Mahwah Township Public Schools
The city of Mahwah lies on the northern border of New Jersey and spans 26.5 square miles that are home to a diverse community, currently experiencing growth in both population and development. Mahwah’s school district – Mahwah Township Public Schools – is home to six schools currently overseeing a total of 3450 children. The district is spread out over seven locations – one high school (with two auxiliary buildings), one middle school, four elementary schools and one administration building.
The Business Challenge
Keeping these schools secure is an unarguably important task, and doing so poses some inherent challenges. Carlos Rosa, Manager of Information Technology at Mahwah, is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing security operations at all of the district’s locations. The main challenge Mr. Rosa faces is commonplace in schools: teachers are outnumbered by students, and having enough eyes to make sure all areas are monitored is generally a very daunting task. It is not economically feasible or practical to simply continue hiring additional aides to help watch over various areas of a school campus; instead, another solution needs to be sought.
Furthermore, school budgets are notoriously tight and any proposed solution needs to not only provide a lot of value relative to its price, but also be flexible enough to grow over time as new needs arise and new funds become available.
Knowing Mahwah’s basic needs, Mr. Rosa researched security integrators in the area and eventually sought the expertise of Richard Adams, Senior Account Manager at Let’s Think Wireless. Mr. Rosa found Let’s Think Wireless to be very knowledgeable, with much experience working specifically with school districts. Together, Mr. Adams and Mr. Rosa developed and customized a security system for Mahwah Township Public Schools. Around 25 analog cameras were mounted in the high school and another 14 were mounted in the middle school, all tied into the local CCTV systems. Third-party access control systems were installed at the middle school and high school front doors.
This initial camera deployment was successful, but required Mahwah to install a secondary communications infrastructure parallel to their existing network, resulting in inefficiencies, unplanned costs and a sluggish security system. At this point, Mr. Rosa decided to go with a longer term solution as he knew expansion in the future would bring similar issues to the forefront.
This time, Mr. Rosa was looking for something “future-proof” and that was also web-based to increase monitoring efficiency. He wanted a networked solution since the costs of installing an IP system are typically lower in the long term due to reduced camera cabling costs and a speedier deployment time for the system. IP also enables scalability with greater ease for future system growth and allows integration within the existing network, thereby creating a unified and resilient system. Additionally, with the district spread over seven physical locations and nine buildings, IP allows all devices to link into a centrally held storage server instead of requiring local systems at each location.
Mahwah was also interested in a much more sophisticated access control system and a deeper level of integration with its video surveillance solution was key. Removing the need to switch between user interfaces or carry out disjointed and timely look-ups to find out which door corresponded with which camera would greatly improve the system’s overall efficacy.
The Perfect Solution
After discussing Mahwah’s needs, Mr. Adams suggested Genetec’s Security Center, utilizing Omnicast for video surveillance and Synergis for access control. Mr. Adams feels strongly that Genetec “is a leader in the industry with video surveillance and access control together in one package. It is ideal for schools, providing the best bang for their buck and simplicity of operation.”
Mahwah was pleased with the high-quality, varied and expansible feature set offered by Genetec’s Security Center and moved forward with an implementation of the platform. Fortunately, Mahwah was able to protect its previous investments by incorporating their existing analog cameras into the new system via IP encoders. Additionally, new IP cameras from Axis Communications IP cameras (AXIS M3014 and AXIS P3343 Fixed Domes) were added to hallways and other high-traffic areas. This provided school personnel with better image quality, including HDTV video, in an unobtrusive format and increased situational awareness with embedded features such as motion detection, audio detection, digital PTZ and camera tampering alarms. The third-party access control hardware was also repurposed for the Genetec solution by replacing only a small number of components with compatible hardware. The number of protected doors was increased to a total of six at the high school, and another four to protect the indoor passageways at the middle school.
“The implementation went smoothly – that’s the beauty of it,” said Mr. Rosa. Though Mahwah’s previous installation had unplanned downtime issues, “The Security Center has proven itself exceedingly reliable. No matter how robust your server is, if you have poorly coded software, you have problems. Genetec’s software has eliminated our previous problems,” said Mr. Rosa.
Mahwah’s Security Center is currently running on two servers, a vestige of the previous system with storage limitations of between one and two terabytes. A new HP server will shortly be integrated to increase their storage capacity to between 11 and 12 terabytes and afford Mr. Rosa the ability to archive up to 30 days of video instead of the 3-4 days to which he is currently limited.
Using Security Center’s web-based software means that Mahwah had no need to install software copies on each PC, saving valuable time when rolling out the system. Anyone with access rights can monitor the system from anywhere, including a handheld device, greatly improving convenience and response time.
For service needs, Let’s Think Wireless is able to remotely access the system when needed, saving the district money by eliminating site visits to address any minor hiccups encountered. Additionally, Mr. Rosa said, “Genetec is unique in providing a friendly and knowledgeable support team which is happy to provide top-notch service like checking camera firmware for compatibility, whereas most other companies will bounce customers to the hardware manufacturer to get answers.”
Installing the Security Center on Mahwah’s campuses has afforded administrators a catch-all security safety net, keeping eyes on all corners of the campuses to ensure students stay safe. Cameras monitor entrances, bathroom entrances, hallways and stairwells, cafeterias and gymnasiums to name a few.
These surveillance efforts serve a multitude of needs, whether ensuring only relevant people are on campus, monitoring after-hours recreational activity for physical safety, discouraging theft and vandalism, concretely resolving who-did-it issues between students or keeping lunchtime under control. During school hours, administrators can use the system to essentially be in all places at once. After hours, the system shelves video and access control data should the need arise to review it later.
The Security Center’s ability to visually track from camera to camera and its unification of video surveillance and access control allow users to easily watch an individual walking down a hall and through a door, pulling their identification information from the access control swipe as they do. This type of usability greatly enhances the system’s efficacy as compared to more archaic solutions which require a system map to manually look up which camera is viewing which door.
“Security Center is proactive, not reactive. Genetec has thought ahead and knows the feature set that is most important to the practical deployment of a security system,” said Mr. Rosa.
Mahwah has also issued access cards to law enforcement personnel, ensuring that in the unlikely event of an emergency or security issue, officers have access to the buildings. Moreover, Security Center is highly user-friendly, allowing for different types of users, each presented with only the types and depth of information needed by that individual. Officers and school principals can use a simplified user profile that accesses only video feeds, whereas administration can access a deeper level of data for their more technically advanced needs.
Mahwah only recently acquired Security Center, yet it has already proven measurably useful by addressing ingress and egress issues in the schools which in turn keeps students safer on a daily basis. Omnicast’s presence has also helped to keep the community on the straight and narrow; as Omnicast is implemented, visibility of cameras maintains a level of discipline among students and citizens in the surrounding areas, preventing issues before they arise.
Overall, Security Center has proven a great asset to Mahwah Township Public Schools. They have been so pleased with the installation that there are plans to continue integrating additional features as funds become available, including an annual budget for additional cameras and expansion of both Omnicast and Synergis to all campuses. Mahwah’s initial security concerns have been addressed, and now Mr. Rosa can look to the future and plan for additions to this base in order to keep the system current and one step ahead of the district’s dynamic and evolving needs.
“Genetec’s Security Center is an excellent fit for school systems because it covers everything you can possibly need, without requiring full feature commitment up front,” said Mr. Rosa. “Schools require the ability to purchase features piecemeal as funds and need arise, but only a unified system like Genetec’s will allow all newly acquired devices and features to dovetail precisely when the time is right to bring them to the table.”