Becker Schools Install Hikvision Security Products
This article originally appeared in SDM Magazine.
Like most school districts around the country, officials at Becker Public Schools in Minneapolis were horrified by what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012. Almost immediately after the incident, the district began a multi-step security upgrade. They started with locks and intercoms, but quickly turned their attention to the aging video surveillance system.
“We were really looking to expand our camera system following Sandy Hook,” said Sumre Robinson, network manager for Becker Public Schools. “It wasn’t necessarily to increase the numbers of cameras, but to eventually be able to provide access to the cameras to police in an emergency situation.”
As the network manager, Robinson also wanted to take advantage of the school district’s campus network system and make things simpler for the principals and other staff that would be using the cameras.
“We were looking for internal end user simplicity,” she said. “We wanted our principals, building and grounds directors to be able to easily find what they were looking for without necessarily reaching out to the tech department. We were trying to make them more self-sufficient.”
Robinson turned to local integrator Security & Sound Co. for help in choosing and designing the system. The integrator had already helped them with their intrusion system and was the logical choice to continue with this project.
“We proposed a multiple-phase installation using Hikvision surveillance cameras in order to minimize video downtime and ensure the campus was continuously covered as the transition to complete the IP video system progressed,” said Phil Otto, CFO, Security & Sound, St. Bonifacius, Minn. “Our previous installation experience with multiple school districts, our installation approach as well as the value and functionality of the Hikvision product line ultimately lead to Security & Sound Company procuring the campus-wide contract.”
The school district already had a number of cameras, ranging from analog (many of which were beginning to fail) to IP cameras from another manufacturer. But Otto and the Security & Sound team felt the Hikvision cameras would give the district not only the best coverage, but also the best range of choices that fit within the budget.
“One of the issues commonly found in budget-conscious school district facilities is the lights go out after events and school activities have ended,” Otto said. “We needed a camera line that would not only fit the budget but also provide a crisp image in complete darkness. Hikvision had several IP cameras to choose from that required no light to operate and provide a clear image utilizing built-in IR. There were also a number of design challenges both indoor and outdoor that required a small form factor, vandal-resistant dome cameras, bullet and PTZ cameras. Hikvision has a full range of IP cameras in each of the categories we were looking at.”
In fact, Robinson said the Hikvision cameras were not only better for the budget, they were better cameras than even the newer ones the school district had before.
“It is incredible the difference in the clarity. And we were able to add more cameras than we originally planned because the camera cost was far less than we were expecting.”
The night vision aspect was also an unexpected bonus. This was something the district didn’t specifically ask for, but that added a great deal of benefit, Robinson said.
“As with most schools, the Becker School District had concerns about their parking lot surveillance coverage and video capabilities after dark,” Otto said. “We recommended Hikvision’s DarkFighter line of PTZ cameras in key outdoor areas where evening lighting was an issue but color video was desired. Hikvision’s DS-2DF8223I-AEL 1080p PTZ camera was chosen to cover the parking lots due to its color lux rating of 0.002 and built-in tour and auto-tracking features. The camera’s low-light capabilities coupled with the ambient light from the parking lot allow the camera to stay in full color at all times regardless of cloud cover or inclement weather.”
The installation itself was done in stages and went very smoothly, Robinson reported. “The first stage as far as cameras was to have good visibility on exterior entries. That was our first priority. Security & Sound was fantastic to work with. They configured the design, located the cameras, and did all the wiring. Phase two was upgrading interior cameras that were not IP and expanding coverage.”
Because the cameras were motion-activated, students were literally “disappearing” down the hall with the old system because the motion sensor thought no one was there, she recalled.
Security & Sound had to assign several technicians to accomplish the installation in a timely manner, Otto said. “One of the benefits with the Hikvision product is that the user interface of the cameras is the same regardless of whether the camera was selected from the Value or Professional Series. We worked closely with the district’s IT department configuring and programming each camera individually in order to assign it to a specific role. Our technicians did not have to learn a new interface moving between camera types, which helped us immensely as the installation progressed.”
The user interface also benefitted the IT department, Robinson said, as she has been able to add or move cameras using internal resources to save money.
“Security & Sound installed the cameras, but it is very easy for me to go in afterwards and put a camera in an area,” she said.
The next step for the district will also be an internal process and one that will complete the original mission — to allow police to easily see what is going on at the school in the event of an emergency.
“We are trying to organize the cameras internally so that at a glance they are in a specific order they can see without having to look at a blueprint,” she said. The goal for that last piece is fall 2016, she added.
As for Security & Sound, the integrator remains committed to anything the school district may need as its needs change over time.