Mission Possible: Campus Security Systems Integration

Although many skeptics believe that campuses can’t effectively integrate their public safety systems, the officials at the East Stroudsburg Area School District have demonstrated it can be achieved. With the help of an access control platform, the district has integrated its access control, video, intrusion, fire and HVAC systems.

This past spring, East Stroudsburg School District officials received a bomb threat, forcing them to evacuate all 1,400 students from one of their high schools. After the children and staff were quickly relocated, local fire and police officials were pleased to discover that the district had an integrated surveillance system, which could provide actionable information on the building that was the target of the threat.

That particular high school had 96 cameras strategically placed throughout the campus. Each camera, as well as the building’s access control, fire and HVAC systems, could be remotely monitored by the principal from the district’s emergency services vehicle, which was parked a safe distance from the scene of the bomb scare. Because the campus was equipped with this integrated technology, officials were able to conduct a virtual tour of the vulnerable areas, such as gas shut-off valves.

“The bomb threat turned out to be a hoax, but our security and surveillance system was able to identify the bathroom where the note was found and at what time,” says East Stroudsburg’s Director of Administrative Services Eric Forsyth. “By working backward, we were able to use our motion detection technology to look at the students who had visited that bathroom, which was able to help lead to the successful prosecution of the responsible person.”

The district’s sworn police officers also use the new system extensively during their routine patrols. They can remotely view security video from their patrol cars as well as control the card access systems on each campus. Not only does this functionality improve school safety and security, it helps the district conserve precious resources.

“Our police department only has seven or eight officers because of the technology we have,” adds Forsyth. “Otherwise, the chief would need a department two or three times its current size in order to be as effective.”

Needless to say, security and building systems integration has paid significant dividends for this district. Still, there are many skeptics at other institutions as well as in the security industry as a whole who believe that in general, the true integration of access control, video surveillance, intrusion, communication technology, HVAC and fire detection equipment is a lot of talk and not much action.

East Stroudsburg schools, however, have proved them wrong.

Disparate Systems Previously Couldn’t Integrate Effectively

Of course, the district’s systems weren’t always integrated. Only a few years back, East Stroudsburg, like most other school districts and campuses across the nation, had disparate security systems that often didn’t work very well together, according to Wayne Becker, who is vice president of business development for Communication Systems Inc. (CSI). CSI is the integrator that completed most of the systems integration work for the district.

“Whenever an incident occurred, they had to look at ‘OK, I have an access control breach at the door, do we have a camera there? Let’s try to find the footage. What tape is that, and what day is it from?’” he says. “It took a lot of time and work to put those events together.”

The district needed a way to manage all of these systems and tie them into the security and education technology that was being installed in East Stroudsburg’s new construction and renovation projects.

Planning Process Included Internal, External Stakeholders

One thing that helped East Stroudsburg achieve its goal of integration was the fact that its officials had an effective planning process involving elected board members, teachers, support staff, parents, students and representatives from the business community. On the district administration side of things, HR, pupil services, IT, the superintendent and school police were involved. All of these stakeholders participated in the new construction and renovation planning.

“We’ve found that when we are considering new facilities or renovating existing ones, that’s the time to get the biggest bang for our buck,” claims Forsyth. “Install flexible systems you can grow with.”

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East Stroudsburg’s integrator, CSI, played a pivotal role during this process. During the design phase, representatives from CSI met with the project architect and engineer, as well as the technology and facilities managers for the district.

“We talked about what the school district is trying to do in the way of security and curriculum, and what systems were needed to support them,” says Becker.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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