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Video Cameras
(Chapter 2   Video Surveillance, Continued)

Going out on bid for equipment and system maintenance contracts

While it is difficult to prevent every possible mistake when going out on bid for CCTV systems, there are a few commonsense approaches that should be incorporated in every request for quote (RFQ). The security equipment industry is no different from any other supplier; they will bid on and provide what is asked for. Even generally standard options that would seem reasonable to assume would be included should not be assumed to be part of any RFQ. If you can precisely describe what you require, the bidders will be less apt to submit bids on dissimilar systems.

Exhibit 2.14Do not accept or pay for a camera system until it has been installed and is demonstrated to operate according to your specifications. Remember, the vendor doesn't like surprises any more than you do so specify your acceptance criteria very clearly in the RFQ. This includes the "quality" of installation (exhibit 2.14); occasionally a contractor may try to save money by merely tacking cabling along the top of a wall instead of running the cabling within a conduit and within the ceiling. Don't assume anything.

When going out on bid, the ideal specifications for a CCTV system would describe the desired capabilities or goals of the system, not the quantities of different components. For example, if it is desired to have cameras viewing the locker bay area to discourage and identify daytime thieves, do not request "two cameras, one installed at the end of each hallway." A more profitable request could be: "The images saved to videotape and viewed on the system monitor will allow the customer to distinguish, as a measure of acceptance testing, between the geometry teacher and the school secretary standing anywhere within the locker bay area, with at least one image per camera captured and recorded per second. Quoted product and installation should be vandal-proof, such that an individual, given a few minutes of uninterrupted time, would not be able to vandalize the equipment without being recorded on tape and being identifiable, providing they are not wearing any type of mask." Include room dimensions and even a few photographs of the area for which the requested equipment is intended, or offer all potential bidders a tour of the area.

It is common for the prices received from such a request to be substantially higher than the school originally intended. It is efficient to include a request in the original RFQ for two different camera layouts and their associated costs. One layout would provide the exact capability requested. The second layout would be the best possible configuration within a specified dollar amount, with the expected capabilities as well as deficiencies that are expected with this layout, clearly identified by the vendor. It is to both the school's and vendor's benefit to request these two different layouts-a principal or security official armed with such information can approach the school district or school board to request the additional funding necessary to meet the goals of the security system if the less expensive system will perform substantially below the school's requirements.

Typical warranties on video cameras are 90 days, with up to a year or more for more sophisticated cameras. It is common for cameras that are defective to fail fairly quickly after installation. Be prepared for this; assign a person to be responsible for checking regularly on the functioning of the equipment and to immediately remove failing components and return them to the manufacturer within the warranty period, or to contact the vendor and make certain that he responds in a reasonable amount of time.

If a school does desire to have a maintenance contract, either because of lack of internal manpower or because of available funding, the vendor should specify the maximum time it will take to respond to calls for help and the maximum time the customer will have to be without this equipment if a repair is required. It is possible for a school to request faster response times or even that the maintenance contractor provide loaner equipment for any down time greater than 24 or 48 hours; however, this will increase contract costs.

 



Research Report:   The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools