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District Protects 25 Schools With ‘Virtual Video Fence’

The Kyrene School District in Arizona installs IP cameras to protect its schools and district offices.

Security is very important to the Kyrene School District in Arizona. The scope of the district’s new video surveillance system reflects just how important: A total of 1,800 Panasonic network video cameras provide a 360-degree “virtual video fence” to protect each of the district’s 25 schools as well as the district office facilities.

In 2004, the Kyrene School District created a strategic improvement plan, and in 2005, fundraising from a Capital Bond allowed many of the planned projects to be implemented. The plan included a goal “to provide high-quality, safe facilities that support healthy student learning environments for students, staff, buildings and equipment.” Merrill Technology Architects, Mesa, Arizona, led by Alan Merrill, was hired to develop a comprehensive integrated security system design for all campuses, which would include video surveillance, access control and intrusion alarm.

The objective of implementing the extensive new surveillance system was to provide full coverage of each school’s campus and record anyone who approached a building, parking area or playground structure. Cameras would also be installed to watch entrances, exits and multi-purpose rooms used by outside groups on the weekends. To help control vandalism, cameras would be positioned outside student restrooms to watch which students entered and exited.

“It was critical that we deliver and implement a system that was long lasting and would work without question,” said Mark Share, Kyrene School District’s Director of Technology.

In 2009, a request for proposal (RFP) was issued and in July of that year, Amer-X was chosen as the integrator from among several companies who bid on the project. Amer-X, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based dealer/integrator and provider of card access, video and intrusion systems, also operates a UL-listed monitoring service. For over a decade the integrator’s primary video surveillance equipment line has been Panasonic.

“Dependability was one major benefit of using Panasonic for the Kyrene School District,” said Eric Peloquin, Vice President of Amer-X. “Panasonic has always had high-quality and reliable product, which is essential for security monitoring. We have never had constant maintenance issues nor have we had to go back three or four years later to replace equipment.”

“As part of the bid process, we required demonstrations of the cameras and after we saw firsthand the capabilities of Panasonic Network Cameras we knew they would offer a superior surveillance solution for the school district,” said John Diehl, Network Engineering and System Coordinator for the Kyrene School District.

Large System By Any Measure

Kyrene is a K-8 school district that serves parts of Tempe, Chandler, Guadalupe and Phoenix, Arizona, as well as portions of the Gila River Indian Community within Maricopa County. The district has 19 elementary schools and six middle schools with a total student population of about 18,000. The district office, the Ben Furlong Education Center, is located in Tempe.

Before the new system was installed, the schools had a hodgepodge of intrusion alarm systems in various states of operation. Most schools had intrusion detection with motion detection, although some systems were older and no longer operational. If an alarm sounded, a caretaker living on campus would be alerted and call the police. One limited video system — analog cameras tied to a VCR — was operating at one of the middle schools where there had been a history of vandalism.

Work began on the new system in September 2009, and all the elementary and middle school installations were completed by August 2011. The installation was a large system by almost any measure, including 1,800 cameras, 33 network video recorders (NVRs) and 418 terabytes of storage. Each elementary school uses between 55 and 64 network cameras and each ties into an NVR. Principals have access to video from their school’s cameras using an easy-to-use Web browser that connects to the NVR at their location. The system is used mostly “after the fact” rather than for real-time monitoring, typically to investigate an event from over the weekend or the night before. At each of the middle schools, video from more than 100 cameras is recorded onto two NVRs.

An all-new cabling infrastructure was installed for the locations of cameras, which use Power over Ethernet (PoE) and do not require a separate power source. Utilizing PoE provided the district additional flexibility in terms of relocating cameras, eliminating the additional cost for the wiring of new electrical outlets. While the cameras connect to the district’s existing network in the schools, video traffic is segmented from other network traffic on its own virtual local area network (VLAN). Video travels across the LAN only when needed. Bandwidth isn’t an issue: each school site has a gigabit network, connected to the district office through a district-wide fiber optic infrastructure.

At the district office, DSX access control software is integrated with the system to provide live and recorded images from cameras. The central office can view a video image related to an access control event such as denied access. If anyone clicks on a transaction of any access control report, the system will pull up recorded video associated with that event. In case of a crisis or emergency, the district office uses Panasonic’s i-PRO Management Software, which provides access to live views or recorded video from any camera at any school.

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