Head of the Class

School district moves security in the right direction

Students in the Dallastown, Pa., area school district are learning actions speak louder than words. The district’s IT department recently installed an end-to-end IP video system from Bosch Security Systems that provides surveillance of the area’s high school and middle school.

Now, more than 120 IP cameras monitor the hallways, cafeterias, building and restroom entrances, and other locations where large groups of students gather. Using video management software, administrative staff and the high school’s resource officer easily can search and play back recorded video to review any event that occurs in the buildings. Users can select cameras by clicking on the desired location on a map of the schools or by a camera’s IP address, making it easy to use and simple to train new users.

Caught in the Act
The system has helped the school resource officer and administrators with incidents involving minor scuffles, vandalism, truancy and bullying. For example, the SRO can more easily prove that bullying took place, and discipline offenders, when images of taunting and shoving are captured. Overall, the system helps staff more quickly identify which students were involved in events, and the students are more likely to be truthful about the role they played when they see themselves on recorded video.

Decoders transform digital camera signals to analog, and school secretaries can view video of the entrances from their monitors. Building entrances are locked following the arrival of students and staff. This feature allows the secretaries to see a person requesting access to the school before unlocking the door. The district also is testing video content analysis software to detect loitering, prevent ambushes and alert staff to visitors approaching the doors before the buzzer is pushed.

For recording, video is sent across the district’s security IP network for storage on five RAID arrays, holding 14 TB of data. The cameras can stream directly to the storage area network through the use of an IP-based storage networking standard called Internet small computer system interface, or iSCSI.

The IT department chose to use an iSCSI SAN for video recording because they were already familiar with this technology, as it is used for network storage of other district data. The iSCSI SAN also can use existing network infrastructure, whereas a fiber SAN would have required additional fiber cable running to each device, a more expensive alternative. iSCSI SANs are cost-effective and scalable, allowing the IT department to add more cameras and more RAID arrays in the future. With cameras that stream directly to a SAN, the district also avoids using PC-based NVRs—equipment that would have required extra time and funds to support over the life of the system.

Normally, the iSCSI protocol used to communicate with SANs requires logical unit numbers, or storage buckets, set up on the RAID array for each camera. However, Dallastown schools are using a new technology—video recording manager—which automatically allocates space on each RAID array. VRM divides the total capacity of the SAN into 1 GB blocks and allots storage for video recording to each of the IP cameras as needed.

A Flexible Solution
The district’s streamlined system design, along with the use of VRM software, made installation easier. For example, recording settings were programmed in less than a day compared to the five days that would have been required for a similar- sized NVR-based system.

The district also benefits from PoE technology, using switches installed within 100 meters of each camera that enable both power and data to be run over Ethernet cables. By eliminating power supplies for the cameras, the wiring closets are less cluttered and troubleshooting potential cabling issues will be easier.

After the initial installation, the IT department added day/night PTZ cameras around the exterior of the school buildings and in the parking lots. These cameras allow staff to review events that have occurred in higher-risk areas, such as thefts from vehicles.

Adding cameras required additional storage. The district already had five rack-mounted disk array chassis in which staff can add hard drives as more storage is required. Since the VRM software makes the video surveillance system extremely flexible, the IT staff can simply click a button, and the software recognizes the added storage and makes it available to all of the system’s cameras.

Further demonstrating the flexibility of the system, the IT department was able to easily adjust the resolution of certain cameras in areas of the school with high activity after the initial installation and set up. These changes were made without recording interruption.

In the near future, the district is intending to install cameras on the perimeter of the school’s campus, which encompasses the high school, middle school and some district offices. With wireless access points on a rooftop or light pole, Dallastown can extend campus video surveillance to more remote areas, such as the far end of parking lots.

Wireless access points at the campus’ edge also would allow police to review video inside the school and assess the situation before entering, if a serious security incident were to occur.

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