Success Story: Traverse City Schools

July 18, 2013
VMS ties together multiple systems for Michigan school district

Covering 300 square miles over three Michigan counties, the Traverse City Area Public School District (TCAPS) houses more than 10,000 K-12 students and 1,300 teachers and support staff every day during the school year. The district spans 26 buildings, including 13 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, an alternative high school and multiple facilities management buildings, with more than 2 million total square feet of roof cover.

Recently, the school decided to upgrade its security system to connect all 26 buildings together on one network. A full-scale solution was needed since each school previously had a standalone system. Paul Mahon, Director of Construction and Maintenance for TCAPS, partnered with CommTech Design to design the completely integrated solution, supported by a Milestone video management system as its central hub.

“We’ve worked with multiple solutions over the years, each deploying its own standalone presence with pros and cons,” Mahon says. “Installing a district-wide solution that’s easy to use, scalable and supports our multiple levels of security ensures the safety of our students and staff, which was the number one priority for this project.”

Plans were drawn for a full-scale federated security solution, which included video streaming, alarm management, access control via card access systems, emergency panic lockdown abilities, video synchronization for all the above, and the ability to control each system centrally from one main control unit.

Simplified Monitoring

Bret Emerson was the assigned consultant from CommTech and worked on the TCAPS design. He spent weeks surveying the buildings to determine the best solution for the district’s needs and ensuring the district made the best security technology decisions for the safety of each campus. “TCAPS was quite a large-scale design — we had to understand the intricacies of not just one building, but 26 structures that were all unique in their own needs,” Emerson explains.

“A vast amount of engineering had to be examined, dealing with the different wiring, ceiling setups and potential monitoring station locations in each of the 26 buildings,” he continues. “We wanted a comprehensive solution that offered multiple levels of security, allowing video surveillance to be integrated seamlessly into all aspects of the district. An off-the-shelf solution wouldn’t have given us such an open, easy-to-use system.”

After Emerson’s report on the system’s architecture and design, TCAPS' customized solution included access control, lockdown and alarm systems integrated with the Milestone VMS solution.

The Setup

Before the VMS was installed, TCAPS completed Phase I of the security overhaul with an older technology, and the resulting video solution did not meet the requirements of the designed system.

Phase II brought in Milestone’s engineering staff and the supplier’s XProtect VMS, which was successfully installed around the district. The software was implemented quickly and efficiently in the school settings, minimizing interruption or confusion with the installation team and administrators tasked with monitoring the hundreds of cameras.

A total of 685 cameras were set up in TCAPS. Panasonic’s IP WV-Sw355, WV-SW395 and WV-SF366 cameras were installed throughout the entire district, in addition to two Arecont AV8185 IP cameras — the open platform VMS enabled the freedom of choice in selecting hardware devices.

Throughout the school district, 19 monitoring stations were established, each with an HP video workstation synchronized with the XProtect Corporate system. Four HP ProLiant video servers and an HP StorageWorks MDS600 with 70TB of space comprise the system’s storage capabilities. This powerful capacity is important for so much video data, and the school district intends to add additional cameras as part of its Phase III. Fortunately, the VMS supports an unlimited number of cameras, users and sites. “Our 700 cameras have been workhorses as we keep our students and staff secure,” Mahon says. “Keeping in mind our plans to expand the system, the server and software were a very important aspect. As of now, our server has the ability to tack on additional cameras. Using XProtect helps us maintain the work and educational environment when we decide to upgrade.”

Adds Emerson: “We came into Phase II knowing the system would eventually be expanded. As Phase III takes shape, we can rest assured the expanding security plan will be easily achievable, adding any camera seamlessly that fits the budgetary or physical needs of TCAPS.”

Champions in Training

Select administration and staff, known as “Champions” around the school district, are being trained to operate the security system, including the features of the VMS and the corresponding systems.

Technical training includes a slide show that focuses on the technical abilities of the cameras, from customizing views, zooming in and out and changing the focus to another area. Training in recording and archiving the video from the VMS will ensure that staff are completely capable of dealing with any security-related occurrence. 

The Benefits

Since the security upgrade, there have been instances where school property was reported missing, and those trained to use the system monitored, reviewed and recorded the event. The digital evidence was quickly and easily exported from the VMS and provided to the local police department with a built-in viewer. “At times, we have dealt with instances of theft or other security issues, regarding publicly owned property outside of the school environment or vandalism. We can easily show the footage to the accused and police to quickly turn around the situation,” Mahon says. “We are extremely confident in our system and trust that we are keeping the school and all of those in attendance safe.”

About the Author

Staff Reports

Editorial and news reports authored by the media team from Cygnus Security Media, including, Security Technology Executive magazine and Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I) magazine.