Simplify School Security: An IT Director Shares 3 Tips

Simplify School Security: An IT Director Shares 3 Tips

Modern video camera security systems make installation easy. With cloud connectivity to store footage and minimal maintenance needs, the requirements to set up and operate a highly-sophisticated surveillance solution pale in comparison to the onerous, complicated options available even a decade ago.

That said, there are still certain best practices and protocols to follow if you want to optimize your camera system and simplify school security.

Jim Carrillo, Director of Technology at Morgan Hill Unified School District, has gone through the process himself when outfitting a local high school. Given the district’s location—just south of Silicon Valley, the epicenter of digital innovation—he is quite familiar with modern devices, platforms and software solutions. But he has actually found that the trickiest aspects don’t center on tech.

“The three tips that I’d like to share are absolutely not from the perspective of technology,” said Jim. “That’s what I learned.”

The following three recommendations come from Jim’s first-hand knowledge, which he shared with Verkada recently during an exclusive webinar.


Always Have a Purpose

At one of the Morgan Hill high schools, cameras were initially set up all around the school to cover the vast majority of the campus. But because they were not located strategically, with enough planning and consultation from officials at the school, they left significant gaps in surveillance.

The initial objective was to simply cover as much area as the budget allowed, rather than understanding where the hot spots were located. “We covered about 80% of the high school,” Jim recalled. “Guess where most of the complaints I get from the principal are? The 20% that we didn’t cover. And that’s because we didn’t have a purpose. We said, ‘We’re just going to try to cover everything.’”

Jim’s takeaway? “When you’re deploying security cameras, start with a purpose.”

In the case of the school, this required re-evalutating the security objectives and led to prioritizing the places where people come and go. After those areas were covered, they realized they could supplement coverage in any areas that became a problem down the line.

“We would like to capture every entrance point so we can validate the people that are coming onto our campus,” he explained. “We’re not trying to cover everything, just the entrance points. The second purpose that we’re going for is to have the ability to put an ad hoc camera to address vandalism and security issues. That’s much more doable.”


Manage Expectations

In a world where everyone has watched CSI and NCIS, people expect a lot. From the very beginning, they presume they will be rolling out a level of video surveillance that really only exists in the realm of a fictional agency. They think they’ll be able to take the footage from any video camera security system and magically say “ENHANCE!” to zoom in with 4K resolution on even the tiniest details in the frame.

“Every single person in your district probably watched the Bourne Ultimatum and they’re expecting your security cameras to be able to support that level of investigation,” said Jim. “What’s the license plate of that person that drove by? Or can I get the fingerprint off the camera?”

While many can just laugh off such absurdity, the inability to play FBI crime scene investigator can be a genuine letdown for some end users.

They may also expect to have someone constantly monitoring footage to catch any inappropriate behavior in real time—so that the authorities can spring into action and take down the bad guy. While there are certainly some highly secure facilities that maintain this level of oversight, for most users, this is neither necessary nor a reasonable expense to take on.

Jim has learned to anticipate these type of questions and fully explain the capabilities and benefits of an enterprise-grade video camera security system. If you manage expectations from the outset, you can head off disappointment and ensure everyone is on the same page.


Don’t Rely on a Single Expert

One other major issue cropped up in the district during the installation. Jim shared that “When we first set up our security cameras, prior to doing any implementations with the Verkada system, we had a subject matter expert—a single person that knew everything about the camera systems.”

This seemed logical. If there was someone who knew the entirety of the setup and the purpose behind it, they would be the perfect person to continue overseeing operations.

But, in the real world, this can cause problems. “Boy, did that get us into trouble,” he conceded. “That person got another job, so then we had to retrain somebody. It put a big halt in the implementation.”

Fortunately, the system was simple and user-friendly enough that training other workers was not a massive undertaking. But this issue could have been sidestepped altogether had they taken an approach that leveraged one of Verkada’s best features: ease of use.

“All of the staff in the IT department and even non-IT-department personnel, like in facilities, can be trained how to use it,” he affirmed. “Disseminate that [training] so that you’re not dependent upon one person. Look for a system that allows you to do that.”


Starting Off on the Right Foot

There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge. While explanations and product overviews are helpful in the lead up to an installation, experienced professionals know that there will always be challenges to overcome.

But by learning as much as you can, and planning for the specific needs of your enterprise, these known pain points can be significantly reduced.

Every organization will experience much better results if they make sure to set out with a purpose, manage user expectations and empower multiple employees to become stakeholders in the overall strategy. When all of these factors are addressed, video camera security system implementation will run much more smoothly.

For additional information on this topic, download the on-demand recording of the discussion. Also check out the Building Effective Partnerships Between Security Experts and Security Vendors webinar for more insight on the state of the industry.