More than 200 cameras cover two campus locations to streamline investigations and enhance security

College Prep School Demands High Level Of Safety

More than 200 cameras cover two campus locations to streamline investigations and enhance security

Pine Crest School is a college preparatory school that operates two campuses in south Florida—one in Fort Lauderdale, the other in Boca Raton. Established in 1934, Pine Crest is one of the largest private schools in the nation and is the educational home to more than 2,500 students from Pre-K through 12th grade, with 1,680 students at the Fort Lauderdale campus and 875 in Boca Raton. The school system challenges its students to develop independence through academics, the arts and athletics, and it takes pride in providing a nurturing learning environment that prepares students for future challenges.

Pine Crest serves a network of families that has high expectations for the quality of education and the safety of its children. To meet the needs of students and parents, the school required a security system that would allow it to identify visitors before they enter any buildings.

“Our clientele often live in gated communities and demand that everything at Pine Crest be secured to the highest level,” said Ryan Gallagher, the director of facilities at Pine Crest. “They want the same level of security they have in their homes and businesses extended to their children’s lives at school.

“For some time, the school had relied on traditional technologies to enhance security, and it wanted the capability to unify systems on both campuses, which are about 14 miles apart. It also needed the capacity to store several days of data from hundreds of cameras to enable the staff to solve investigations that weren’t reported immediately. Students never seem to report anything until several days after something actually happened,” Gallagher said.

Pine Crest needed a cost-efficient system because it relies heavily on donations, which often come sporadically. It also wanted a solution that could be easily expanded upon as needed as the school system and its student base grows.

"We couldn’t just jump in because we can’t anticipate the level of donations we receive,” said Dan Donato, a facility systems specialist at Pine Crest. “We knew we needed to start smaller and let the system evolve when the financial opportunities sprang up, so a system that could easily be expanded was greatly desired.”

Pine Crest’s network of cameras, which includes IQinVision megapixel devices, is still growing and today exceeds 200. Milestone Systems’ easy-to-use VMS, which is based on open architecture, manages the school’s video feeds and enables greater efficiency and improved functionality while maintaining cost effectiveness. The school chose Pivot3 as the platform to host both the video management software and manage video storage. The security system began with just one Pivot3 appliance and has been expanded to now include eight more across the two campuses.

The massive amount of data generated by surveillance systems makes storage a major budget item for end users of Pine Crest’s size. In addition, the critical data derived from a surveillance system is highly valuable and must be protected to meet regulatory, business and security requirements. The scale-out nature of the Pivot3 platform allows Pine Crest to start small and grow, ensuring the performance and capacity of the system can handle the demands of incoming video streams and adding investment protection over time. In addition, Pivot3 appliances reduce costs by consolidating server and shared-storage functionality in a common appliance. Hosting servers in an iSCSI SAN eliminates the need for stand-alone physical servers, providing immediate and long-term reductions in power, cooling and rack space.

“The Pivot3 solution was much more cost-efficient when compared to some of our other options,” Gallagher said. “Like most organizations, we have a CFO and cost is always a big factor.”

Pivot3 appliances also allow for increased uptime and provide failover protection for both virtual server and storage resources in case of an appliance failure.

“The server is so efficient that there’s rarely any downtime,” Donato said. “If any other manufacturer’s appliance failed, we would have to wait for repair, but the Pivot3 system automatically heals. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to add more storage and doesn’t take long to configure.”

The Pivot3 storage solutions allow Pine Crest to store several days of video, even with its colossal number of cameras. The school system can easily access the depths of its surveillance data and enable authorities to quickly conduct investigations.

“A lot of students will leave iPads, laptops or even cellos behind in the hallways that we have to track down,” Gallagher said. “Of course, they never report the items missing until several days later. Still, we can pretty easily consult the footage to find whatever was lost. And from a liability standpoint, we can go back and investigate rather than rely on witnesses.”

Pine Crest plans to add an additional 150 cameras and will expand its Pivot3 storage accordingly.

“We’ve never had any issues with our Pivot3 products. They’ve all worked great from the first day,” Donato said. “That’s a rarity in technology. We rely on Pivot3 to help us protect our schools, and the technology hasn’t let us down.”

The Pine Crest surveillance system has gone beyond expectations and has even helped streamline investigations unrelated to the school. The cameras have, on occasion, picked up traffic accidents on nearby streets. The school’s robust Pivot3 storage system allows it to easily access that video and hand it over to police for their investigation.

This article originally appeared in the Security Products Magazine - July 2012 issue of Security Today.

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