Reliability and Interoperability: The Keys to Anna ISD’s Success

An integrated video and access control system enables this Texas school district to more efficiently investigate incidents. It also allows police to more effectively respond during emergencies.

<p>The new integrated security system used by Anna ISD allows school administrators to easily pull video if someone should enter a building without authorization.</p>SRO Can Remotely View Video From All Campuses
Using the client version of 3xLOGIC’s VIGIL video management system, Copass can create a group he calls “principal” and give each of its members permission to view video, pull recorded video, zoom in, save video, virtually everything but add a new camera for their respective campuses. Copass also extended the SRO’s permission to pull video from the entire district. This enables him to use the cameras as his “eyes in the sky,” letting him follow the actions going on in any school from his laptop, tablet or smart phone.

While the ability to quickly and efficiently access video remotely from a desktop computer or a mobile device like an iPhone or an iPad is paramount to the success of Anna ISD’s video initiative, remote management of all of the user accounts, passwords, permissions and camera configurations is essential if the system is to be operated efficiently.

“Our largest installation is at our high school,” Copass claims. “Over half of our cameras are at that facility alone. Because of the number of cameras at our high school, that facility has two DVRs in place. It is on this system that we have installed the VIGIL central management (VCM) software.”

VCM was engineered to meet the stringent requirements of the multi-site, enterprise-class users wanting to effectively manage multiple DVRs and cameras connected over IP networks. VCM automatically monitors all of your cameras and DVRs and notifies administrators — via local alarm screen pop-ups, E-mail notifications or text messaging — of potential problems before they adversely impa
ct the system. Administrators can easily manage access rights of all of their users across thousands of sites; manage any number of cameras and DVRs from a single location and schedule and deploy network-wide software updates. It can also remotely capture all the settings from each VIGIL server and remotely upload those settings in the event there are unauthorized changes.

“I can connect to VCM from my office and remotely to all the units in the district and pretty much do anything we need to do,” Copass claims. “Just yesterday I was installing a new camera to look at our new bus barn facility, and I sat at my desk and remotely accessed the machine. I was then able to locate and add the new camera we needed, and we were up and running in just a matter of minutes.”

Student Safety, Asset Protection Are Priority No. 1
The top priorities for Copass were safeguarding the physical assets of the district while designing and deploying a system intended to help ensure the safety of the students and staff.

“We have costly technology equipment in every classroom now,” Copass stresses. “The lowest dollar amount I have in my network closets is about $13,000, and the highest I have is about $460,000 between servers, switches and the like. We have laptops, desktops, over 1,600 computers district-wide and 135 iPads. To be honest with you, however, computers can be replaced; a student that gets hurt where we are unable to address it with another student involved, to me that is the bigger priority.”

It is this emphasis on safety that places crisis response planning and preparedness heavy on the minds of safety administrators and IT directors like Copass. Preparing for these emergency incidents requires heightened coordination and collaboration between schools, hospitals and local law enforcement agencies. Effective crisis management requires a variety of planned responses, including facility lockdown, evacuation, isolation, police or fire response, as well as notifications and communications. In extreme situations, time is of the essence, so preparedness is critical.

“I have been working with the Collin County Sheriff’s Department finalizing some of the details of what needs to be done and when to help with incident response,” Copass explains. “I brought this up with [our SRO, George White] and created the access where he could, even if he was home with his laptop, still be able to pull video should an incident happen. That got us both thinking that if we did have a situation in Collin County where, God forbid, we were on lockdown and the SWAT team needed to be dispatched, we feel that everybody would be safer if Sheriff personnel had unimpeded access to our buildings.”

This unimpeded access requires gathering all of the relevant information from the Sheriff personnel’s physical badges and inputting that data into the access control system. “Now they can do a silent entry that the Sheriff’s Department and I both feel would make them more efficient and make our district that much safer,” Copass notes.

Access to Information Enables Effective Response
The effectiveness of emergency responders in crisis situations relies on their ability to quickly understand and assess the situation. Seeing first-hand what is taking place inside campus buildings can prove to be invaluable in this process.

“As far as the video is concerned, now somebody can just sit in that SWAT truck that is already sitting out there with radio communication, and if he has got his laptop up, we have eyes in the sky,” states Copass. “The end result is going to make them safer, make them more efficient and be able to diffuse any situation in a very short period of time.”

New System Enables Quick, Easy Review of Video
The idea behind video surveillance systems is simple enough: cameras capture images. However, the challenge can come when you need to review what has been recorded in order to see what happened at a particular location and time. Software developers have developed tools that streamline the process, making it easier and more efficient to search through massive amounts of stored video files in order to identify, capture and save video for investigations.

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