Indiana School Districts Integrates Communications to Improve Situational Awareness, Security
Tuesday, April 28, 2020 | Comments
An Indiana school district found itself open to security vulnerabilities because of a number of outdated and disparate communications networks. A move to a more integrated communications system has helped the district improve its security and situational awareness.

Throughout its daily operations, the Perry Township School District in Marion County, Indiana, noted several weaknesses in its overall communications infrastructure. The school district in the Indianapolis metropolitan area serves 16,700 students; employs 2,020 staff; and operates more than 23 school buildings. The district also has its own police force comprised of 11 officers.

The district’s high schools have multiple access points, only one of which is unlocked during the day. However, school officials noticed that throughout the day, several of those sealed access points were propped open by student and staff for various reasons.

“Those vulnerabilities were there, and we couldn’t say with 100% confidence they were secure,” said Chris Sampson, associate superintendent for the Perry Township School District.

High school staff were also struggling with effectively using the video systems at the schools. Video from the cameras were slow and finding specific people or incidents in the video was difficult and time consuming.

To help address these issues, the school district selected the Motorola Solutions Safe Schools platform, which integrated the communications, videos and security systems of the district’s two high schools into one system, allowing the district to improve its situational awareness, increase school security and simplify paperwork.

As part of its new integrated system, alarms on each door are now connected to the district’s radio network. Whenever a door that should not be open is opened, school administrators and the schools’ resource officers receive a radio alert notifying them of the open door, Sampson said. Instead of that access point being open without anyone’s knowledge and posing a security risk, the new system allows school officials to immediately check that door, ensure it is not an unwanted intrusion and quickly close the door.

The integration simplifies the paperwork process by automatically creating a case report when a door alarm goes off, for example. This integration ensures that every incident is documented and that incidents, such as a propped door, which a resource officer may not normally report, are recorded. This automated level of recording allows the school district to track trends and target education about reducing security vulnerabilities, Sampson said.

The new cameras installed as part of the integrated system provide artificial intelligence (AI) that improves the district’s situational awareness. The AI in the cameras can detect unusual movement and inform school resource officers of a potential problem area, said John Zidar, senior vice president, global and enterprise channels, Motorola Solutions.

For issues that may extend beyond the school district’s police force, the system can send an alert to local police and allow outside police forces to use the cameras to help in their response per a memorandum of understanding.

The school district began by deploying the new integrated system in its two high schools because the high school environment best suits the strengths of the integrated platform, said Sampson. Students in high school are more mobile than in middle and elementary schools. Some high school students leave the campus throughout the days, and there are more after-school activities and events.

However, because of the success of the integration, the district plans to expand it to its middle schools. The district also plans to expand the door alarm system to its elementary schools, but will not have the internal aspect of the integration.

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