Safety & Security in Schools: Looking Beyond Closed Doors

Safety and security in schools are constantly evolving.

By Aspire Technology Partners Security Practice Experts

Parents and the community demand safe schools, whether it’s a single building, a multiple-building campus, or multiple campuses across the region. Recent events only reinforce the need to secure, monitor, and protect students, faculty, and staff.

Protecting people and property and creating safer environments have become more critical than ever. Security is more than controlling access to the doors. It is about building a safe environment for learning and teaching.

Legacy Technology

Historically, security was simply controlling access to a building while safety meant having a working fire alarm and sprinkler system coupled with an exit strategy to move students, faculty, and staff safely out of the building in case of a fire or smoke event. More up-to-date schools might include remote monitoring via a camera security system connected to a display and recorder in the main office or security office. Many times, these were only used to identify theft or vandalism suspects after an incident.

In the past, card access systems are separate from other monitoring systems and only log activity on entry, not exit. They operate independently, not communicating with other systems.

Fire safety is another discrete system with a combination of smoke and heat detectors connected to a fire control panel that communicates with the outside world by POTS, VoIP, or cellular connections. Annunciators and strobe lights notify occupants in case of an alarm. Once again, this system does not communicate with any other monitoring or notification system.

Traditional camera-based systems often relied on all devices connecting to a single DVR or NVR as the norm. There was a limit to the number of cameras you could connect to a single device. If you needed more coverage, you needed another DVR or NVR. Encryption was not possible and, at times, it was challenging to set up, manage and provide secure access end-to-end. The added complexity was evident when you needed to play back the recording. Which device held the required information? What happened if you needed to follow an activity from one system to another? Access to video playback often requires special software or plug-ins with limited visibility into the recordings’ integrity and system. In many cases, the only way to determine if a camera was offline or your storage was broken is to try and retrieve footage finding it unavailable or even inaccessible.

Moving Forward to Modernization

Today, IoT technology delivers site-wide security and monitoring from access, environmental monitoring, and damage prevention. Cameras and sensors can identify who enters a building by which entrance, if they have a fever, their path through the building, and their destination. Some systems even have facial recognition capabilities.

The same cameras and sensors can identify changes in room temperature, humidity, and air quality; and show how many people are in a specific room, ensuring that occupancy limits are maintained. They can determine if doors or windows are opened, closed, or locked when coupled with a building access system. You can set event triggers based on motion, activity level, temperature thresholds, panic buttons, pedestrian or vehicle movement, presence of loud sounds, or on spectrograms to determine what is a fire alarm or an emergency siren.

Single Pane of Glass Visibility

Implementing a cloud-managed IoT solution is helping K-12 institutions worldwide achieve high-quality student experiences by delivering campus-wide physical security and providing a vast set of tools to help empower the IT organization charged with managing the systems. It’s essential to ensure that systems meant to protect students don’t create additional cybersecurity threats or raise privacy concerns while simultaneously allowing the proper staff and emergency responders quick access to video feeds when needed. They need to trust that the system is secure, reliable, functional, and provides the necessary information to respond immediately to an event.

Applying a robust IoT (cameras/sensors) policy means managing more devices with an increased responsibility to meet the heightened need for school security. IT departments are forced to do more with finite resources that may already be stretched thin. Managing multiple vendors, various application interfaces, and screens poses an issue with training and maintaining competency across the platforms.

A cloud-based management system with a single pane of glass view reduces the complexity. Distributive intelligence across the various cameras and sensors means that no one device failure will impact the entire system. The cloud controller can send an alert if a camera or other device fails. All data and images are stored locally and uploaded to a secure cloud space with data encryption in local storage, in transit, and at rest to secure your information.

Secured Deployment

Your network deployment can be secured using two-factor authentication, password policies for camera-only roles, or role-based administrative access, all using the principles of least privileged access. Unlike traditional camera-based systems, IoT designs are remotely managed and configured, allowing remote troubleshooting. Cameras with built-in intelligence and storage can function as a base station for the nearby sensors. The solid-state design provides onboard storage from 256Gb up to 1 Tb and uses POE removing the need for separate power supplies for each camera. Connections include wired and wireless to allow you to select the best location for your sensors while only requiring power.

Sharing Important Notifications

The Cloud-based management system gives you a single pane of glass view of your devices, including a list of alerts triggered by defined events. The system can send notifications and alerts to appropriate stakeholders as needed. These can be scheduled at a specific time of day or sent immediately based on specific activity or thresholds set in the dashboard.

You can share the footage and the verification they provide through an open API framework into access control and incident response tools for visibility of events like alarms or panic buttons. Local encryption of the video limits visibility to individual roles with the appropriate permission levels with a complete audit log to track access.

Providing a safe and secure educational environment is within our grasp. Implementing modern, up-to-date IoT technology in conjunction with a stable network environment supplies the tools we need to identify and react to unexpected events faster than ever. Creating a robust, modern monitoring system gives peace of mind to parents, students, faculty, staff, and the community. All it takes is the vision and talents needed to design and deploy an effective solution for your specific needs.

Aspire Technology Partners is a four-time Cisco master partner, and we can build you a custom proof-of-concept environment with a full demo. Contact an Aspire Security Architect to arrange for your IoT evaluation at info@aspiretransforms.com.

 

Aspire Technology Partners is a Cisco Gold Integrator and Gold Provider engrained in solution pillars that set us apart as a true Cisco solutions provider. We are committed to the continuous improvement of expertise and skillsets around Cisco initiatives that enable us to help and guide customers in the adoption and management of technology architectures designed to transform their organization. We hold Cisco Master Specializations in Collaboration, Enterprise Networking, and Security and are one of only 25 partners in the US to receive the Cisco Advanced Customer Experience Specialization.

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