Seizing a movement already under way in businesses and government agencies, school officials increasingly recognize the importance of converging their physical security tools on their networks and are doing so at an unprecedented pace.
Campus security has long been a top priority for schools from kindergarten to higher education. At many schools, however, the physical and network security infrastructures are disjointed, comprising a patchwork of separate alarm systems, surveillance cameras, communication systems and radios that cannot interact with the digital, network-connected systems more recently put in place.
But recent national events have revealed the need to improve emergency management planning and systems. Increasingly, Cisco is finding that schools recognize that physical and network security systems should not operate independent of one another. Likewise, pending legislation in the U.S. Congress as well as in state legislatures spotlights the need for schools to update their infrastructures to better coordinate with first responders.
Cisco is helping these schools set up their physical and information technology (IT) systems to achieve the holistic, modern infrastructures necessary to meet campus safety challenges and comply with legislative pressures to modernize their security systems.
Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, sought to model its campus safety systems on those in the corporate world by converging IT with physical security tools. All of BYU’s major campus buildings now use physical access cards connected to the network, and the university recently converged analog surveillance cameras as well as its campus radio system with Cisco IP Interoperability Collaboration System (IPICS) and its IP-based network.
“Before we modernized our campus safety communications, training used to be a nightmare for our emergency dispatchers because they literally had to know more than 70 different user interfaces to transmit information,” said Steve Goodman, BYU’s communications center supervisor. “Now that we’re using the network as our communication platform, the dispatch process is streamlined and efficient.”
At Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., Director for Networks and Systems John Turner realized that it needed a major reevaluation of its campus emergency notification tools. He knew that his investment in Cisco Unified Communications could help bridge some gaps. The first move was to roll out Berbee Informacast, which enables users to broadcast messages to overhead speakers and to displays on Cisco Unified IP Phones across campus.
“We wanted to ensure we used all the tools we had available to us in the most effective way possible; our IP-based communication system allowed us the flexibility to expand our communications reach,” Turner said.
Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Ill., also made IP communications central to its campus safety and communication strategy. College officials deployed SchoolMessenger for Cisco Unified Communications, which supports onsite day-to-day operations and is integrated with an IP communications platform. In addition, they use SchoolMessenger’s Application Service Provider (ASP) solution for additional offsite capacity. This solution is saving the school more than $300,000 over a three-year period compared to traditional security approaches.
“By using SchoolMessenger it took us just 16 minutes to alert 18,000 students that the school would be closed due to bad weather,” said Jack Leifel, Moraine Valley Community College’s chief information officer. “Our system then automated a report of who answered the phone, who received voice messages, and which calls did not go through.”
Grant Joint Union High School District in Sacramento, Calif., won a grant under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Securing Our Schools program to install an IP-based video surveillance system on school grounds. By utilizing Cisco’s Video Surveillance Manager they are able to allow each school’s administration staff and the Grant Police to easily view live and recorded video, as well as to search and transmit images from local and remote locations. As with Brigham Young, Brandeis and Moraine Valley, Cisco worked closely with the school to converge physical security tools with the network.
“The video IP cameras immediately changed our outlook on campus security, and we realized the extent to which we could communicate with faculty, police and students needed to be shared at the district level,” said Joni Jones, senior network engineer at Grant Joint Union. “Now, across our district, authorized personnel are able to access and manage live and recorded video from virtually anywhere.”
At the Campus Safety Conference in Long Beach, Calif., Cisco’s Phylis Miquel, global education solutions manager, and Dean Zanone, public safety account manager and retired sergeant in the Seal Beach Police Department, will discuss the convergence trend at length and make recommendations for how IT can provide more value with services to overcome the limitations of physical safety systems.
“Campus and law enforcement officials understand that physical and network security tools must converge in order to provide the safest environment for students,” said Miquel. “In a converged world, security surveillance footage can be relayed instantly to the relevant authorities allowing them to respond to threats as or before they happen, not hours later.”