Balancing Security in a Changing Society

Sometimes it ‘takes a village’ for successful security deployment. Case in point: Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Lynn, Mass.
For years the school was pegged as undesirable, unsafe and a detriment to the neighborhood. Today, Thurgood Marshall Middle School has turned itself around, and the community, security integration team and many others were responsible.

Viscom Systems Inc., Watertown, Mass., the lead design-build integrator, played a huge role in the project’s success. A Strategic Business Partner of GE Security, Bradenton, Fla., Viscom didn’t just start with the hardware and equipment. It began in a consultative manner working alongside GE’s Security Education Solutions Team to develop a strategic plan. The plan started with the grounds themselves, sprucing up the exterior and landscaping, replacing broken windows, and after years without one, hoisting a flag on a newly installed flagpole. All these little things made a big difference, according to Richard A. Penney, president of Viscom Systems.
“In the case of the Lynn public school, the project was a high-priority issue,” said Penney. “The school administration reached out to the GE Security group for technical information and a solution that would meet their growing security concerns,” he said.

When GE and Viscom Systems first visited Thurgood Marshall to develop and respond to the Request for Proposal the situation was near dire. “One thing that really struck us was the condition of the school,” said Paul Baratta, national security advisor, GE Security. “It was basically in chaos. There were broken windows and doors and sidewalks, no grass, parking issues and more. However, it quickly became a community project. Volunteers from the school, teachers, the city and even active and retired employees from the local GE aviation plant came in and logged some 4,600 hours repairing, cleaning and sprucing up the 1923 school,” Baratta said.
Viscom Systems installed an integrated GE Facility WinX Access Control, Intrusion and Video System. The video system uses exterior low light color/b&w day-night cameras and low-profile color mini domes inside.

Safe and secure aids learning

In follow up studies conducted by GE, the overall performance of the students at the school has increased since the security deployment and renovation, said Dr. Ray Lauk, education marketing manager, GE Security.
Lauk said studies continue to show that a safe and secure environment boosts student achievement. “At Thurgood, there have been fewer suspensions and behavioral incidents and improved test scores,” Lauk continued. “Safe and orderly environments are better for learning,” he said.

Access control, whether lower grade levels or large campus-wide facilities, is the mainstay that allows the campus to grow security as necessary.
“We see access control as a hub and spoke approach, and now video increasingly is incorporated,” said Peter Boriskin, vice president of Access Control for Tyco, Boca Raton, Fla. “The end-users want to know what else they can do with their existing access control,” he continued. “The campus is the microcosm of a small city and there are many systems that can be interconnected,” he said.
In a campus setting, Boriskin added, the rush is on for a single, multi-purpose access control credential, further pushing systems integration. “K-12 is moving to a managed access control solution. And going forward, we’ll see security systems take on more of a digital identity with provisioning and de-provisioning part of the access control work flow process.”

Smart cards are coming on strong in the campus setting because they allow one credential to serve many functions. “There are many campus wide issues you can support using smart cards,” said Larry Matheson, district general manager for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies Integration, Livonia, Mich. “You can use a smart card for debit, use it to log onto the PC or access the network and track the use of computers or other equipment. The challenge for the integrator is to help the end user upgrade, easily. Sometimes that involves a dual technology credential or a piece of equipment to migrate to newer technologies,” Matheson said.

Legacy sees it through

The expansion of legacy access control into other integrated activities is a definite trend, said Tom Heenan, vice president of Business Development for MAC Systems in Canton, Mass. Glenn Heywood, director of Sales for MAC Systems, added that there’s also more of tendency today to add cameras at schools, whereas in the past campuses may have been hesitant to use video. MAC Systems is a member of New England’s SecurityNet and has an education client list that includes Harvard and Brown University and many other notables.

”They too have struggled with the right balance between video and privacy,” added Tom Heenan. “Now, they are adding cameras in parking lots and hallways to get more of an overall view of what’s happening. In schools with research facilities and other sensitive access areas, biometrics is increasingly being specified.”

With 31,000 students and 8,000 faculty, North Carolina State University in Raleigh turned to a scalable video solution to grow with them in the future. SigNet Security Technologies, Cary, N.C., handled the design-build installation of some 450 network surveillance cameras in 50 buildings across campus, according to Joe Walker, branch manager.

The company installed all the cameras, wiring, encoders and power supplies and configured video surveillance parameters into the software. The University provided the servers and network storage. “We tested and demonstrated different products before DVTel Network Video Management System (NVMS) was selected,” Walker said.

“The system uses the University’s IT network for connectivity,” Walker continued. “The network is extremely robust and the video has never created a bandwidth issue. The system will likely grow to well over 1,000 cameras in the next few years and SigNet will continue to serve as project manager,” he said.

Unique twist
NC State has become a model project for other universities and multi-site campus installations. It has a single, central managing organization, called AllCampus Network that “sells” the transmission, storage and management of video to different customers with the cameras. The AllCampus Network manages the servers, storage and overall technology while offering each campus department the opportunity to purchase and integrate the cameras they need.

Schools and campuses have their sights set on safe premises. Access control is the hub and video is often added as part of an integrated package. Smart cards and secured credentials will certainly continue to assist in making ‘back to school’ a safer endeavor for students.