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Keeping the Lights On

Keeping the Lights On

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by Ray Bernard PSP, CHS-III

Sep-Oct 2015

More and more, in organizations that don’t have an in-house or corporate physical security department, IT departments and their personnel are being given responsibility for networked security video surveillance systems. Too often it happens that on investigating a nighttime outdoor incident, the video is too dark because some of outdoor lights were burned out, broken, or off their control schedule.

Q: For the second time in three months, we had no usable video for an outdoor incident, because a light was burned out. How can I stay on top of nighttime lighting when I work daytime hours in the IT department?

A: Maintaining outdoor security lighting is usually the job of the facilities or real estate department, or the landlord in leased facilities. There are a number of ways to approach outdoor lighting surveys.    

It’s a good idea to make it as easy as possible for whoever is going to check on the nighttime lighting, whether that is you or someone else. This involves two things—how you check the lighting, and how you report it to the person responsible.

Reporting Security Lighting Outages

A good way to report security lighting outages is to make a simple diagram of each of the facility’s buildings, drawn by hand or electronically. You can, for example, trace the building outline from an aerial photo from an online maps website. You can make a screen shot of the map and put it in PowerPoint® or Photoshop®, and use white circles and labels in the document. Draw a circle large enough to clearly indicate the location of the each light. Have the person checking the lighting mark an X over any of the lights that are out.

Copy or print up a dozen or so diagrams and give them to the person who will check the lights. When you get them back, mark the time and date on the sheet, make a copy for your own records, and provide the original to the individual responsible for maintaining the lighting.

Checking Nighttime Security Lighting

Here is a few approaches to checking the lighting.

  1. Security officer patrols. If your facility has contracted security officers on duty at night, you can arrange for a security officer to check the lighting at night, weekly or monthly—depending upon how frequent the lighting outages are.
  2. Facility or real estate checks. Arrange for someone in the facilities or real estate department to drive around the facility either after sunset, or before dawn, to make the lighting check.
  3. Manual recorded video checks. This is a daytime approach. Make a virtual tour of the lighting building by examining the midnight video clips. If you record on motion, you can make sure that you capture some video each night by setting a video recording schedule to record 5 minutes of video each night at midnight.
  4. Automated video checks. If your video management system contains an “object missing” video analytic, identify something in the video image that will “disappear” if the lighting is not on. Set a notification to tell you when the object cannot be detected due to a lights-out condition.

Whether to make weekly or monthly security lighting checks depends on the facility’s outdoor nighttime risk levels and on how easy or hard it is to perform the lighting checks. One way or another, make sure to keep those security lights on!

Write to Ray about this column at Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the author of the new book Security Technology Convergence Insights. He is also principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. Ray is also a member of the Content Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council ( For more information about Ray and RBCS go to or call 949-831-6788. Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS. Learn about Ray’s new Elsevier book, Security Technology Convergence Insights, available on Amazon at

© 2015 Ray Bernard