An Education Connection
With a staff of more than 2,000 people and an annual operating budget of $360 million, Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services (Eastern Suffolk BOCES) provides a variety of support for K-12 schools in Long Island, New York.
“It could be things such as the schools’ IT support; we can host their computers and their servers; we can help out with test grading and professional development for their staff,” says Ryan Ruf, associate superintendent for management services at Eastern Suffolk BOCES. “And there are dozens and dozens of other services that we provide to public schools.” There are 51 school districts, called component districts, that the organization serves.
Located in 37 different buildings that Eastern Suffolk BOCES either rents or owns, the organization puts a priority on security to protect the wealth of sensitive student and school information that it houses.
“Since the safety and security of our students and staff are our number one priority, we have the responsibility to deploy proven integrated security technology systems to achieve this goal,” Ruf explains, noting the organization has turned to several vendors to make up a network of cameras, access control, and visitor management systems to maintain security.
“There are hundreds of cameras installed throughout our locations that are available on a platform where we can view them remotely,” Ruf notes. Most cameras are from Axis, and the video management system is by IP Video.
Access control is another priority for the organization, says Ruf, who notes the growing number of active shooters in educational environments. “Not that many years ago, most school buildings on Long Island, in New York state, and throughout the country were open—parents could walk through the front door, drop off a lunch for their kids, and leave,” he explains.
But now that the situation has changed, Ruf says Eastern Suffolk BOCES is staying on top of the security threat, with the ability to lock down buildings remotely and control which staff members have access to which buildings.
“When you’re a big agency such as ourselves, and you have daily transactions with staff coming and going….you need to have the ability to control that,” he says. This includes shutting off access for an employee who no longer needs it or going through the proper protocols when someone resigns, he adds.
Eastern Suffolk BOCES also uses a visitor management platform from Raptor Technologies, which allows front desk employees to quickly process anyone wishing to gain access to the building by running their state-issued identification. Eastern Suffolk BOCES also built security vestibules in its lobbies, holding areas of sorts, where visitors must wait while their IDs are being processed.
“Raptor does a background check, and cross-references the ID with the sex offender list. It also records certain key information for us in case we needed to find out who was in our building at any particular time,” Ruf says. If everything checks out, a temporary ID is generated for the visitor.
A+ Technology & Security Solutions, Inc., is the integrator that installed and manages those security platforms for the organization, and monitors their health to perform any repairs that may be needed. “That way, if an incident does occur, things are working well soon after,” Ruf says. “We don't necessarily have the people power to walk around and check everything out every few hours and make sure everything is operational.”
While the technologies it has installed greatly improve its security posture, Eastern Suffolk BOCES took its ability to handle serious threats like active shooter to the next level when it signed up for a pilot program with A+ Technology and the local police department. Since December 2016, it has given Eastern Suffolk County Police headquarters access to its surveillance cameras in an emergency.
To connect its cameras to police headquarters, Eastern Suffolk BOCES built a fiber optic cable network that can be tapped into should other school districts want to leverage the same fiber in the future.
“With this new Ethernet line, we would be able to just route those individual component districts back to Suffolk County Police,” Ruf says, “and we view that as the next step in this program.”
When an emergency call comes in—whether it’s for an active shooter or another type of threat—police can automatically pull up the camera feeds from the location where the incident is occurring. From there, law enforcement can direct first responders with real-time information based on what the camera shows.
Ruf notes that many of Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ buildings are large, and possibly difficult to navigate for someone who isn’t familiar with the layout. “This way, police already have an eye inside of our building that's talking to the [first responder], directing them to the northeast corner of the building, or the south of the campus,” he explains.
Eastern Suffolk BOCES is part of the larger pilot program in Suffolk County facilitated by A+ Technology. The technology company has worked with other schools and businesses to install “tens of thousands of cameras” that connect to police headquarters, according to David Antar, president of A+ Technology.
“The system leverages something called the C3fusion by IP Video Corporation, which takes many disparate sources of information and brings them back to a common operating picture at police headquarters,” says Antar.
With such a large stakeholder community, Ruf says Eastern Suffolk BOCES benefits tremendously from having a one-stop-shop for law enforcement to view its cameras.
“There are 51 component districts. We can’t have 51 different systems that police are looking at, it has to be one uniform system,” Ruf notes, “We think this A+ solution is the one that makes the most sense.”