Mass. School District, Local Police Improve Interagency Collaboration Through Camera, VMS Upgrades
The Chelmsford Public School District improved its security by implementing various Axis solutions and giving system access to local police.
CHELMSFORD, Mass. — Chelmsford Public School District is a highly rated school system located in the town of Chelmsford, Mass., a suburb 24 miles north of Boston. The district contains eight schools that serve more than 5,000 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. Like most school districts, it employs surveillance cameras and other technology to create a safe learning environment for its students.
Over the past five years, the district has been working with Lan-Tel Communications, an innovative technology solutions provider and Axis partner, to expand surveillance coverage across its buildings. “With nearby towns reporting incidents of violence and destruction of school athletic fields, and some acts of vandalism on its own grounds, the Chelmsford School District wanted to implement a more proactive solution,” says John Grennon, Director of Security and New Business Development for Lan-Tel.
Lan-Tel worked closely with Axis engineers to develop the best possible solutions for upgrading the district’s security. “We recommended Axis products not only for their advanced features but their impressive reliability,” states Grennon.
Currently, the district operates 487 Axis high-resolution surveillance cameras, eighty of which are multisensor cameras, that capture 727 unique streaming views. “The video we obtain from these Axis cameras is fantastic,” says Bill Silver, Director of Information Communication and Technology Services for the Chelmsford Public Schools. “They provide administrators with amazing visibility into what’s happening in their schools.”
“I also think seeing the cameras in the entrances and hallways makes the students feel safer and more secure, and better behaved,” observes Silver. He notes that having high-resolution video helps administrators quickly identify offenders – like who has exited the bathroom after the vape sensor was triggered or was involved in a physical altercation – and take appropriate action as needed.
The school district prides itself in working closely with the Chelmsford Police Department which lent its expertise on where to deploy cameras for the best views in and around school buildings. That relationship extends to granting the police department full 24/7 access to the school district’s camera system, including real-time alerts.
“They have a complete view of our environment, which can save critical minutes in an emergency,” shares Silver. Both the school district and the police department migrated to the AXIS Camera Station video management platform recently, which makes the integration between them more seamless. “This is a pretty unique situation,” says John Grennon. “We don’t see this kind of direct inter-agency cooperation in other municipalities in Massachusetts.”
Improving System Management
Chelmsford’s previous video management system was plagued with issues. Cameras would go offline or not record properly, and no one received an alert that there was a problem. Plus, the platform wasn’t capable of recording in high resolution, which resulted in very grainy video. The switch to AXIS Camera Station provided a far more powerful and reliable video management platform.
“Since AXIS Camera Station supports Zipstream compression, now I can continuously record at our cameras’ highest resolutions and it takes up less space on my video servers than when I was just doing motion recording,” states Bill Silver. “That speaks volumes about the quality of programming that goes into Axis software.”
Silver controls all the school district’s security devices through the AXIS Camera Station, including cameras, horn speakers, and security radars. “What impresses me most is that I can program each device to do very specific things,” explains Silver. For instance, he configured the system to broadcast a warning message through a horn speaker when a camera or network radar detects motion in an outdoor area where no one is supposed to be.
With AXIS Device Manager, a free software tool, Silver has streamlined lifecycle maintenance on his Axis devices. With a few keystrokes, he can install firmware upgrades and new applications, apply new cybersecurity controls, and make configuration changes to individual cameras or a group of cameras. He can even check the license and warranty status of each device.
One popular system feature is the interactive incident management map that shows the camera placements in each building. Users can click on the camera icon and the camera view instantly pops up on their desktop. “Our administrators love this feature because they know the layout of their buildings,” explains Silver. “So it’s a really fast way to find what they’re looking for.”
Tackling Stadium Vandalism and Safety
As a high-value asset, Chelmsford High’s football stadium was included in the district-wide security upgrade. “We have an expensive turf field and a press box containing significant high-end equipment for our sound and lighting systems that we need to protect,” shares Silver. “Before the new system was installed, we only had two cameras in the stadium, and they were focused on the entrance and the snack bar.”
Silver consulted with Lan-Tel to brainstorm a smart way to increase stadium surveillance. With guidance from technology staff at Axis, Lan-Tel devised a solution that included a high-speed AXIS Q60 Series pan/tilt/zoom camera in the press box to capture the entire field.
The integrator attached AXIS Q17 Series bullet cameras to the stadium’s newly erected light poles to monitor different areas of the field. Because these 4K resolution cameras are equipped with ultra-high light sensitive sensors and Lightfinder technology, they’re able to provide the school with outstanding forensic images even in low-light scenes.
The company augmented the cameras with Axis security radars on two of the light poles to provide an intelligent, overlapping blanket of detection. The devices contain advanced analytics that immediately pick up any motion that happens on the field. “The radar alerts us to any humans or vehicles approaching the area and how fast they’re traveling,” explains Silver. “Then we can use the cameras to visually verify what’s happening and take steps to mitigate the situation if needed.”
Because there is a highway directly behind the stadium, Lan-Tel’s team needed to configure the cameras and radar to filter out the movement of cars speeding by the property. “If we hadn’t taken the time to do that, the school and the police department would be receiving a lot of false alarms,” says John Grennon.
An Axis horn speaker is another key component of the stadium’s security. Silver programmed it to broadcast a warning to trespassers to vacate the area. Because the school often leases the stadium to outside groups like town sports leagues, summer camps, and concerts organizers, Silver also sees the horn speaker as a useful tool for notifying a group when their allotted time has expired or telling event stragglers to leave the premises.
“The cool thing about this set up is that you know what’s going on in real time,” states Grennon. “That coupled with a direct interface with the police department means responders can intervene almost immediately to safeguard people and property.”
Training and ongoing support have also been key to a smooth implementation. Attending onsite training gave Silver’s key security system operator the opportunity to interact directly with Axis engineers and learn how to optimize their system. “Having someone with AXIS Camera Station certification on staff is a real advantage,” says Silver. “If we ever need to call in for support, we can get to the resolution faster because we are already starting the conversation with a good understanding of the system.”
Imagining Future Safety and Security Applications
“I feel like our security system is always evolving,” says Silver. “There are always new ideas and new technologies to explore to better protect our schools and make them safer. Now that I’ve seen the radar in action at the stadium, I can think of other ways we can use them to secure our buildings.”
Silver has also been toying with the possibility of deploying Axis thermal cameras to monitor boiler operations and other heat-sensitive equipment. Additionally, he hopes to install access control devices and use AXIS Camera Station Secure Entry to leverage the efficiency of a system that combines video surveillance and access control management.
Silver feels that what the school district has done so far with the AXIS Camera Station platform and Axis technologies is just the tip of the iceberg. “We’ve just begun exploring all the different ways this integrated system can help us better safeguard our students, our buildings, and the community organizations that use our stadium.”
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