School District Increases Safety and Reduces its Carbon Footprint
South Carolina schools install a system of video surveillance cameras that operate in low light, allowing a “campus blackout” strategy to deter vandalism and save energy
- By James Marcella
- April 01, 2018
The Rock Hill School District in South Carolina was looking
to upgrade its video surveillance system while aligning
with its efforts to save energy. Sustainability is an
important part of the overall strategy in Rock Hill
because it not only saves taxpayer money, but also reduces
the school system’s carbon footprint. Toward this end, Rock Hill
Schools employs a full-time energy systems manager, Kim Melander.
“With every project, we measure the energy consumption and
report to school board and administration,” Melander said. “We’re
always looking for the best application with best efficiency.”
A team of Rock Hill administrators determined that a “campus
blackout” approach was effective in deterring crime and saving energy.
“We worked with local law enforcement, school administrators, our
energy manager and our safety director, looking at technical solutions
for our campus,” said Anthony Cox, deputy superintendent for the
Rock Hill Schools. "It turns out that the requirement to keep lights on
all the time to deter crime is actually somewhat of a myth. A lot of
research says that keeping the lights turned off will lower the crime
rate in an area.”
SEEING CLEARLY IN THE DARK
The quality of video footage on a dark campus can be an issue. While a
blackout policy may reduce crime, it also decreases the effectiveness of
traditional surveillance technology to identify perpetrators. Thus, the
challenge for Rock Hill was to find a video surveillance system that
could operate effectively with high image quality on a dark campus.
Axis Communications’ Axis Lightfinder technology enables surveillance
cameras to produce high-resolution, color images in extremely
low light. Incorporating a CMOS sensor with exceptional light sensitivity,
cameras that offer Axis’ Lightfinder can deliver sharp, clear color
images in as little light as 0.18 lux (and sometimes less).
“Getting a clear visual image, being able to capture that person’s
face and send it to school administrators for identification, that works
perfectly to identify the perpetrator,” said Kevin Wren, director of risk
security emergency management for Rock Hill Schools.
“The system that had the best crime-deterring capability was also
very good with sustainability,” Cox said. “Safety is first but efficiency is
also very important for the taxpayer. Every dollar you’re spending on
the operational side, you’re not spending on the academic side. We
very much want to keep our cash in the classroom.”
In environments with extreme lighting challenges, Rock Hill
Schools can still use less LED lighting to meet their efficiency goals.
For these areas, the security system uses Axis Optimized IR embedded
on PoE cameras. This allows the IR illuminator capabilities inside the
camera to draw from the same power source while enhancing image
usability in near complete darkness. Without it, the system could need
additional illumination that would require more energy and could
reveal the camera’s field of view to potential intruders.
In addition to providing video surveillance, the access control system
in Rock Hill sends alarms when doors are open for an extended
period of time or if a gate hasn’t been closed. A technician can remotely
access those cameras, see who’s opening the door and determine if a
response is necessary.
Approximately 1,000 cameras from the AXIS P-Series and M-Series
were installed throughout the school system. A large majority of the
cameras were dome models, which offer a panoramic view of the surveillance
area. Many of them feature day/night functionality that provides
high-resolution color imagery during hours of darkness.
“We’ve gone from two dozen cameras at our secondary schools to
hundreds of cameras in an integrated system that allows us to keep
tabs on our campus, keeping our students, parents, staff and our community
a little safer,” Cox said.
IMPROVED SAFETY WITH SIGNIFICANT
COSTS AND ENERGY SAVINGS
By installing a system with Lightfinder technology and OptimizedIR,
Rock Hill Schools was able to maintain its “campus blackout” approach
without sacrificing safety and security. In fact, the security of the school
buildings has been enhanced, with a lower number of incidents reported.
At the same time, the school system realized significant electrical
savings and reduced its lighting budget.
The Rock Hill School District has 27 schools and several support
buildings. In terms of lighting costs, Melander estimates that the campus
blackout policy can save approximately $3,500 for an elementary
school, $7,000 for a middle school and up to $10,000 for a high school.
In addition, all security equipment is designed to
be as energy-efficient as possible, further augmenting
the school district’s policy to maximize sustainability
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.