Q: Much attention was given to the lack of video cameras on the campus of Virginia Tech. What approach would you take to securing schools?
A: Securing our schools, colleges and universities can be a daunting task. In the university environment, students are moving around on campus twenty-four hours a day. It is not uncommon for an unaccompanied student to be walking from the library back to a residence hall in the wee hours of the morning.
Many college campuses are architecturally perfect. Trees line the walkways, and buildings form a quadrangle. Although these campuses can be extraordinarily beautiful, they are difficult to secure. Many are wide open in urban environments.
Video cameras should be strategically placed to view isolated areas. Systems must be integrated. For example, Emergency Calling Centers with blue strobe lights that are monitored 24/7 by campus police can be integrated to pan/tilt/zoom cameras. This allows the camera to swing around to a pre-set scene for instant viewing of the incident.
Unfortunately, students don’t always follow the sidewalks. Therefore, it is imperative to place your security devices in the vulnerable areas; particularly if you see a path that is worn across the grass, between buildings, leading to a parking lot. Wide-open surface parking lots are easier to see and require fewer cameras and calling centers. Increase the number of devices for raised and subsurface parking structures.
Many schools, both K-12 and the college environment, have the IP infrastructure in place to use IP cameras. Once they invest in the video capture software, they have created the platform to add cameras by virtually assigning an IP address. Manufacturers are introducing equipment that allows the capture of IP video signals and analog signals on the same box. Customers don’t have to throw out their legacy video products. You can simply replace them with IP cameras, when you determine that the analog product has reached its life expectancy. Sharing this saved information is extremely easy and fast. In the financial industry, video clips are routinely disseminated to law enforcement in less than one hour after a robbery.
As the security dealer integrator designing the system, you can offer to write an RFP for a fee in which you recommend the security products that best satisfy the school’s objectives. Be aware of grants that are available from federal and state governments.
In the K-12 market, the focus in the past has been on price instead of quality and some of the existing security in schools is not up to par. Make certain preventative maintenance was performed on the security equipment. Check that the cabling is properly protected as it travels through existing walls into wings or hallways of the older existing buildings.
Security tools you provide are enhanced by the training you give your customers. Encourage them to ask questions. Make the administrators visible. Encourage them to make the best use of their video system by stationing someone at the console viewing the cameras, particularly during passing periods and before and after school.