Small School District Solves Big Problems with Upgraded Video System

The Hardee County School District adopted IP cameras and a video management system to improve camera coverage, reduce maintenance issues and improve school security.

Located just over an hour and a half south of Orlando, Fla., Hardee County encompasses the cities of Bowling Green and Wauchula, the town of Zolfo Springs and a number of unincorporated communities. Its school system is comprised of a high school, junior high school and five elementary schools.

While it may be small in size, the Hardee County (Fla.) School District is not immune to the problems that plague school districts across the country, which may include vandalism, fighting, theft and drug use. Over the past 10 years, the district relied on video systems comprised of analog cameras and DVRs to monitor and investigate these issues.  In theory, the high camera counts – anywhere from 150 to more than 200 – at each school should have provided excellent coverage. However, 10 to 20 percent of the cameras were non-functional at any given time. In addition, the nine DVR systems the district employed to record video had been failing on an almost monthly basis.

Even with all systems 100 percent operational, the analog cameras’ poor image quality often made it difficult to identify individuals or get a clear view of incidents, seriously hindering investigations.

The school district also implemented an analog DVR-driven management system, but it provided minimal camera control. The junior high and senior high each have one or two on-campus school resource officers (SROs) affiliated with the Hardee County Sheriff’s Department, and they can access video to aid with investigations. However, the schools’ video systems were not interconnected, and each of the systems had to be accessed individually. This proved to be a time-consuming and cumbersome process limited by the lack of a video management system (VMS) to search for images associated with specific incidents.

Schools Transition from Analog to Digital
Recognizing that these outdated analog systems were not meeting their security needs, the Hardee County School District began the process of upgrading to an IP video platform in 2008.

Several core objectives were identified for the new system design. First, it would need to provide high-quality video, multi-site coverage across the school district, and centralized remote video access and management. The VMS would need to enable users to quickly and easily search and view video of specific incidents from multiple sites using a single intuitive and user-friendly interface.

After reviewing bids for the project, the district worked with integrator Redd Ash Technologies of Apopka, Fla., to upgrade the systems at the junior and senior high schools. The original scope of work involved installing 84 IP megapixel cameras, on-site servers and OnSSI’s Ocularis VMS. Budgetary restraints didn’t allow for all the analog cameras and DVRs to be replaced, so a number remained in place. However, not long after the deployment, the DVR drives began to fail. Consequently, Redd Ash developed and presented the school district with a cost-effective plan for incorporating analog cameras through video encoders from the junior and senior high schools into Ocularis using the schools’ existing servers.

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