Screening All Visitors

School district staff controls entrances at three schools with network video intercom system

When the Oconto Board of Education revised Security Policy 731, unified school district officials decided to deploy an integrated system that would enhance the safety of all 1,200 students, employees, volunteers and visitors entering any of the district’s three campuses. The goal was to devise a solution that would allow office staff at the elementary, middle and high schools to remotely identify visitors and control door locks at all three locations.

The Wisconsin district, located on the shores of Green Bay, purchased four Aiphone AX-DV audio/video door entry systems—two for the high school and one each for the middle and elementary schools. The four units are interfaced via Cat-5e cable to an Axis Communications video encoder to enable the video stream from each door to be securely viewed by authorized personnel over the school’s existing Internet connection.

A Commitment to Security
“If, for some reason, there was no one in the office at one of the schools, an authorized staff person from one of the other schools’ offices could see who was at the entrance and decide whether or not to open the door,” said Tony Warren, project manager at LaForce Inc.

Since the board of education mandated a lock hold-secure drill be held at least once a year at each school, the new system has been a welcome addition to the district’s commitment to school security.

Office staff feel the electronic access control system gives them the extra eyes and ears they need at critical entrances into the three schools. The Aiphone units provide a crisp image of who is at the door and support clear two-way conversation. The AXIS 243SA video encoder turns the intercoms into IP-based systems so the video stream can be viewed over the Web using an intuitive Controlware application, which sits on PCs in each of the three schools’ offices. This gives the staff the flexibility to monitor, communicate and control multiple entrances from more than one location. Once a visitor is identified, office staff can activate the door release relay from an icon on the Controlware screen to allow the person to enter the building.

How It Works
The video communications intercoms that are mounted outside the school entrances feature an all-in-one door station, a color-video camera, a microphone, a speaker and a call-in button. A visitor presses the button on the unit, and the camera begins streaming video to the computer screens at all three schools. Whoever wants to grant access to the visitor accepts the call using the Controlware software.

Once a staff member at one school accepts responsibility for the call, it drops off the PCs at the other two schools so that staff at those campuses will know the call has been answered. The person who takes the call talks to the visitor at the door and grants or denies that person entrance into the building. Once action is taken, the streaming video window closes.

The video encoder provides a number of features to augment the security of the door system. In addition to supporting full duplex audio and 30 frames per second transmission, the embedded analytics detect motion and sound as well as loss of video. Using M-JPEG and MPEG-4 compression, the encoder minimizes the bandwidth required to send the transmission across the network. The encoder also supports multiple layers of protection, including password, IP-filtering, HTTPS and IEEE802.1X, to ensure audio and video are transmitted securely over the network.

Lessening Taxpayer's Burden
Though Oconto’s district covers 103 square miles and encompasses the city of Oconto and parts of four adjacent townships, the population being served is less than 5,000 people.

“You have to be cost effective when you’re dealing with a small town,” Warren said. “Small towns don’t have unlimited funds. Even though taxpayers want their schools to be a safe place for their children to learn, they really can’t take on the cost of a high-priced security system.”

David Stern, president of M.A.D. Enterprise, the onsite installer technician, said the video door-station solution deployed offers enhanced features normally associated with more expensive systems. Not only can all three schools open their locked doors remotely, communicate with visitors via the Internet and grant access only to welcome people, but they can monitor all three schools simultaneously from any of the three school offices.

In addressing the provisions of Security Policy 731, district officials have closed the books on unauthorized access to all three campuses. Fifteen minutes after the start of school, all main doors are locked to prevent entry from the outside. Anyone wanting to enter a school building during school hours now must enter at the locked main entrance, equipped with the video intercom station, identify themselves and the reason for entry, and then wait to be buzzed into the building.

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