Since its founding in 1885, the Greater Wichita YMCA has supported south central Kansas by offering programs and activities that focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Today the organization serves over 300,000 people annually—including about 200,000 members—through nine branch locations, two sports centers, a camp, and a community center in five cities across three counties.
Brian Pond, CIO and VP of Technology, manages a team of IT professionals that ensure compliance from and support the needs of 1,600 staff members working in various disciplines across nearly 1.5MM square feet of spaces including gyms, studios, early education centers, pools, water parks, cubes, and offices. When he joined the organization in 2015, he found the existing surveillance system to be inadequate—managing system requests and footage use was time consuming and ineffective. Brian, committed to the Y’s mission including financial diligence, began the search for a better solution that wouldn’t break the budget.
“There was a certain proficiency we developed after using DVR systems for a long time, but retrieving footage was still far from efficient.”
The incumbent system had a complex DVR systems deployed that only Brian and his team could navigate to retrieve footage so all requests, from any source or priority level, had to go through the IT team. The time required to access and identify requested incident footage could take hours with more time required to isolate, export, and share the needed clip. “Whether you ended up burning a CD, DVD, or jump drive, it was a highly mechanical process,” Brian says.
“With the old system, we were required to convert video clips to a standard, readable format before we could share them externally. With Verkada, it takes seconds—we archive the clip, then share it via SMS or direct link to whoever needs it.”
Replacing the cumbersome DVR systems with Verkada cameras was affordable and has proven its value. Brian and his team spend less time searching for, exporting, and sharing clips. “The ability to scroll over any frame and see a time lapse of thumbnails allows me to review hours of footage in seconds,” Brian shares. With this approach, the team can quickly pinpoint where specific incidents occur, then playback footage from the corresponding time frame.
For the first time, the organization can provide appropriate colleagues access to footage and, with minimal training, have them use the simple, instinctive platform to search and pull needed footage for themselves. “It’s a win-win,” Brian explains. “The staff is in control, managing footage at each of their respective facilities. This has given me and my team the opportunity to reprioritize how we’re spending our time.”
Challenge: Limited Use of Surveillance
“The camera system failed to do the one thing it was expected to do—provide my team with easy access to usable footage.”
Under the legacy system, Brian and his organization were only using footage retrospectively and when needed - to investigate incidents like slips, trips, and falls. There wasn’t a streamlined way for staff to do more.
“We wanted to broaden our usage of video security, but there was no way the system we had in place could help us get to a point where things like strategic monitoring of general spaces was realistic,” Brian recalls. “Our system should provide additional ‘eyes’ on our large, open spaces - gyms, parking lots, exteriors and grounds and so on - but it wasn’t practical or realistic to ask staff to monitor those areas after hours or when not in use.”
“Verkada cameras have completely redefined the role of video surveillance at our facilities. We’re able to provide value to our visitors and team members now in ways we never thought were possible.”
With Verkada cameras installed in the Greater Wichita YMCA’s facilities, Brian has worked with team members at each facility to identify ways to include proactive video security management into daily operations. For example, Brian streams live feeds of the designated “pick-up” and “drop-off” areas of a location’s hourly Kid Zone Drop-In Nursery to a single wall display in the fitness center - allowing parents to enjoy their work outs know their children are secure. The staff also benefits from those streams - to see those coming and going, to see how the staff is doing, and to look for ways to improve. “Our staff is able to address any issues quickly—sometimes even before they become issues,” Brian says. “It’s transformed the approach we take to ensuring safety at these sites, and it’s cut down on both the frequency of issues and our response time to them.”
As an organization admin within Verkada’s platform, Brian scales these efforts by giving staff site admin rights. That allows managing staff to truly make the system a tool in how they manage their own facility. They can access in-site footage (live and recorded) whenever and can configure displays of camera feeds to their preference. Brian and his team provide support including resolving issues and special requests but they, otherwise, focus on other projects that benefit the organization.
Challenge: Tradeoffs Due to Budget Constraints
“We needed an affordable solution that offered HD resolution and an easy way to manage our cameras. At best, the vendors we evaluated offered either affordability or a solution that’d give us what we’d need, but not both.”
In an attempt to simplify footage management and make reviewing footage more convenient, Brian’s team invested in an expensive cloud-based camera system. “We were in an odd situation. Our NVR system cameras provided HD image quality but using those images was a pain. The switch to cloud-based cameras greatly improved the process of ‘using’ the footage but the cost of the transition only allowed us basic, 720p video. That meant it was easier to find content but the quality was worse - which is a tough trade off in some ways, ” Brian recalls.
“It feels like Verkada has delivered double the value at half the price. Instead of choosing between the things that matter to us, we have everything we’d expect of a modern video security solution.”
Unlike other cloud-based camera systems, Verkada’s solution affordably offers the ease of access and the quality of images Brian’s team needs without forcing them to choose one or the other based on price. “By utilizing Verkada’s fisheye cameras, I’m able to cover more space in our facilities with fewer cameras - that allows us to truly see everything happening while lowering the cost of hardware,” Brian shares.
“The best part of Verkada is the multitude of benefits. We’re able to centrally manage cameras for all sites in one, cloud-based platform. We can access footage from any desktop or smart device with app connectivity. We can share access within our organization with quick acclimation for new users. We have high quality images and fewer cameras. We have more time, as a team, to focus on areas other than camera security and surveillance. We’re saving money on all of the above. The ease, quality, and affordability of this solution has been great for us and makes sense for any team with similar challenges and requirements to manage surveillance across several locations.”
By introducing simple, intuitive, streamlined surveillance and improving how footage was found, reviewed, and shared - all in one solution, the Greater Wichita YMCA has invested in a scalable, dynamic system without having to sacrifice time, convenience, budget, or the security demands that require the system.
“Having found a video security system that reliably meets the needs of my team, our larger organization and those who depend on us, and that will continue to grow with us - while not taking money and resources away from our real focus - serving the community - is a great feeling.”
To learn more about how Verkada’s surveillance system offers a seamless, easy-to-use solution for non-profits - like the Greater Wichita YMCA - request a demo today.