Putnam City Schools Rewrites the Lesson Plan for District Surveillance
- By Benjamin Brecht
- July 27, 2022
For Mark Stout, Chief of Police for the Putnam City School District in Warr Acres, Okla., every day is an education in the newest security and surveillance technologies.
With 28 schools and 10 administrative facilities spread across 43 square miles of the Oklahoma City Metroplex area, Stout and his team are continually evaluating the district’s security infrastructure to identify new methods for keeping students, faculty and staff safe.
For the past several years, those efforts have included replacing aging and outdated security cameras with the latest Hanwha Techwin models. As a result, the district is benefitting from a range of new technologies critical for school safety—including artificial intelligence, multi-view and multi-sensor capabilities, discreet form factors, easy deployment, flexible configuration and A/V analytics for effective data-gathering.
The ongoing upgrade has led to a significant improvement in operational performance and efficiency, situational awareness and a noticeable reduction in on-site incidents.
“Our response times are faster, our security procedures are more efficient and we can allocate our resources more appropriately to match the unique needs of each school,” said Stout.
The district’s camera count currently totals about 1,500 Hanwha Techwin cameras, a mixture of P-series AI dome, multi-sensor, panoramic, X-series fisheye and PTZ models. More installations are planned in the future as the district adds new facilities and expands its current venues.
Putnam City Schools has deployed security cameras and access control systems for decades. However, recent rapid growth in the student population, heightened school activity levels and expanded campus footprints made upgrading a critical requirement for effective long-term surveillance.
The district includes elementary schools, middle schools and high schools with a total of approximately 20,000 students and about 3,500 teaching, maintenance and operations staff. Each building varies in terms of age, layout, size, facilities and occupancy, meaning the security systems in place must also vary accordingly to keep pace.
Putnam City Schools is working with its long-time system integrator, Orion Security Solutions, based in Edmond, Okla. “Putnam City's system never sits stagnant,” said Roger Smith, account executive at Orion. “They are always looking to use the newest technologies and stay on top of things.”
The Orion and Putnam City teams meet regularly to discuss potential system weaknesses or vulnerabilities and continually identify new ways to strengthen their surveillance capabilities.
Primary applications for the Hanwha Techwin cameras are exterior perimeter monitoring and general building protection, plus monitoring of main traffic areas including hallways or lounges. Stout noted that less is often more when it comes to security camera placement, and the built-in flexibility of the Hanwha models fit the bill exactly.
“Having the flexibility to choose from multi-view, 180-degree view, PTZ or even fisheye capabilities helps us complete our mission and adjust for each school,” he said.
For example, a camera like the Hanwha PNM-9000—a multi-view, two-lens camera—is an ideal option for effectively monitoring busy areas (like hallway intersections) throughout Putnam City’s buildings without requiring obtrusive or conspicuous ceiling-mounted configurations.
“Being able to cover one large area with one multi-view camera instead of four not only helps us do our jobs more effectively, it also creates a more attractive and welcoming environment,” Stout said.
A Complete Solution
Camera performance is important, but advanced capabilities like AI, attribute detection and intelligent analytics are the keys to building a total surveillance system.
Most conventional camera technologies detect motion based on pixel detection alone and unnecessarily generate events that don’t require a user response.
The Hanwha Techwin AI-based cameras are delivering enhanced attribute detection and analytics combined with deep learning algorithms to counter any environmental factors—such as waving trees, shadows, or animals—that may trigger a false alarm. Now, campus security is only alerted about potentially suspicious or criminal events, reducing false alarms for more efficient operations and targeted data gathering for use in forensic searches.
The cameras are set up to protect and monitor all parking lots used by staff and students, especially in the evening hours and overnight periods. Several district parking lots had been experiencing a rash of thefts and vehicle break-ins, and since the installation of the high-performing Hanwha technologies, the district has been able to reduce the rate of incidents to near zero.
“They had tried red beam detection and other methods to secure the parking area,” said Smith at Orion. “Working together, we came to the conclusion of using the new AI cameras’ human detection capabilities in those parking lots. We were able to cover each parking lot with three cameras, and they have had no incidences of theft since.”
The cameras’ built-in analytics are also used for people-counting to accurately track the volume of people entering or exiting a building, which helps building administration monitor their population on any given day against their attendance records.
The Hanwha analytics are even helping to strengthen district-wide public health and safety through the use of facemask-detection applications.
A User-Connected Environment
The Putnam City School district operates a 24/7 Security Operations Center (SOC) and central command facility, tied by a local area network to each district site. Individual site monitoring can be performed by any officer or any school staff member through their desktop or an app on their mobile device.
The system’s flexible configuration allows school staff and administrators to easily track activity in their facility. Any authorized member can monitor an entire building, especially in areas where it’s not always possible to have an officer present.
“If anything needs to escalate to a law-enforcement level, then they contact the officer that's assigned to the school or our dispatch center, and then we take over from there,” Stout said.
Real Benefits for the Future
One of the district’s primary security objectives was standardization of all new security technologies for device compatibility as well as seamless integration with the Genetec security platform used across Putnam facilities.
Integration with the Genetec platform also allows the district to automatically receive the latest firmware updates for all cameras simultaneously, a key factor for guarding against cyber-security threats by always having the latest firmware versions.
The Hanwha products also offer Putnam City Schools easy and intuitive use combined with easy deployment for interior or exterior installation in any orientation, whether it's on a ceiling tile or the side of a building
Putnam City Schools has several new construction and upgrade projects in its pipeline planned over the next few years. The district always includes some level of security funding in the budget for each new project.
As the district’s footprint grows and its security and surveillance requirements expand, one certainty is that Hanwha cameras will continue to be the cornerstone of any future plans.
“Our approach to campus security is you can't do everything all at once,” Stout said. “You have to build a system, and it takes quite a while if you want to do it right. Ten years ago, we wouldn't have dreamed of ever having 1,500 cameras active during the school day. Now we have that and more as part of a robust and comprehensive security and surveillance system, where everything just works well together.”
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2022 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.