Eyes Wide Open

Safeguarding schools takes smart, practical and proactive approach

The Colorado Independent School District (CISD) serves nearly 1,100 students in North Central Texas. as it is for most school districts across America, safety is a paramount part of CISD’s overall miss on of shaping college-bound, lifelong learners—a goal made easier and more affordable by extending the utility of the district’s network with IP surveillance cameras, storage and switches.

Securing the Now, Foreseeing the Future

From an IT perspective, CISD has made excellent progress in its quest to promote a 21st-century education through advanced technology. Spread over five square miles, its campuses are tied together through a gigabit fiber network. While many students have no computers or Internet access at home, at school they enjoy the benefits of rich, Webbased scholastic content, Smart Boards for more exciting classroom instruction and laptops for mobile learning.

Despite its classroom successes and smalltown status, the district has not had the luxury of avoiding security issues. While hardly in a high-crime area, the district has recorded occasional break-ins and acts of vandalism. In addition to regional and national security concerns, there are local concerns, including the school’s proximity to a state prison.

“In our post-9/11 world, and in keeping with Unified School Safety Standards for Texas Schools, we’ve strived to create a master plan to keep our campuses and kids safe,” said Pam Alvarez, Colorado ISD technology director.

A complete IP surveillance system became “the eyes” of that plan, based on a comprehensive D-Link site survey and founded on a network of versatile D-Link network cameras and NVRs. The advantages of an IP-based solution over a traditional analog system were easy to envision:

  • automation of security routines and alerts
  • higher-resolution images for accurate identification
  • easy-to-search storage functions
  • less resource-intensive.

Building a Blueprint for Better Security

In establishing its security network, CISD leveraged its relationship with D-Link VAR and Abacus Computers Inc. in Midland, Texas. With the help of a specialized education sales consultant, the district carefully weighed competing products based on their flexibility of installation and a local site survey.

Abacus and its local D-Link representative then performed a complete walk-through of each one of five campuses and provided a comprehensive network diagram and bill of materials as a project blueprint.

For the final solution, the team installed a series of wired and wireless D-Link IP cameras. These were linked to an array of DNS- 726-4 SecureCenter two-bay NVRs supported by various switches and wireless access points. Even though there was AC power for the middle school gym, running Ethernet cable through it was impractical, so the team chose a D-Link Wireless day/night network camera.

Employing DVC-20 2X four to eight mm varifocal lenses, D-Link was able not only to provide broad coverage of common areas, hallways and more, but tailor the focus and field of view for each location so images were clear, no matter where the camera was located.

Both CISD and Abacus were pleased with the ease of installation, seamless integration into the existing network and the resulting image quality, which was far beyond anyone’s expectations. Initial reservations from teachers about surveillance were soon allayed after they saw a significant calming in the hallways.

Caught on Camera: Safer Schools and Students

With the IP surveillance network in place, CISD’s security outlook has been enhanced considerably, putting the district’s master plan in close alignment with Unified School Safety Standards for Texas Schools.

The cameras capture images 24/7. Four logically pooled NVRs hold up to two weeks of video for as many as 16 cameras supported with PoE. The units also support SmartSearch for easy retrieval of video streams based on a range of criteria. By way of a Web browser, principals are able to view footage of past security incidents, and the district superintendent can scan images from all schools.

The high resolution of the installed cameras has proven extremely effective—particularly because CISD was able to review footage of recent suspected acts of vandalism and theft in the district’s gymnasium.

Based on that success, CISD principals have already discussed expanding coverage with more cameras. Versatile, cost-effective and simple to integrate, IP solutions will clearly make it easy for them to “put eyes on” an even safer learning environment.

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

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