A school district’s new security management system brings together security, life safety, burglar alarm and building facility needs to ring crime prevention bells.

The Harrison School District 2, located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just south of Colorado Springs, Colo., educates over 11,000 students. Its 23 campuses include 14 elementary, three middle and two high schools, plus four alternative and charter schools.

The district strives to provide a setting conducive to learning. They realize if their students and faculty do not feel safe, the quality of education will be compromised. In recent years, the district, like so many educational institutions since the Columbine tragedy in 1999, has paid even greater attention to how to enhance safety and security in the schools.

Facility management

A couple of years ago, the district passed a measure to upgrade their energy management and security systems in all 23 schools. The district called on consulting engineers, Energy Service Associates Inc. (ESA), to solicit proposals from several vendors. After a thorough review process, ESA president Jim Walsh recommended that the district choose Denver-based Tour Andover Controls’ partner Westover Corp. to install Andover’s Continuum facility management system. The system would provide security video, digital video recording, card access control and energy management for the entire district.

In the first phase of the project, Westover installed card readers on selected school perimeter doors, and the district issued combination personnel badges/access cards to all staff members. The access cards also eliminated costly and recurring re-keying of school locks, which was necessary every time a master key was lost. All building exterior locks were re-keyed as part of the process, but key distribution is extremely limited now.

Continuous digital recording

Next, every school was equipped with a DVR unit from Integral Technologies of Indianapolis. Cameras were purchased for all front lobbies, and surveillance for the exteriors and some interior areas was added in the middle and high schools. Older analog VCRs were upgraded to DVRs and pan-tilt-zoom cameras were added in some secondary buildings.

Today, all perimeter school doors, with the exception of the main front lobby entrance, remain locked at all times. Lobby entrances are unlocked during school hours, but a camera/DVR unit at each school records all activity. Everyone going in or out is videotaped. A monitor in the front office in each school allows the office staff to watch what is going on at all times.

The security system in each school is networked to the Central Administration Building, which monitors all school facilities 24 hours a day. Here coordinator of student services Russ Coomes can call up any of the District’s 100 cameras and view streaming video instantly over the Ethernet network. Searching for a particular security incident is much easier now with a DVR system compared to the time-consuming search process needed with the older analog units. In addition, Coomes and his staff have the capability to view video from a remote location using a standard web browser.


“The new digital video recording technology makes our jobs a lot easier,” said Coomes. “We no longer have to hassle with changing out tapes constantly. The Integral DVR units are recording at every school building 24/7. The peace-of-mind allows us to focus on our primary goal, which is educating our students. Although security today needs to be a constant concern, even a comprehensive management system like Continuum can remain behind the scenes – unobtrusive and noninvasive.”

Soon after the installation of the district’s new security video equipment, the system caught its first thief. A woman had entered three school buildings during lunch hour and stole cash and credit cards from the teachers’ purses while they were at lunch. After reviewing frames of video at the three schools, the staff was able to provide police with a clear image of a woman entering all three schools within hours of each other. It turned out the suspect was a serial thief that had been preying upon elementary schools up and down the Front Range, and always using the same modus operandi.

With any security breach, video clips showing the criminal activity are exported to a CD-ROM and handed over to local authorities for prosecution. The DVR system features a built-in video authentication process, which automatically verifies that stored video data has not been altered since it was archived. This feature is extremely important, in that a video clip must first be proven to be original and unaltered before it can be used as evidence in any court proceedings that may follow.

The system also interfaces to the district’s existing ADT Security Services (Boca Raton, Fla.) burglar alarm system. When an alarm is triggered after hours, the system sends e-mails/pages to the district’s private security company. Upon investigation, a security officer can reset the system automatically by presenting his proximity card badge to a card reader.

The district uses both an electronic lockdown procedure and a wireless panic system to further enhance building security in emergencies. If a security concern were to occur – for example, a school gets word that a wanted individual is in the neighborhood – a staff member can press a button in the front office, immediately locking all perimeter doors and deactivating all card readers. In this lockdown mode, entry into the school is limited to the front door and only after the front office views the person at the door on the monitor. The door can then be manually unlocked from the office by pressing a button.

Key on-site personnel at each elementary school carry wireless personal panic devices that can signal for assistance from anywhere on the school grounds. When pressed, the panic device activates a white strobe light in the front office and e-mails and pages the school’s designated response team. And if a principal finds him or herself in a crisis situation with, for example, a disgruntle parent behind closed office doors, their panic device activates a strobe light immediately outside their office door.

Since installation of the district’s new security management system, building security personnel have reported fewer fights and vandalism. In fact, chronic behavior incidents at one middle school were reported to have nearly ceased in the first year of system operation. Across the district, numerous students engaging in illicit activities have been identified from the digital video.

In addition to security management, HVAC control is also an important part of the system. Before being chosen for the district-wide security project, Westover Corp. was selected to install electrical demand-limiting controls in all of the district’s schools in 2001.

Lower utility bills

In an attempt to reduce peak kW demand and shave electrical usage, the company configured the system using what Andover calls its Plain English programming language to automatically “round robin,” or duty-cycle, the air handling units on and off in sequence. According to Walsh, the demand-limiting program has indeed impacted the district’s utility bills. “To date, on-peak kW savings is $4,975 and off-peak savings is $21,953, for a total of $26,928 year-to-date,” he said. “These savings prompted the district to upgrade all the remaining HVAC equipment to DDC.”

Westover replaced all remaining pneumatic controls with a Continuum DDC Control System in 2001. Today, both the HVAC and the security sub-systems run on the same network backbone, providing the district with a single, integrated facility management solution. The district benefits from one software and hardware package used throughout, simplifying training, service, and day-to-day operations. Plus, with one centralized database, all alarms, both security and HVAC, come back to a single front-end workstation, providing easy access. Password protection on the system allows security data to remain separate from HVAC data. The district’s crisis center has remote operational command of the combined system in an emergency situation.

The installation of the DDC system has made daily facility operations for the district much more efficient. “An equipment alarm from any school in the district will display on the CyberStation workstation, allowing technicians to be dispatched immediately to correct the problem before it affects comfort in the classrooms,” said Bob Praiswater, Westover’s account manager. “Staff and students alike are more comfortable now, and at the same time, the district is reducing their energy bills. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

According to Walsh, ESA is also implementing an interface to a district-wide work order/preventive maintenance CMMS system using Continuum. By attaching alarms to equipment assets, for example a boiler in a specific school, the system will print out a work order automatically to perform routine maintenance, based on hours of equipment operation or equipment failure.