Largely looked upon as safe havens just a few short years ago, school campuses have tragically and distressingly become the scene of multiple incidents involving violence and bloodshed. Whether it's a personal vendetta or act of terrorism, these heretofore hallowed institutions must now contend with this grim reality. These looming threats are additionally magnified at Jewish facilities, where hate crimes are also a major concern.
The latter point was reinforced in May of 2009 when the FBI and New York Police Department foiled the plot of four men to deploy car bombs to blow up two synagogues in Riverdale, N.Y. The temples are located near SAR, a modern Orthodox yeshiva (Jewish day school that provides secular and religious instruction), where congregation members likely send their children.
SAR does not take such risk factors lightly. Maintaining the optimal environment to ensure its students (as well as instructors, administration and everyone else associated with campus operations) remain focused on educational pursuits and their parents enjoy peace of mind is at the top of the priorities list. That's why in December 2008 SAR's stakeholders decided it was time to upgrade the facility's existing video surveillance system with the latest advances electronic security can offer.
Making the most of a grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), SAR enlisted Idesco, a New York-based systems integrator, to design and deploy an IP video solution featuring megapixel cameras. The integrator had to overcome the trials of both nature and man to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
Keeping School a 'Special Place'
Established in 1969, SAR spans nursery (the Early Learning Center), grade school (the Academy) and high school. The school serves almost 800 families and nearly 1,300 students and is one of the largest institutions of its kind in the New York metropolitan area (Westchester County, Manhattan, the Bronx and Bergen County, N.J.).
"This is a well-educated population, with school-aged children," says Nick Fadda, facility manager for SAR. "Their extended families, including grandparents and relatives, are located throughout the metropolitan area, Florida and Israel. We have hundreds of alumni and their families who proudly support SAR. Several area synagogues in the New York metro area, who reach thousands of additional families, are also involved with our school."
According to the school's Web site: "SAR is a special place. Our SAR families would describe that special quality differently. Some might say SAR is special because the open environment perpetuates open attitudes and ideas; others would describe the love and care that every teacher shows to their students; yet others would speak to the building's architecture that makes each student feel part of a greater community."
Preserving the sanctity of this "special place" meant upgrading a 10-year-old analog video surveillance system that augments the campus' fire and security systems. Although still functioning, the video system had become a bit of a relic given technological progress. Specifically, the school sought to improve the efficiency, images, playback, zoom and storage capacity so as to more effectively monitor students, staff, parents and anyone coming onto the property.
"We wanted to secure the school, and get a visual on people who come in and go out," says Fadda. "Our goal was to make it secure for the students because the life of a child is priceless. Additionally, we wanted to protect the property, equipment and computers."
DHS Grant Offsets 75% of Costs
With a clear vision of what it wanted to accomplish from a security and safety standpoint, and having been awarded a DHS grant to help finance it, SAR set about finding the right provider to fulfill its needs. Idesco, an expert in schools (among other clients) and an approved DHS vendor, fit the bill.
"We found out about them through the Department of Homeland Security as one of their vendors that may be used for work done pursuant to our DHS grant," says Fadda. "We contacted them in December 2008."
Established in 1943, today Idesco provides integrated security solutions including digital ID badging systems, access control, biometrics, turnstiles, digital video surveillance and visitor management. Major television networks, large municipalities and prestigious universities (a case study involving the firm's work at Adelphi University appeared in SSI's February 2009 issue) are among the thousands of customers that depend on Idesco to protect them.
"Our customers include schools and universities, governmental agencies, health-care facilities, commercial office facilities and religious institutions, among others," says Idesco General Manager Scott Etess. "Schools/universities and religious institutions have been growing the fastest, with DHS grants to not-for-profit institutions certainly aiding in this recent growth."
After learning about the bidding opportunity through the New York State Office of General Contract, Idesco offered SAR a demonstration at the end of March 2009 and won the contract during the late spring-early summer timeframe.
"The technology was selected after we presented numerous options to the customer," says Idesco Vice President of Strategic Sales Andy Goldstone. "Idesco had manufacturers and their representatives out to the facility to provide the customer with a demonstration of their equipment. We then reviewed the alternatives with SAR and jointly decided on which equipment best met the school's specific requirements."
Given that the area and two large buildings (each an estimated 30,000 square feet) requiring video surveillance was quite sizable, Idesco was mindful to recommend products that would keep costs in check without sacrificing the quality of imagery or safety of those the end user was determined to protect.