While devastating, damage from Hurricane Maria provided the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico the opportunity to invest in modern improvements, such as installing a centralized and efficient perimeter security system for its 856 public schools. Post-hurricane, Puerto Rico’s Department of Education detected an increase in intrusions, thefts and assaults within educational institutions, when much of the island’s infrastructure was destroyed.
Before the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s Department of Education lacked a centralized security system that integrated an overview of all its public schools. There were disparate installations of video surveillance equipment (cameras, alarms and lighting), but only in approximately 250 of the schools. Annually, the cost of the security system (including the guard scheme) amounted to approximately $25 million, covering only 250 schools and leaving almost 600 schools unmonitored.
After the hurricane, PR’s Department of Education decided to give top priority to providing perimeter security for all schools, and thus created a centralized and effective command center. Utilizing the same annual budget of $25 million, it sought a video surveillance system that would give 100% coverage of all public schools on the island. Genesis Security Services, Inc. was the company chosen for this challenge. In October 2018, the project execution and installation began.
Genesis created the Genesis Central Station, located in the municipality of Carolina. Video data from all schools is now sent to the Central Station, where it is managed with Milestone Systems XProtect® Corporate Video Management Software (VMS). Furthermore, Genesis created virtual gates with cameras that, in addition to protecting school spaces, also ensure the safety of substations and solar panels, which are important assets for the school. Thanks to the VMS, Genesis can easily find any important video recording from any school and send it to Puerto Rico’s Security Commissioner, who also receives alerts directly through an application on his mobile phone.
Approximately 10,000 DH-Vision Uniview 4-megapixel cameras were installed in 856 schools (an average of 12 cameras per campus). Axis Communications audio speakers and a range of Optex sensors were also integrated. The combination of these technologies makes it possible for each school to have an anti-intrusion system with its own alerts. With Milestone Interconnect™, security personnel can easily monitor critical and remote areas from the central station. This reduces the need for local security personnel since it connects remote sites at a lower cost and increases the quality of the surveillance.
By July 2019, the project was completed, and since it has been in operation there has been a 97% reduction in intrusions. In addition to protecting the schools, the audiovisual material captured by the surveillance system helps other Puerto Rican government agencies to evaluate and manage areas for public use and investigate incidents. For example, video technology helped dispel problems of theft of property by employees and, more importantly, helped reduce rates of physical assault and bullying among students.
Finally, it is important to note that many of Puerto Rico’s schools are in “hot spots” on the island. The new video surveillance system is helping the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office resolve cases that occurred in these more problematic places contributing to the well-being of the community. These results have helped build trust and confidence among Puerto Rican families when they enroll their children in public school.
The full article written by Joel Griffin, Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com, appeared in the November 2020 issue of Security Business on pages 38-39.