Integrators: Go to the head of the class

The education market gets technology assistance from solutions providers

Being in a rural county and conscious of the ever-changing school environment, North Union administrators conducted a comprehensive training session with Union County's first responders. A simulated shooter and student actors were used to enact a school shooting. The simulation demonstrated how school officials and first responders would respond. The exercise demonstrated the school's weaknesses and helped determine what security procedures and technology were needed to keep students safe.

As a result, district administrators learned they must limit access. Students must enter through one set of doors, and camera coverage should be literally everywhere, including the parking lots and in the back of the school.

The simulation taught administrators that to achieve their goals, they needed to have video recording, video storage and integration with a DMP intrusion system in place.

"North Union wanted a state-of-the-art system that had the capacity to do whatever they wanted it to do," said Johnson Controls Inc. Lead Systems Specialist, Michael J. McGlone. "Full integration with DMP alarm panels was important, but the highest priority was the video recording capability."

North Union installed an AMAG Technology Symmetry Enterprise Security Management System with Symmetry Video Management. Approximately 130 fixed dome and pan/tilt/zoom network cameras from Axis Communications were placed on this networked system to provide an "eyes everywhere" security system for the high school. The new middle school installed 110 cameras. The district chose specific models for their rugged, vandal resistant construction and high image quality, as well as their motion detection capabilities. Symmetry Video Management software records video and it is stored in a 40 terabyte Nexan unit. Johnson Controls was the integrator-installer of the system

An authorized staff member arms and disarms the system every day before students and staff arrive. When buses arrive in the morning, the high school front doors open for 20 minutes to allow students to enter. Then all doors are locked from the inside for the remainder of the day.

"The secretarial entrance has double doors with a vestibule. After the doors are locked for the day, people push a button to be buzzed in the vestibule and then buzzed into the office," said North Union Local School District, Director of Technology, Pam Earp. "An image is shown on a screen and the school secretary can decide whether or not to buzz the person through."

Staff members wear ID badges that are used to gain access to the school's exterior doors. Interior hallways are secured with over 30 motion detectors that integrate with AMAG's Symmetry System. The office utilizes door contacts on every door and motion detectors for protection.

Parents and business people who need to only visit the high school office are not required to obtain a badge, however substitute teachers, contractors and volunteers are required to sign in and obtain cards to properly identify themselves and show they are permitted in the school building.

The principal and assistant principal monitor certain cameras at all times in their offices. They picked the areas of the school they felt needed more monitoring including hallways, stairwells, and the school parking lot.

Getting to the action

PTZ network cameras sit outside the high school and middle school to monitor the football field, parking lots and areas between the buildings so staff can use them to easily track and identify students involved in suspicious behavior. As a result, administrators have been able to reduce fighting and smoking outside, and to monitor students walking back and forth between buildings for tutoring.

Teachers are required to wear the ID card, which doubles as their access card. As an added convenience, all staff was given a key fob to put on their key ring.

"We found that the staff often left their cards on their desks, and therefore it was easier to also provide a key fob for their key ring," said Earp. "Since everyone has their keys when they enter the building, it just made sense. The teachers love the convenience of using either card or key fob."

North Union was pleased with the system before it was fully up and running. The first time the system recorded, administrators witnessed a fight in the hallway. One student drew on a stairwell wall and had a big grin on his face as he looked right at the camera.