Walk through the show floor at ISC West in Las Vegas next month and you’ll see hundreds of security products peddled by vendors wanting to sell you the “latest and greatest” in security technology. But sometimes, you don’t need technology as much as you need someone to sit down with you and have a frank and honest conversation about what you should or should not install in your enterprise. Then you can talk technology, right? Of course, it all depends upon your situation, your environment and the risks that you are trying to mitigate, but who wants to be sold something that they don’t need or can’t use?

And sometimes you don’t know what you need for security. That’s where Greg Boettger, Director of Technology for Bellevue Public Schools, relies on his relationship with security integrator Prime Communications. Bellevue Public Schools operates 15 elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools in Bellevue, Nebraska. The district has 750 teachers serving 10,000 students. It also has an administration building, a main office, a support center, a transportation building and a health and fitness center that is open to the community.

Boettger’s role involves funding, disaster recovery, security, basic technology, and managing a wide area network. The school district has had an “open door policy,” he says; access control was open. As he saw other school districts moving towards locked facilities, Boettger wanted that as well. Boettger also wanted to store video from the security cameras that are currently installed in the schools. However, funding has been an issue, as the school district is facing a $4.5-million reduction for 2016.

“Basic access control is locking doors, but outside of that, how do you know what you need?” Boettger asks. “And how long do you store video? And then how can we do it on a larger scale? Those are all unanswered questions.”

Jamie Bumgardner, Chief Operating Officer of Prime Communications, Inc., developed a game plan that included access control, video surveillance, video storage and a way to pay for it. It did not include unnecessary equipment or better yet, unnecessary costs. In addition to upgrading antiquated systems they had in place, Bellevue Public Schools wanted the ability to extend their Physical Protection system to the devices they use in their daily lives, which are their mobile devices. They deployed a unified, IP security solution and thus, are not only able to view video on their mobile device via app, but they are also able to receive system alarms, play back video, export video, open doors and modify door schedules throughout the District. The Superintendent of Bellevue Public Schools has the app on his phone, and he uses it to let guests into buildings.  

The system also allows the Belleveue police department instant access to any door. Future plans call for video surveillance from remote locations.

In addition to installation and management of the new security system, Prime Communications staff trained Boettger and his staff, school teachers and administration, including discussions of why the new security systems were needed. “It was a learning curve for parents and staff,” Boettger explains. “The biggest concern was that now school staff have to make decisions on who to let into the school, where as before, they let everyone in. The school secretary now has to make a connection with the person at the door. We were the last school district in this metro area to implement this, and it was a learning curve.

I believe that a lot of security is common sense, and video surveillance can be complacent. Sometimes the best security is having conversations with people and with always being aware. Security cameras can only do so much.    

“And this relationship with Jamie and his team is critical to our success,” he adds. “We wanted to develop a foundation for an integrated and unified security platform, and we didn’t want to be sold on something that we didn’t need.”

Bumgardner says: “We are working with them to prioritize their security needs. There are a lot of guidelines and standards that will help establish the proper security aspects in a school, but you also need to understand the cultural environments of a project.”


Smart Business Decisions

As a retired police officer, Jim McLain of the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) district in Fairfax County, Virginia, relies on his 21 years of experience in law enforcement to help students remain safe. For 13 years, he has been the security coordinator for FCPS, the 10th largest school system in the United States, serving more than 186,000 students and spread across 400 square miles.

FCPS has a uniformed security force that patrols 24/7 in addition to security specialists at the district’s middle and high schools. It also has a security technology group that specifically handles security technology integration and maintenance.  

FCPS recently reviewed its own safety protocols and determined the need for updated, state-of-the-art security and safety practices.

“Our need was applying existing technology to new and older schools,” McLain explains. “Our IT structure is very large, so the security technology team works very closely with our integrator to help us make smart business decisions.”  

Security integrator TycoIS helped integrate all FCPS’s new and existing security solutions into one unified system for 220 facilities throughout the district.

This was a significant change to FCPS’s systems and processes as school security was previously handled by the individual facility rather than by county-wide mandate. TycoIS worked with its manufacturers to design a solution to meet customer needs by compiling various components of commercial devices, ensuring that the new system did not just rely on video surveillance. Additionally, due to the serious need for continuous monitoring and access control, TycoIS and FCPS implemented a system of pre-ordering replacement parts, so maintenance can happen in real-time.

Next on the list is a visitor management system that will issue photo IDs and work with a national database to identify sex offenders. 

SIDEBAR: A Little TLC at the TPA

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is seeing things more clearly these days, thanks to help from security integrator G4S Technology. After 18 months, Safraz Samad, Assistant Director of Security, now has an IP-based video system.

TPA serves Florida’s west coast, Hillsborough County and its city of Tampa. It has been recognized as one of the best airports in the nation by the world in global consumer surveys and is gateway to Florida’s west coast, as well to all of Florida’s many attractions. It has three runways and an estimated 16.8 million passengers annually, and is served by major domestic and international airlines offering direct and connecting flights to all points of the globe. 

The new security project evolved in two phases, with the first phase including installation of surveillance equipment and infrastructure upgrades throughout the main terminal and airside. During the second phase, security cameras were installed throughout the parking garages and emergency telephones were upgraded.

In addition to the video surveillance system, key elements include and upgrade of the airport’s access control system from Software House, and a regionalized storage area network (SAN) system. The 455 IP security cameras added resolutions ranging from one to 10 megapixels. And the airport’s Operations Center was upgraded with a new video display system, workstations and servers. A Genetec video management system provides security staff with an automated alarm notification, identification and verification capability.

At the heart of TPA’s new surveillance system is a video display system. It includes three large-format LCD display walls in the Operations Center and several discrete displays and a projection system in the Command Center. Fully integrated with the VMS, the system encodes discrete video feeds from television tuners, media players and the airport’s train and monorail systems. Overall, the display provides operational intelligence for Samad and his team.

Samad, who has been in the security industry for many years, having previously worked in corporate security and then as an integrator himself, managing a security system for Bank of America, knows how security technology can make a difference in mitigating crime and keeping people safe. He also understands the integrator-security director relationship. “You can’t help but make friends in this industry,” he says. “The staff at G4S have become our friends. They kept the project under budget and gave us a system that they maintain, and they didn’t sell us on what we don’t need. We can tell when people are just trying to sell us something, because we are security people too.”