The Last Word
- By Brent Dirks
- Mar 05, 2007
school security in the United States continues to be a major concern, schools all over the world are overcoming numerous challenges to create a safe learning environment for students.
And schools in Israel are presented with some unique security situations. Threats of suicide bombers, school shooters, sniper attacks, terrorist rocket attacks and hostage-taking are just some of the issues that Israeli schools—including Technion University in Haifa — face on a daily basis.
Technion, founded in 1924, is Israel’s oldest university and has more than 12,000 students attending class on the 85-building campus that includes room for more than 4,000 residents.
With a more than 14 million square foot campus, the landscape and terrain present numerous security challenges. The university’s security perimeter passes through areas of rocky and heavily wooded terrain, making it difficult for officials to keep secure. The campus also is circled by fencing and near residences, roads, private driveways and parking lots.
Personnel stationed at operating gates handle access control, bag checking, threat mitigation and security assistance to visitors, teachers and students. Security officials also work with loss prevention and place a high priority on risk mitigation for insurance and liability issues.
But enterprising students can sometimes weaken the best of security solutions.
“It’s not uncommon for some students to take unnecessary safety risks which can quickly become a liability to the school,” said Amos Kessler, commanding security officer at Technion. “This can be student mischief, taking a shortcut through rugged terrain or clamoring over a security fence. In fact, it was common practice for students to jump over the fence instead of walking around to one of the checkpoints.”
And along with overseeing security at the campus, Kessler and security officials also are tasked with preventing theft of intellectual and physical property and preventing vandalism and graffiti.Sizing Up the Situation
Security officials wanted to eliminate perimeter security holes and create better situational awareness. In the first phase of security enhancements at the campus, 25 cameras were added.
But with the added cameras came the realization of the large amount of information the cameras would create and the personnel needed to constantly watch the live video.
Technion turned to a relatively new and often discussed technology in the security industry to help the situation—intelligent video.
Instead of relying on a human operator that can easily get tired and miss a vast variety of security threats, intelligent video technology from ioimage automatically monitors video from Technion’s cameras and notifies security personnel when a threat is detected.
And with the constant surveillance provided by the system, Technion can use security personnel for other tasks than watching a video screen.
“The structure of the system is simple and combines small, reliable units rather than PCs. It was also rated better for its consistent detection capabilities,” Kessler said. “After going online, with moments a student was caught by the system jumping over a fence.” Constantly Watching
The system is programmed to detect and notify a set of parameters defined by Technion. Security personnel, for example, receive notification and alarm video when someone approaches and crosses the perimeter fence, even in the difficult to monitor areas. The system also can identify movements, parked cars and removed items, automatically using the PTZ function of the cameras to track the situation.
Security officials were also drawn the scheduling function that helps focus on an event during preplanning or beginning stages. The function allows personnel to switch detection to follow out of the ordinary behaviors like vehicles entering into unusual areas at odd times or packages left behind at a critical point.
One major problem area the system is helping to curb is property theft at Technion.
“We had several instances of computer theft,” Kessler said. “Our investigations led us to determine that the thieves often carried computers over the security fence to waiting, parked vehicles. The system has been a real crime deterrent. Everyone knew about it. We intentionally allowed a high profile on the security upgrades, and after installations we saw a sharp decline in the number of thefts on campus.”
Along with helping provide security in everyday situations, the system’s ability to remotely detect and analyze security situations received a big test during numerous rocket attacks launched at the city and campus last year.
“When the terrorists launched attacks that hit our campus, we had already evacuated everyone to safety,” Kessler said. “We didn’t need to place anyone in jeopardy where we could not guarantee scene safety. We had the tactical advantage of observing and being informed of everything while being bunkered in the remote security control center. When the missile explosion and subsequent damage occurred, it was detected and analyzed. Luckily, no emergency response was needed.”
And with the success of the initial deployment, Technion is planning to expand the intelligent video system to include hundreds of cameras in the near future, using the technology make students, faculty and staff even more secure.