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 second of three additional Q&A blogs I talk with Mark Wellman, president of Detroit-based integration firm Camtronics, about other aspects of the All Saints project and security funding challenges for schools.
What stands out as a unique aspect of the All Saints project?
Mark Wellman: The commitment between the school, the administration, the teachers. Everyone has one thing in mind and that’s saving lives, be it children or faculty or guests or parents, whoever is there at the school, it’s to protect lives. There didn’t seem to be any concern about empiring or about the school administration — just totally open-minded about whatever needed to happen they were committed to. We had very unique opportunity to fine-tune the two top requirements of alleviating delay and expediting response so that this team effort of the school and police could be coordinated much simpler than it was in the past. Nothing to say against 911, that’s a huge benefit, but to let the police dispatchers know instantly when a pull station was pulled was huge. The process was very simple but very open. There seemed to be a lot of commitment to looking at this objectively from all angles. It was a very educational process for my company and we really appreciate being involved in it. We put together the design and implemented it which gave us kind of creative control over how the system went in and how it was tuned to the customer’s needs.
To what extent did funding constraints dictate what was deployed?
Wellman: Funding was a consideration. There was no doubt about that. But in some cases that funding — the design simplified the funding. We took some very basic approaches to distributing information and alarm signals and monitoring throughout the school that saved money and cut down on the technology requirements.
Going through the process, did you have to coordinate or work with any types of consultants, facility managers or others?
Wellman: The people we worked with were the principal of the school, the school board and law enforcement. That was a very rewarding process from my side. The police reviewed all our designs. We really embraced their input and observations and guidance when we designed the system.
Do you anticipate adding anything or additional features to the All Saints system in the future?
Wellman: We’re always reviewing it. We’re always trying to be a step ahead and out think whatever that threat might be. It’s wide open right now and we’ll always be expanding on it. It might not be a technical expansion. It might be a protocol adjustment, how things are handled, notifications. Right now we’ve had contact with some other school boards and districts who are rethinking their deployment. It’s kind of exciting. You hear them coming at the table or on the phone talking about we tried to do it in-house and it doesn’t work well, we need to get something like what All Saints has.
Obviously funding is a big challenge in most cases. Are there ways that you can help these schools with flexible financing?
Wellman: Yeah, we have leasing and we also have what we call a starter approach. If you can’t do everything, do some of it. The awareness factor that this system brings out in the case of a threat is huge. The teachers and protocols are such that it doesn’t require you to investigate, doesn’t require the teachers to figure out what’s going on. They institute the protocol. Wherever that can be quickly and efficiently throughout the school is a huge advantage in delaying the threat and the next is connecting to the police department. The police cars area always on the move, always in the area. They’re well aware of the response time. We just need to let them know a lot quicker than we are.