The December issue of SSI features an exclusive case study of the unique video surveillance and lockdown solution at All Saints Catholic School in Canton, Mich., that directly alerts the local police command center for faster, potentially lifesaving response time. In putting together the piece, I spoke extensively with the integrator, school principal and lead police officer. Here, in the third of three additional Q&A blogs I talk with Kristen Strausbaugh, principal of All Saints Catholic School, about other aspects of the project and what she gained from the experience.
How much did price and budget play into the All Saints School project?
Kristen Strausbaugh: It’s a price issue all the time for us. We don’t receive any money from the state. We’re tuition based here at the school, so we don’t even have a parish that provides a subsidy. So we went ahead and worked it into the budget. Part of it was worked through a capital-expenditure piece. Then some of the materials were put into a lease system so it wasn’t an upfront cost — or rental system, so it wasn’t an upfront cost.
What types of training and practice runs have your faculty or folks onsite undertaken as part of the new security solution?
Strausbaugh: At our staff meetings at the beginning of the school year we usually have a series of three to four days of training before school starts. One day was specific to emergency procedures and drills. We go over that information and when we’re doing the actual practice drills this current school year, we’re actually making our teachers and pull stations throughout the building to they get used to what it feels like, that you have to pull hard, you don’t have to worry about thinking you’re going to break something. At this point we’ve only done one practice lockdown drill. We had a couple of teachers that thought they were going to break it so they didn’t pull it. We’re documenting all of that, and then we always do debriefing. We have different forms we fill out after every drill we do to kind of identify someone left a door open, or if a light was turned on. We document all that information. If there was a teacher that wasn’t able to pull their station we document that piece so the next time we practice again we can identify those and talk about it as a staff and make sure they have another chance to practice. Our staff does an excellent job with keeping kids calm. We have different things within each of the rooms so the teachers if they’re going to be in there for 15 or 20 minutes, they have books to read with the kids or things to keep the children occupied so they’re not worried about it. They do a good job of focusing on the kids in that situation.
Do you have any signage up in or around the school or do you let the cameras do the talking?
Strausbaugh: We have the cameras and we do a lot of communication with our parents. We have our parent volunteers within the school, which is extremely high, and our parents talk. They’re seeing the cameras but there’s also a lot of back and forth about the system in place. We haven’t really done a marketing campaign to kind of get it out. When we have our end-of-the-year or back-to-school meetings, we kind of highlight where we’re at. But that’s really the extent of it.
What about other types of issues in and around the campus; do you have vandalism or theft or thing like that?
Strausbaugh: Probably two or three summers ago we saw an increase with issues of vandalism. Our back playground area is wooded and backs up to a subdivision behind us. Before we had the actual cameras to cover those areas it was an area where kids could pull up and not be seen from the main street. We had a couple issues again two to three years ago with some of our screens in the windows getting slashed or damaged. We had a couple of kids climbing on the roof and things like that. Luckily we haven’t had issues in the last couple of years, but that was one of the reasons we talked about adding the camera system as part of that security.
If an incident like that occurred now, who would be the one to go back and review the video and try to figure it out?
Strausbaugh: We work with our integrator and certain people on the admin staff also have the ability to go on and see things. There are certain people in the building, if one of the sensors goes off in the building, an alarm goes off during the night, there are certain people at the school that are notified and can usually get on their computers and look at what’s happening in the school based on the sensor that went off and looking at who’s in the building.
Do you have any other upgrades planned besides this particular project?
Strausbaugh: At this point, because when we were working with Canton Police, that’s when we also had the cameras installed within the building. So when the building is not in use after school hours, the security system includes cameras, sensory detectors in all of the classrooms, a door alarm system so if anything was opened or glass breaking we also have sensors for that. That’s a piece that we’re notified on our end if there’s a situation at the school and we determine if we’re going to contact the police to go look at it.
What are some if any additional system features you’d like to see in the future? I don’t know if you can do this or not but maybe alerts going to parents’ smartphones, for example?
Strausbaugh: We don’t. That was something because when we were working with the police department, kind of talking about — we’re always practicing but we’ve never actually had a real situation. That was one of the things we said, if there was an actual situation, from the police end, how do you contact parents and all those specific things. That’s something we’re still kind of working with. The Canton Police have said depending on the situation, kids might physically be moved from our location if it’s going to become like a crime scene, and they’ve talked about having a central location. They did talk about the need for us to be able to contact families but it’s not something we’ve tied into that system at this point.
How much did you learn during this process?
Strausbaugh: A ton, it’s something that we really rely on here at All Saints, finding people who are experts in their field to get us to where we need to be. My background is education and counseling and leadership, so when it comes to finances and building security it’s been wonderful to have parent volunteers and people come forward that really know the systems they work with, and can really support us and make sure we’ve got the best in place for the kids.