Philadelphia Charter School Turns to Samsung Video Surveillance Cameras to Secure Renovated Facility

A local integrator was selected to manage the design and installation of an IP-based video surveillance system that includes almost 130 indoor and outdoor megapixel cameras.

The Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School (PPACS) is a K-12, tuition-free, public charter school whose mission is to make the arts the catalyst for learning as students are primed to successfully meet future academic and social challenges.

SLIDESHOW: Philadelphia Charter School Megapixel Video

PPACS opened its first school in South Philadelphia in September 2000, and has added two more locations in the last three years as a result of the large number of students that have applied to the school. Because the first of these newer locations – situated across the street from the original PPCAS building – had previously been a school, preparing and moving into the building was relatively easy. That process has been a bit more complicated with the most recent building PPCAS acquired, a high rise located downtown that formerly housed the corporate headquarters of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. 

Acquired in 2013, the eight-story, 260,000-square-foot building is in the final stages of its conversion from corporate offices to an educational institution. Because of its sheer size, which makes it impossible for staff to be everywhere within the facility, and its downtown location, it was clear that the school would need to install a video surveillance system. When investigating its options for that system, PPACS found that GlaxoSmithKline had left behind a number of surveillance cameras; however, much of the cabling and wiring had been cut when the company exited the premises. As a result, PPCAS determined that the best approach would be to discard whatever remained of the previous surveillance system and start from scratch with an all-new system.

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The school chose Access Security Corp. of Warminster, Pa., to handle the design and installation of the system. PPCAS Director of Facilities & Security Tom Corosanite, and Daniel Cogan, Access Security’s president, reviewed blueprints for the renovation and discussed specific areas throughout the building where video coverage would be needed to determine the number and location of cameras.

“The goal was to have as many cameras as our budget would allow at the time to try to cover as much of the building as possible, and being in one of the many high-profile buildings in Center City, we also wanted to secure the perimeter of the building,” Corosanite says.

Access Security works with a lot of schools, each one of which is unique. But this particular project, Cogan says, presented several challenges, particularly given the school’s parking garage and location.
“Most schools don’t have parking garages, allowing for open space around their buildings,” he says. “But this is a downtown high rise where anyone can walk right up to the doors, creating a real challenge with securing the perimeter.”

The sheer size of the building also contributed to the difficulties Access Security faced.

“They have eight stories to secure, so we reviewed everything very carefully. We paid special attention to the stair towers and made sure they had general surveillance of the garage – those were our biggest concerns in designing the system,” Cogan says.

After reviewing all the information about the building and listening to the wants and needs of the school’s administration, Cogan decided that Samsung Techwin cameras would be the best fit based on camera quality, the ability to work with a variety of VMS platforms from multiple vendors and competitive pricing. For interior cameras, Access Security deployed Samsung SNV-6013 1080p vandal-resistant mini-dome network cameras and Samsung SND-6084 1080p interior dome camera with varifocal lens. The external cameras are Samsung SNV-7084 3 megapixel vandal resistant outdoor dome cameras. Video from all cameras feeds into a single custom NVR equipped with 30 terabytes of storage to allow video to be retained for 30 days.

“As important as it was to have cameras outside, it was also imperative to have the capability of going back a month from when an incident happened. Sometimes people will say ‘I saw this’ or ‘I saw that,’ but to have the whole perimeter of the building covered was as important as watching the children inside,” Corosanite says.

The combination of leading-edge Samsung cameras and the flexibility to expand the video surveillance system as needed in the future were also major considerations when choosing components.

“We wanted to make sure they had a system that was going to last into the future, and that was really going to give them everything that they needed for the life of the school, which is going to be many, many years,” Cogan says.

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