Cypress-Fairbanks School

New Construction Leads to System-Wide Video Upg

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A Texas School District Upgrades from Analog to Digital and Takes the Project District-Wide with Vicon’s IP Digital Video Technology.

Cypress-Fairbanks School

The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District is like alot of school systems in the United States: Money is tight, but the need for security is high. But Cypress-Fairba

nks has been luckier than most. They turned to Vicon’s ViconNet IP video solution and have been able to install video systems at all of their facilities. Now, they are completing an upgrade that consists of 114 systems converting to digital video recording by next spring.

As the third-largest school district in Texas, Cypress-Fairbanks will enroll 85,000 students this fall. They have eight high schools, 14 middle schools, 42 active elementary schools, and several administration buildings. Additionally, three more elementary schools are scheduled for completion next year.

In 1997, the school district installed analog video systems with multiplexers. “Every facility has an analog camera system now,” says David Straughan, Director of Security for the school district. However, a few years later, when strong growth necessitated a building expansion, technology advancements became a priority.

Testing, Testing

As new buildings came online, the school district naturally looked to enhance security with the latest technology. That meant going digital. The district then began a two-year search for the right vendor.

Cypress-Fairbanks School“We began checking at ASIS (largest security trade show) once a year to look at products and see how digital was  formatting and coming along,” Straughan says. “We decided to set up criteria and invite all the vendors with products to visit us and demonstrate their product. That was quite expensive and a major undertaking.”

Straughan and his panel (which included himself, technicians, the assistant director and some of the school principals) came up with a list of 14 criteria that any new digital system would have to meet. Among them: Did they like it? Was it user friendly? Did it lock or freeze up? What were the storage capabilities? How many errors did it have? Did it have simultaneous playback and search capabilities? Was the technical support there? Was it standalone? What were the warranty standards? Was there duplex view and record with streaming video?

“We took those 14 criteria and tested 16 different digital recording systems,” Straughan says. “We gave each one two weeks and installed them in three of our schools. At the end of the two weeks, we evaluated their system.”

The whole process took about a year, he says. In the end, Vicon was the clear winner. The next step was to select an integrator to implement the Vicon system throughout their facilities. Cypress Fairbanks issued an RFP in July of 2005. After a detailed analysis by the school district, the project was awarded to Convergint Technologies in Houston, Texas. Convergint Technologies was awarded the project based on their experience with delivering the Vicon solution as well as their successful track record with K-12 installations in the Houston area. Convergint also supports a number of other large K-12 schools in the Houston market.

To date, the district has installed more than 40 of Vicon’s Kollector™  DVRs in multiple schools distributed around the school district.

The Digital Edge

The school district is more than pleased with the choice. “The new Vicon DVR has the multiplexer and the recorder all in one unit,” Straughan says. “We have been able to replace it unit for unit. We didn’t have to reconfigure our system. We just unplug one and plug in the new. We add a data drop line to go through the computer network and it plugs in just like any computer.”

The Vicon system also allowed the school district to keep their extensive investment in analog cameras. “The Vicon product takes the analog cameras and records them digitally. The monitors go from the camera to the computer,” Straughan explains.

This allows assistant principals and key people on campus to review video right from their desktops.

Another significant factor was the ability for the system to use newer, digital cameras. As the security industry migrates to completely digital cameras, it was important to the district that the new system be compatible. The Vicon system allows both analog and digital cameras to coexist on the same system. Since they are on the same system, the operators don’t have to learn a new one.

Cypress-Fairbanks School“We wanted our principals, who aren’t in the security business, to not have to be technology experts,” Straughan says. “It’s kind of like Windows. We found that the Vicon system had point and click and drag operations. It was very simple. In five minutes we can teach someone how to navigate on it, if they already have some computer skills.”

Other benefits included the resolution and storage. “Vicon was one of the highest on resolution,” Straughan says. “It also has great storage capabilities. With 16 cameras, we can get a good two weeks of recording time.”

Still, unless the school could come up with the funding, the only facilities that would have this new and improved video technology would be the ones that were being built.

Going Forward

Like many other school districts, Cypress-Fairbanks is in a financial crunch. Still, they put together a bond package and hoped for the best. “We are a high-growth district,” Straughan says. “We felt this was an important enough issue. We took it to our committees. The principals wanted this type of digital system in the schools. They felt it would enhance security and complement existing systems.”

Voters agreed. “We put on a bond package,” Straughan says. “The voters voted it in this last spring. We were able to get the funding source.” Cypress-Fairbanks worked out the final bids through a request for proposal from vendors that handle Vicon. After final approval from the board, they began retrofitting soon after.

The first digital units came on-line last fall. “Some of our new facilities came on-line last year; then we added on to new ones we’ve opened this year,” Straughan says. “This year we are going to be able to retrofit the remainder of the district. By springtime we will have every building with digital recording.”

What will that mean for the district?

“This is going to be the first year [for digital video] at any of the schools.” However, the system has been in use for a year in the agricultural and transportation centers.

“At the agricultural center we have livestock. If there are any intruders, our dispatcher can make a virtual tour of the facility. If we have an incident, officers can look at the video first. Operators at the transportation center use it to keep up with buses and numbers. Incidents at the bus centers have dropped dramatically.”

“At the schools it will be a good resource. We believe it will increase our safety.” Straughan says that the analog video made an impact in 1997. “When we first put the camera system in, we were losing $100,000 a year district wide due to vandalism and graffiti. Once we put the cameras in, our vandalism dropped to less than $5,000 a year.”

“We believe [going digital] will enhance this system even more and bring it up to where review capabilities are much better.”

Court Admissibility

Soon after the first systems started going in, the district and a neighboring district with the same Vicon system; experienced break-ins. In both cases, recorded video clearly showed the perpetrators activities and was later presented and accepted as evidence by the court.

Very few digital video systems have actually been tested in court. Cypress-Fairbanks recent experience gives them peace of mind that they made the right choice for their current and future needs.

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