Exploring the benefits of video and audio intercoms
- By Bruce Czerwinski
- November 01, 2017
KEEPING STUDENTS SECURE IS A
TOP PRIORITY AT CONGREGATION
BETH JACOB’S PRESCHOOL AND
RELIGIOUS SCHOOL IN REDWOOD
CITY, CALIF. RECENTLY, THE FACILITY
INCREASED ITS ABILITY TO HANDLE
EMERGENCIES RANGING FROM A
STUDENT MEDICAL PROBLEM TO AN
HighCom Security Services, an Oakland,
Calif.-based integrator, oversaw the security
upgrades, beginning with a complete risk
assessment. The first addition was a facilitywide
security camera system.
The 12 Digital Watchdog surveillance cameras
(four PTZ and eight fixed) monitor the
parking lot, school entries and views of the
street in front of the facility. Monitors in the
congregation’s main and school offices let staff
members view live video.
Soon after the cameras were installed, the
congregation’s board of directors asked High-
Com for suggestions on better securing the
perimeter, as well as improving emergency
communications and procedures.
Rody Rosenbaum, director of HighCom’s
security systems division, created a solution
letting the congregation keep exterior doors
locked at all times, manage visitors and
improve communications. The plan was
largely based on video and audio intercoms
from Aiphone Corp.
With the project now completed, fences
and gates guide visitors to a rear parking lot
and a double-door entry to the main facility.
An Aiphone IS Series video intercom is
mounted just outside the door.
“Congregation staff members access the
building by entering codes into a keypad near
the door,” Rosenbaum said. “Visitors, vendors
and parents push a button on the video intercom
to get the attention of office staff.”
There are four intercom master stations in
the facility; one on the congregation’s executive
director desk and another on the receptionist’s,
as well as two more in the common
areas of the main and school offices. Each station
includes a 3.5-inch color LCD monitor
and handset allowing office personnel to see
and speak with visitors. The stations remotely
unlock the door once a visitor has been
approved for entry.
Audio intercoms were also installed to link
classrooms to congregation and school offices.
“Before we finished the project teachers
needing assistance had to leave the classroom
and walk to the office,” Rosenbaum said.
Wall-mount handsets were installed in all
12 classrooms. Teachers can use the unit
hands-free. Cat-5e cable links the handsets to
the master station, which also powers the
audio intercom system. Each classroom—and
the social hall and kitchen—also have panic
buttons. Pushing the button generates a prerecorded
message heard throughout the facility.
It contains a code phrase generating an
immediate lockdown without overly frightening
students. Rosenbaum said the buttons
were placed under a clear plastic cover similar to those covering fire pulls so they couldn’t be accidentally pushed.
HighCom ran into a tricky problem during system installation.
Existing conduits between the main office and the school were nearly
full of cable for the cameras and other IT connections. That left no
room for cables from all classrooms to the intercom’s master station
near the main office. Tearing out ceilings and walls to run new conduits
would have added costs and delays.
Rosenbaum said HighCom solved the problem by running the
classroom cables to a room station control unit located in the school.
From there, only one cable was needed to connect to the master station.
The project stayed within budget and was completed within 15
days—including staff training.
The intercom system, with the addition of Aiphone speakers and
horns, lets congregation staff share emergency messages throughout
the facility, including the school play area, two patios, front entry,
sanctuary, social hall and main lobby.
Eric Stone, Congregation Beth Jacob’s executive director at the time,
said the new system met the goals set by the board of directors.
“Teachers, parents and congregation members have all responded
very favorably to the system and entry procedures,” he said. “The mere
existence of the system increases their sense of security and well being.
It’s very easy for people to understand the system and to grasp its
importance without raising unnecessary fear.”
Stone said the door entry system is used daily, but the emergency
features have been practiced only during training and drills. Previously,
those monthly drills required a congregation staff member to
walk door-to-door to get classroom participation. The intercom system
now allows simultaneous announcements.
Greg Sterling, the congregation’s past president and who still maintains
responsibility for facility buildings and grounds, said the added
video and audio intercoms have provided the tools and related procedures
for responding to an emergency. In addition, the investments
made security a higher priority and integral part
of the congregation’s day-to-day tasks.
“Emergency communications and procedures
are now imbedded in our daily operations,” he
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.