As one of the largest school districts in California, the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) recently installed its first district-wide IP video surveillance system. Connected to five Orange County police departments, the system is designed to prevent petty crime and protect lives during an active shooter scenario.
Before the upgrade, AUHSD lacked a centralized video security system that would allow administrators to prevent, monitor and investigate incidents on campuses. Ongoing occurrences of theft and vandalism were financially impacting the district.
In addition, parents and staff members were increasingly concerned about active shooter incidents happening at other schools across the country.
AUHSD expanded and upgraded its existing security infrastructure with a campus-wide solution using Hanwha Techwin America IP security cameras and DDN storage servers, plus new fencing at all schools with strategically placed perimeter sensors — all integrated with the Milestone XProtect Enterprise open platform video management system (VMS) for easy monitoring, prevention and incident investigation.
Local law enforcement and Orange Country Public Safety have direct access to all the cameras and the VMS during emergencies.
New System Leads to Drop in Crime, Increased Safety
The Milestone VMS was selected based on a range of included features, ease of use, devices supported, technical support, performance and cost evaluation. The new video surveillance system has helped administrators monitor and address campus vandalism and graffiti, thefts, student fights and other potential threats faster and with greater ease.
When an incident occurs, administrators can quickly access the VMS and review the security footage to investigate the event. The use of Hanwha cameras has helped identify when and where vandalism and theft are occurring on campuses. With proper evidence, restitution may be possible.
“As we were installing cameras, the schools were getting images of vandalism and even images of golf carts being stolen,” says Jason Beardsley, vice president of the Security Division of HCI Systems, an Ontario, Calif.-based systems integrator that installed the security system. “It was phenomenal to see how many issues the system recorded, which will help the district to combat vandalism and theft.”
District Opts for a Centralized Video Surveillance Solution
The Anaheim Union High School District is a public school district serving portions of the Orange County cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, and Stanton. The district office oversees 21 schools spanning 46 square miles across 20 campuses, including eight junior high schools, 10 high schools, two alternative education schools and one virtual school.
Responsible for the safety of 29,000 students and 3,000 employees, the district is among the top 10 largest employers in the city of Anaheim.
Located south of Los Angeles, the suburban school district had one school shooting in 1989 at Loara High School in Anaheim where one student was injured. Since then, the district has mainly had issues with theft and vandalism, including graffiti and destruction of property.
Despite its student population size and geographic expanse, AUHSD only had a few surveillance cameras set up with DVR-based systems at a handful of campuses. Starting in 2014, the AUHSD community actively began the process of hardening their security infrastructure to better prevent and protect against future school attacks.
“Some of our schools have an open layout where the campus is fairly open to the public. This led us to explore ways to make our campuses safer,” says Erik Greenwood, chief technology officer at AUHSD. “In addition to a centralized security system, we also put fencing at all of our schools.”
To keep schools safe, AUHSD has focused on a number of measures, including deploying the video surveillance system, establishing lock-down procedures, and providing safety training guidelines for a potential active shooter incident.
The district does not use metal detectors or employ school resource officers (SROs), but they plan on integrating their existing ID badge and gate access control system into the VMS in future security installation phases.
Cameras Immediately Address Incidents After Installation
Funding for AUHSD’s $2 million security system came from the voter-approved Measure H bond passed in 2014, which provided $249 million for facility improvements on school campuses. The installation, which began in 2019, was completed in 2020 just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and temporarily closed school campuses in California through mid-2021.
Working with HCI Systems, AUHSD installed Milestone XProtect Enterprise to provide a consolidated video management system at the district office’s IT department. Velesea, a server distributor based in Irvine, California, installed a 1.4 petabyte DDN storage solution with 12 pre-racked and pre-loaded servers. The VMS retains video content for a 30-day period. In addition, approximately 1,450 Hanwha Techwin America QNV-7080R 4MP Network IR Vandal Resistant Cameras were installed.
The video surveillance system was installed ahead of time and on budget, even after a few design iterations to expand camera coverage to eliminate blind spots. More importantly, as the system was being installed, it immediately began capturing incidents at the 20 campuses. One area of continued unwelcomed activity was occurring at the recently installed pool at Anaheim High School.
“Once this brand new, beautiful pool was put in, we had alerts that people were jumping the fence to go swimming,” said Greenwood.
Now school authorities are able to respond quickly if anyone has gained access to the pool after hours. In addition, based on concerns from the school community, fencing was added to all campuses with strategically placed perimeter sensors, including a boundary sensor at the new pool.
For future expansions, AUHSD will continue to identify blind spots and high traffic areas that require more camera coverage, as well as perimeter sensors for assets such as the maintenance yard.
Solutions Helps Prevent Vandalism and Theft
The district initially installed 1,250 Hanwha Wisenet Q Series cameras throughout the school campuses in entrances, exits, exterior restroom doors, staff work areas and in general meeting areas. As schools began using the VMS system, AUHSD added an additional 200 cameras to expand coverage and avoid blind spots in campus surveillance.
The cameras capture sharp images in dimly lit areas, improving campus security at night. With its vandal-resistant features, the camera domes can easily be cleaned or swapped without replacing the camera.
The VMS’s consolidated view of all the cameras across the district helps improve response time to threats and incidents because administrators can precisely locate trouble spots and security breaches on campuses. Interactive, multilayered maps provide a comprehensive overview of cameras and layouts of the entire surveillance installation, allowing quick detection of trouble areas.
The camera navigator increases visual verification — whenever a school administrator views a camera feed, nearby cameras are automatically displayed on screen, making it easy to switch between cameras to follow a moving object in different directions. This also helps to authenticate evidence of vandalism, theft or other potential incidents of violence on campus.
“The features are robust, so it’s fairly easy to go in to review footage, to playback and to export,” said Greenwood. “It’s a straightforward, reliable system.”
School administrators can quickly review footage of incidents by using the VMS’ instant playback to view recorded video for one or more cameras. With smart search, an image can be searched for motion by time, creating thumbnail images for fast delivery of evidence to authorities.
“The VMS also gives us the ability to better manage the cameras in terms of giving the appropriate people the appropriate permissions to only the cameras they need to see,” says Greenwood.
The VMS uses Active Directory, making it simple to manage user rights for many aspects of the system, including control of privileges and camera actions, which helps protect student privacy.
In addition, Greenwood found that Milestone’s licensing was favorable compared to other companies with its automatic online activation of system and camera licenses. The VMS gathers all camera information and automatically requests the corresponding licenses online, enabling faster deployment as newly added cameras are fully functional during a 30-day grace period.
“It’s definitely an additional tool in our belt to be able to potentially resolve issues where we have video footage if there’s some type of vandalism going on,” says Greenwood.
System Helps First Responders During Emergencies
In terms of active shooter response, the hybrid on-premise VMS uses a Cloud mobile server so that Orange County Public Safety and the police departments that serve the five cities located in the district boundaries can access the system during an emergency. With video sharing, law enforcement can view live feeds. Getting critical data to first responders is important when it comes to preventing or protecting lives during campus incidents.
“We worked with the resource officers for each one of those departments to keep them involved,” says HCI’s Beardsley. “Giving them the knowledge of the cameras’ strategic locations will ultimately make their job safer and also give them more investigation ability.”
In an effort to help first responders during a potential active shooter incident, AUHSD also uses the Sobel Group’s TSG 360° at Anaheim High School, Katella High School and the North Orange Continuing Education Campus. This legacy digital campus mapping system stiches up to 16,000 individual images into high resolution 360° images, giving the Anaheim Police Department digital eyes on campus.
Onsite Training Helps Users Learn New System
“Our goal was to make the district as effective and self-supportive as possible, right from the beginning,” says Greenwood. “On the plus side, the district has not needed to hire additional staff to manage the VMS.”
An important component of the video management system involved Milestone’s ability to provide on-site user training. Milestone certified instructors provided detailed training and instruction for about 100 school administrators, security professionals, and IT personnel.
On school campuses, site administration, including principals and assistant principals, are the primary VMS users. At the district office, business directors have camera access to view facility operations.
For example, the transportation director has a view into the bus yard. The purchasing director manages the warehouse with a view into the warehouse dock and the surrounding area. Using the VMS, the food service director oversees delivery vehicles. The maintenance and operations director has camera access to all campuses to manage the repair of buildings and landscapes.
District Collaboration with Vendors Is Critical
The collaborative partnership that AUHSD has built with Milestone, Hanwha and HCI has played a critical role in the school’s security system success.
“For me, the big takeaway is the human element,” says Greenwood. “We installed the new system, and now we have the partnership going forward to help us continue using this system successfully.”
Dave Nieweg is community program manager for Milestone Systems.
This article first appeared on SSI sister publication campussafetymagazine.com.