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All Eyes on Campus Safety

All Eyes on Campus Safety

High profile tragedies spur need for IP surveillance

High profile tragedies spur need for IP surveillanceThe shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 shattered the sleepy town of Newtown, Conn., and once again shattered America’s notions of what constitutes a safe place. For many, this most recent school tragedy, one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, brought all-too-familiar memories of previous, national school events—such as the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.

In response, many schools have increased their focus on keeping students safe by investing in technologies, crisis plans and lockdown training programs that can help identify potential school shooters and foil planned attacks. These efforts are driving the country’s market for school security system integration to rise by more than 80 percent from 2012 to 2017.

Validity of Video

According to a new report, “Vertical Insights: Video Surveillance & Security in Education,” from information and analytics provider HIS, the market for security systems integration in educational institutions is set to expand to $4.9 billion in 2017, up from $2.7 billion in 2012.

Video surveillance and security systems that can reduce the possibility of incidents or that provide quicker response times to incidents as they are occurring have an advantage over those that cannot. Therefore, an increasing number of U.S. institutions are wisely putting more “eyes” on campus with state-of-theart, IP surveillance networks that can give administrators visual knowledge of what’s happening on campus—from the crowded hallways and cafeteria to remote areas of the parking lot. And, because this video surveillance happens around-the-clock, schools can respond to incidents in real time.

Providing instant access to video of normal, daily operations, as well as incidents unfolding for prompt response, video recording technology also provides the additional benefits of aiding in the investigation and adjudication of incidents—such as a fight in the parking lot, to the theft of an iPad from a locker, or an argument between a student and staff member.

Tightening Security at a Texas ISD

Even schools that haven’t suffered serious security breaches in the past are proactively adopting state-of-the-art, IP surveillance solutions to ensure their peace of mind continues. One such campus is Blanco Independent School District (ISD) in Blanco, Texas.

Although incidents of serious crime on campus have been rare in the past, Blanco ISD sought to lock in tight security going forward and to use modern technology to stay ahead of the curve. When it received funding for a much-needed renovation, the campus decided that the time was right to beef up security. That meant installing a system that would put “eyes and ears” on all its public facilities, including a high school, a middle school, an elementary school and shared administrative buildings, along with 16 newly-created classrooms, and a newly-built library, technology lab and science lab spread across its 378-square-mile campus. Protecting all these assets was a priority.

Previously, Blanco’s campus had virtually no formal security beyond locked doors; and yet, its campus renovations included a mission-style building that was originally built in 1874 and sits on ground now considered a historic site.

At the end of 2011, Blanco ISD began shopping for a technology partner to help turn its IP surveillance vision into a reality. Local technology reseller M&A Technology invited Blanco technology director Tom Cozzi to attend a Lunch-and-Learn event hosted by D-Link to learn more about the full scope of IP surveillance solutions. It was there that Cozzi met the local field support team and discovered the true value of next-generation, network switches and IP cameras.

“My role is to give customers a wide variety of technology options and to determine the best fit for their specific application,” said Marc Steuwe, senior account manager at M&A Technology. “In this case, D-Link’s solutions were the best fit. Part of that recommendation was knowing about the company’s local support. They always have your back during installation, and they’re right there to help you work out any hiccups, should they arise.”

After a competitive bid and careful evaluation of a few other solutions, the school district had full confidence in their purchase decision.

Data and Surveillance Traffic on One Network

One of the benefits of IP surveillance is that it can cost-effectively merge with an existing data network. For example, many of today’s managed switches are embedded with auto surveillance VLAN technology that enables users to easily add a reliable and separate IP surveillance network to an existing data network. The resulting hybrid network handles both data and surveillance traffic, saving the cost of deploying and maintaining a separate network for surveillance traffic only.

Such was the case at Blanco ISD, which already had a data network in place and simply needed to upgrade to managed switches in order to accommodate its new IP surveillance network traffic. During installation, the school district replaced many of its former 100-Mb switches with new gigabit switches.

Not only did it get new surveillance cameras, the district also upgraded the capacity and performance of its entire network and avoided the need to create a separate network just for camera footage.

Praising Power over Ethernet

For Blanco ISD, one of the benefits of selecting this particular solution was the PoE cameras, which enabled the district to obtain visual surveillance in areas where there is no power. This allows administrators to see even the remotest corners of their campuses.

Managed, gigabit PoE switches consolidate both camera power and video data into one network cable, saving on installation materials and labor while capitalizing on PoE’s lowvoltage power. The switches also follow the 802.3af and 802.3at standards. Therefore, choosing PoE switches was a key factor in optimizing Blanco school district’s $100,000 project budget, and with D-Link’s lifetime warranty, their DGS-3120 series managed switches were an attractive choice for Blanco ISD.

PoE cable is a single, Cat-5 network cable that’s half the cost of combo power/coax cable used in traditional, analog, CCTV applications. Plus, the single, low-cost cable also offers the benefits of motion detection, video analytics, audio, alarm triggers and PTZ commands— all of which require separate, additional cables in analog installations.

Furthermore, when PoE switches are configured for remote access, an administrator can log into the switch and turn off the power to one individual camera port from any remote location (including mobile devices) without having to be on the property or at the camera’s exact physical location.

Another Crucial Component: Video Management Software

Once an IP surveillance network is installed, managing all the video traffic efficiently from one central location becomes paramount, and finding the right capabilities is often unique to every user. Although there are a wide variety of VMS solutions on the market—each with different strengths—Blanco ISD chose SiteWatch for three important benefits:

  • Bandwidth. The software minimizes the bandwidth for the video signal through the network.
  • Virtualization. It allows users to link multiple servers at different locations together to create a single, virtual string of servers.
  • Ease of use. It provides an easy-to-use, intuitive user interface that allows administrators to clearly see surveillance footage from anywhere on campus.

Powerful Technology at Work

Soon after Blanco’s May 2012 installation, the school district was already capturing important surveillance footage. After a bathroom was vandalized, administrators were able to track time stamps, which led to the questioning of one particular student based on the amount of time he had spent there. After knowing that he had been caught on camera, the student confessed to the crime.

Aside from vandalism, IP surveillance has also helped the school district provide visual evidence about disruptive student behavior— and even local traffic accidents.

“It’s comforting to know that we can see what’s going on now, and if people ask about our district’s security, we can say we have a top-ofthe- line surveillance system,” Cozzi said.

Today, Blanco’s high school secretary has a constant view of the front of the building and the main hallway; and the middle school secretary, who could never see the front door before, now has a complete view of that area and can always see who is entering and exiting.

“Not only does every workstation in the district have access to surveillance footage, I can also view footage remotely from home after hours; so, if there’s anything happening on campus at night, I can assess the situation,” Cozzi said. “And if there’s criminal behavior involved, we can revert back to the archived video to assist with the investigation. There’s no doubt that having cameras in obvious locations has been a big deterrent.”

“We’ve now got full assurance that everything on campus is okay,” concluded Cozzi.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Security Today.

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