discounted products, available to Aviva insured customers and brokers only, via our Specialist Partners - click here to find out more about the savings you could make
  • View our Tools and Templates
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
  •  Email us at

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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