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9.22.21 – SSI –  Scott Goldfine 

Three recent deployments — spanning a school, port and transit — are spotlighted to help security pros prevent terror tragedies. 

From manufacturers to distributors to wholesale monitoring providers to specifying consultants to installing dealers and integrators and beyond, all parties playing a role in the commercial and industrial market’s electronic security supply chain have the ability to make a difference where it comes to delivering solutions that harden targets against acts of terror. This spans access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance life-safety systems and beyond. 

Read on to learn more about how schools, transportation, ports and military facilities are being better protected against the post-9/11 threat of potential evildoers. 

School District Takes Emergency Preparedness to Next Level  

In Belmont, N.Y., as the decades-old PA system at Genesee Valley School District’s K-12 building continued to struggle, technology director Jeff LaBenne began looking for a replacement. He sought not just an even swap, but something much more robust and feature-rich to satisfy the evolving communications needs of the school.

The administration had recently secured funding for a capital improvement project, so the timing was ideal to explore options for a more advanced and effective campus-wide communications system.  

“Security preparedness has become an increasingly important facet of school communications, and IP-based solutions are leading the way,” says LaBenne, who keeps a close pulse on new technologies that help provide safer, more productive, learning environments. “When I looked at a replacement paging system with additional IP-enabled clocks, it got expensive quickly. The alternative, IP endpoints with speakers from AtlasIED, that could also display the time, plus play audio for both paging and bell schedules, turned out to be a more affordable option.”  

Another benefit: the IPX family of IP endpoints could utilize the school building’s existing Ethernet network to derive power and distribute audio and video.  

“Because we wouldn’t need to get power to every IP speaker location, placement would be easier and more flexible,” LaBenne explains. “Speakers that required new cabling would have made the project much more costly and laborious — plus we’d be missing out on some of the useful features bundled into AtlasIED’s IPX Series endpoints.” 

LaBenne spent a few days outlining the school’s communications needs, identified complementary software from Singlewire to manage the messaging, and plotted positions for a variety of IPX Series endpoints in classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and more. AtlasIED weather-resistant, vandal-proof IP speakers were selected for exterior spaces, ensuring that critical announcements are heard during recess, football games and other outdoor activities.  

The IPX family of IP endpoints integrates seamlessly with existing Singlewire communications software running on a Cisco server, so all it took for the school district was some further licensing to introduce additional security and communications features to the new IP network.  

The IPX built-in flashers and display enhance school communications further. For example, flashers on each endpoint can illuminate in red to convey an emergency situation — with or without any audible messaging. To simplify emergency communications for staff, LaBenne programmed one-button activation of prerecorded messages for situations including shelter-in-place, lockdown, lockout and all clear.  

IP endpoints streamlined emergency communications at Genesee Valley School District.

The AtlasIED/Singlewire pairing also allows delivering routine, nonemergency announcements, including bells throughout the school day. The Singlewire software allowed LaBenne to group-specific speakers and IP endpoints together and create a bell schedule for each zone. The schedule can be modified and audio zones altered to reflect events like an early, campus-wide dismissal due to inclement weather conditions.  

The solution’s colored-coded visual messaging enables the school to more effectively communicate events — red for emergencies, green for routine announcements, for example. At a glance, students and staff understand the nature of the message, enhancing safety protocols and procedures dramatically for the school district.   

In all, more than 200 IP speakers were deployed throughout the 230,500-square-foot building and several outdoor locations. In hallways, dual-sided IP-DDS endpoints were selected to allow students to see and hear messages no matter which direction they were walking.

Surface-mounted IP-SDMF endpoints with integrated flashers, meanwhile, went into most classrooms, offices and gymnasiums. To deliver audible messages to restrooms and stairwells, LaBenne used IP-SM speakers, and for outdoor areas, some existing analog speakers were replaced with IP-HVP speakers. 

For the few existing outdoor analog speakers that remained, LaBenne employed a gateway that converts digital audio signals to analog so they can relay the same audible notifications as the IPX endpoints. From corner to corner, top to bottom, the entire Genesee Valley School campus is covered. 

Pennsylvania Turnpike Sharpens Its Imaging 

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) has 80 Autodome IP starlight 7000i cameras from Bosch as part of its most recent modernization efforts that replaced analog roadside cameras used to monitor traffic flow and conditions.

Installed on 50- to 80-foot poles along the turnpike, the cameras help employees in the PTC’s Traffic Operations Center fulfill their mission to quickly identify roadway incidents, disseminate information to the public and dispatch the appropriate resources to provide a rapid response to customers in need. The new HD cameras provide the center with higher quality images, especially at night. 

The PTC manages and responds to traffic over its 552-mile roadway system, which typically serves 500,000 customers each day. The PTC’s mission is to provide a safe, reliable, customer-valued toll road system that supports national mobility and commerce. 

Signal Service President Ryan Brown (left) and ITS Director
Stephen Dowdall at the site of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s recent video surveillance upgrade

Needing a technology partner, the PTC selected traffic control and management solution provider Signal Service Inc. to implement the system upgrade to Bosch Autodome IP cameras, which are designed for intelligent transportation system applications. The cameras are NEMA TS2-rated for transportation environments and offer H.265 compression to reduce bandwidth consumption.

Signal Service worked with the PTC’s networking consultant to ensure the cameras would meet stringent data security and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compliance requirements. 

Upgrading the infrastructure to IP enabled the PTC to eliminate the need for video encoders and to use PoE midspan injectors, resulting in reduced maintenance requirements and costs for the system. Signal Service also replaced the camera lowering technology from MG Squared (MG2) to install the latest MG2 Category-6a Ethernet lowering devices. The development of additional video analytics capabilities will be important as the partnership moves forward. 

“The project was completed on time and on budget,” says Stephen Dowdall, director, Intelligent Transportation Services (ITS) for Signal Service. “Through accurate planning and working closely with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, we finished the project in a timely manner despite challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The IP cameras integrate seamlessly with the PTC’s recently upgraded video management software — Genetec Security Center. This integration also supports advanced features of the Autodome IP cameras, such as built-in intelligent video analytics. 

Seaport Upgrades Video to Manage Critical Operations 

The Port of Oakland near San Francisco is the fifth busiest seaport in the United States and a vital driver of economic activity on the West Coast. The port recently upgraded its mission-critical Transportation Management and Emergency Operations Center (TMC/EOC) to oversee traffic flow, improve maritime operations and provide a safer, more secure maritime area. 

The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland Seaport, Oakland Int’l Airport and nearly 20 miles of waterfront including Jack London Square. Since its founding in 1927, the Oakland Seaport has served as the principal ocean gateway for international containerized cargo shipments in Northern California. The Oakland Seaport oversees 1,300 acres of maritime-related facilities serving a local market of more than 14.5 million consumers. 

The role of the port’s TMC/EOC is to manage complex transportation logistics, control traffic and provide 24/7 security monitoring. Its multifaceted functions encompass improved situational awareness throughout the port and all perimeter zones; monitoring freight activity; collecting and disseminating transportation data; communicating and collaborating with interagency and port partners; disseminating traffic flow and wait time status to truck drivers; tracking incoming and outgoing vehicles; coordinating intermodal freight shippers; and monitoring local rail traffic.   

The goals of the upgrade were to improve freight movement and logistics efficiency, along with ensuring awareness and resiliency in the Oakland Seaport area. To achieve these objectives, the TMC/EOC deployed a state-of-the-art video wall powered by RGB Spectrum’s Galileo video wall processor. The solution was selected for its real-time performance, ability to support a diverse variety of disparate digital and IP-based signal sources, and its 4K image quality. 

The Port of Oakland Transportation Management and Emergency Operations Center upgraded to a video wall to improve operations and ensure 24/7 security.

The Galileo processor receives an extensive range of inputs. They include conventional and infrared surveillance cameras, intrusion detection systems, digitized map data, traffic sensors, news feeds, local TV broadcasts, interagency communications, road condition data, weather information, RFID truck sensors, truck queue feeds and traffic incident information. The processor consolidates this vast volume of critical visuals and data to provide a centralized, correlated view on the video wall.  

These sources are displayed in windows of any size, anywhere on the TMC/EOC’s expansive video wall. Operators can instantly switch input sources, choose customizable, preset display layouts, and pan and zoom to view items of particular interest. Operators collaboratively view this information for assessment, analysis and decision-making. The result: better decisions, faster. 

“The TMC/EOC’s new video wall system helps improve the port’s maritime operations and provides a safer, more secure maritime area,” affirms Port of Oakland Director of Maritime Bryan Brandes.