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The aims of surveillance system in a school
The crimes that take place in schools are usually petty in nature, like thefts of clothes or other personal belongings, extortion of small sums of money, bullying of younger students by the older ones. But the number of more serious offenses, including battering and the crimes connected with pushing drugs also becomes a growing problem. Many people understand that even best educative measures cannot solve the problem of violence in schools. One of efficient methods of improving safety in each school is CCTV surveillance system, undoubtedly reducing the number of incidents.
The recorded events may often be the only evidence as the witnesses usually don't want to "testify" against their schoolmates, in fear of rejection or of their own safety. Aside from improvement of security, CCTV monitoring helps to protect the school infrastructure and equipment against vandalism, the plague of majority of contemporary schools.
Diagram of video surveillance system in a school
The principles
Both education authorities and the firm designing and implementing the project should realize that this kind of extensive building/s with many of rooms and large adjoining areas, as well as financial limitations, will strongly condition the range and precision of the system. First of all - it should ensure general inspection, and only several important locations will be equipped with devices allowing for precise identification of persons.
What to monitor and how?
First of all, the observation must include all possible entries to the school area. The equipment employed in that locations should ensure unambiguous identification of entering persons. The cameras have to be put close to the entrances or be equipped with lenses having large focal length. It will guarantee that the recorded material will give detailed information on appearance of everyone who enters the school, including foreign persons that may be potential perpetrators.
Corridors and cloakrooms are the next places where cameras are indispensable. The cameras should be placed as high as possible - it guarantees wide area of observation (without blocking view of one person by another as the places are often crowded), and helps to protect the cameras against damaging.
Corridors are often long and narrow - the case requires a number of cameras. They should be arranged the way that each camera sees the next one (e.g. they are placed at two opposite ends of the corridor). It will enable recording of possible attempts of destroying the cameras.
The most arguable issue, whether cameras should be mounted or not, concerns washrooms and toilets. From headmaster's point of view those rooms are extremely exposed to vandalism and various excesses. They are often considered by students to be smoking rooms.
Taking it into consideration, most of schools mount CCTV monitoring in there. The monitoring provides viewing of the main part of the room, but the inside of the cubicles is excluded from observation. Such monitoring fulfills the task (it is even possible to uncover a smoker, due to soaring smoke) and does not invade privacy. The level of surveillance should be consulted with parents (e.g. acting in parent-teacher association).
In those places there are used smaller dome cameras, e.g. M10772 and M10754 (IR). Similarly popular cameras are models with viewing angle adjustment, e.g. V-CAM 450 M10749, without the need of changing the lens.
Vandal-proof Dome Camera: V-CAM 540 (550 TVL, Sony Super HAD II CCD, 0.01 lx, 4-9mm, IR)
Dome cameras v-cam 430 M10754 in vandal-proof housings are well prepared for work inside schools
Vandal-proof Dome Camera: V-CAM 540 (550 TVL, Sony Super HAD II CCD, 0.01 lx, 4-9mm, IR)
v-cam 540 M10752 dome camera with viewing angle adjustment
The area that should also be monitored is surroundings of the school, i.e. playground, sports fields, swimming pool, parking lot, or other places frequented by young people.
Because of limited number of cameras and big monitored area, the role of monitoring is usually to give a general view of the area, without possibility of precise identification. To improve the basic level of usefulness, it is important to employ color system, increasing precision of recognition.
"Secret weapon "- dummy cameras
A vital element of every surveillance system, especially of this kind, is the psychological aspect. The mere thought of being watched makes the people behave correctly, in a cultural way. This fact should be used for "intensification" of visual existence of the system with a number of dummy cameras, mounted in less critical points. This popular method of discouraging potential offenders significantly lowers the cost of the whole installation, but is really effective when the dummies are realistic - the ideal solution requires visually identical items to those being operational.
Choice of cameras - B/W or color
As mentioned, color images ensure much better effects as regards a general view and the identification of people.
On the other hand, B/W cameras are more sensitive and simpler to adapt to night observation (they can work in dark areas).
Lower sensitivity of color cameras is usually not a problem in the cases where the space is illuminated at night with artificial (visible) light. The second demand, i.e. night observation in total darkness, is really an advantage of B/W cameras, due to their spectral-response characteristics and use of IR lamps enabling discreet viewing of dark areas.
There are suitable color cameras that switch at dusk into B/W mode and gain sensitivity. So they may be used for monitoring with IR lighting, like the cameras U-CAM 630, M11192 and SN-BXC0586DCN(II), M11207. The cameras are ideal tools for surveillance of playgrounds, sports fields, parking lots etc.
Day/Night Box Camera: SN-BXC5930CDN (D-WDR, 650 TVL, Sony Effio-E, ICR, 0.03 lx)
Color day/night camera M11209 Sunell SN-BXC5930CDN is an ideal device for outdoor applications
Majority of offered cameras are equipped with electronic iris control, changing their sensitivity depending on current lighting conditions. The cameras are capable of working with moderately changing light, e.g. inside a building, with the use of cheap lenses without regulated diaphragm. However, cameras operating outside a building should be equipped with lenses with Auto Iris function, allowing to obtain good quality images even in extremely changing lighting conditions, from sunlight to complete darkness.
The appearance and placement of cameras
Due to the character of the monitored places (young people having a lot of energy), the cameras may be exposed to accidental or intentional damages. To restrict direct access to a camera, it should be mounted as high as possible, with the use of an additional housing that will prevent anybody from manipulating the device. There should be employed solid brackets, insensitive to e.g. ball hit, made rather of metal, and not the cheap, plastic cup-and-ball joints. Ceiling dome cameras should be vandal-proof, with high-impact polycarbonate housings.
Example of traditional housing - the cable can be easily cut
Signal distribution
Designing CCTV monitoring system, one has to choose the way of powering the system and transmitting video signals.
Cameras may be supplied with 12 VDC, 24 VAC or even 230 VAC. Low voltages ensure high safety level, but cause problems with voltage drops in long cables.
As regards video transmission, the traditional wired system ensures higher reliability and resistance to interferences. The special all-in-one CCTV cable CAMSET 50 75-0.59/3.7+2x0.50 M6050_1 includes coaxial cable for video and two additional wires for powering the equipment.
CCTV cable CAMSET 50 75-0.59/3.7+2x0.50 with two power wires
Selecting the place for monitoring station and the size of monitors
Monitor/s is/are usually installed in the lodge and often in staff room and front office of the school. It is important to choose monitors with adequate diagonal. When the monitor is used only occasionally, for reviewing the recorded material, a 12"-15" screen will be sufficient. In the case of live monitoring performed by the operator in a screen division mode, the monitor should have at least 20" diagonal.

Viewing and recording
Nowadays the standard way of recording video material is digital recording on hard drives. The digital video recorders (DVRs) for educational institutions should have multiple channels. Modern DVRs allow access to the video data via LAN or the Internet.
Generally, it is recommended to employ 16-channel DVRs, even if the number of cameras is currently lower.
ULTIMAX - the market leader in digital CCTV recording
Choosing a DVR, it is important to think about the purpose of CCTV installation: quick access to reliable, quality recordings. DIPOL recommends ULTIMAX/HIKVISION DVRs. Aside from 24-month warranty the user gets the opinion of the experts: a prestigious award of Intertelecom 2008 - Gold Medal for the Best Product.
The Gold Medal for the Best Product of Intertelecom 2008 for ULTIMAX-716 DVR
Depending on the series and model, there are available DVRs with different number of channels and various recording parameters. The simplest model - Hikvision DS-7204HVI-ST/E M71041 - has only four channels. For use in schools we recommend DVRs of 4xx series ( M74080 and M74160) offering unrivaled quality/price ratio, or more advanced models of 6xx series ( M76080, M76160). To meet high requirements in some countries, it is indispensable to employ the top-class DVRs of 8xx series ( M78080, M78160), or SIGNAL DL-83xx ( M78308, M78316). These DVRs are capable of recording video in 4CIF resolution (704x576) at 25 fps, from 8 or 16 cameras respectively, using hard drives of total capacity up to 16 TB.
An economical solution for small schools is the TREND family: M72504, M72508, M72516. These devices are characterized by stable performance, ease of use, possibility of remote monitoring. Each model is capable of recording video in 4CIF resolution at 6 fps per channel.
All ULTIMAX DVRs perform advanced functions of:
  • motion detection - economical use of disc space
  • assigning access rights - up to 32 users
  • alarming in the case of video loss - tampering, covering the camera etc.
  • IP network operation - remote viewing, playback, notification etc.
In the case of large systems - when there is a need to install over 16 cameras - the next DVRs will create a uniform system managed by the software for ULTIMAX/HIKVISION equipment - iVMS4000. The images from any chosen cameras can be viewed on many client computers.
The DVRs use the latest video compression - H.264, both for recording and network transmission. They are easy to operate due to intuitive menu in English and some other languages and comprehensive user's manual.
More on the modern equipment in:
DVRs of the world's leader - HIKVISION/ULTIMAX.
Portable DVR Camera: PROTECT 501 (LCD, MPEG-4, SDHC/MMC)
ULTIMAX-HIKVISION DS-8116HFI-S - the successor of the Ultimax 716 which was the winner
of the prestigious award - "Gold Medal of Intertelecom 2008" for the best product
Portable DVR Camera: PROTECT 501 (LCD, MPEG-4, SDHC/MMC)
SIGNAL DVRs M78308 and M78316 are capable of recording high resolution images at fast frame rates
Portable DVR Camera: PROTECT 501 (LCD, MPEG-4, SDHC/MMC)
The TREND 250x16 M72516 DVR is an economical option for small schools
Another way of video recording is provided by systems based on dedicated cards mounted in regular personal computers (PCs). They ensure high flexibility of system configuration and easy access via LAN or the Internet. For this purpose there is available 16-input Geovision card with software packet.
Digital surveillance systems based on PC cards cooperate with PCs fulfilling given specifications. Any card has to be installed in the system, which is usually quite simple due to plug&play feature and user-friendly concept. It is important to check the system before connecting any devices in order to proof its stability.
The advantage of these systems is possibility of updating the software, just by loading its new versions which are usually successively available on the manufacturer's website. It allows to improve operation of the CCTV system and add new functions that are desirable by installers and users. But due to popularity and stability of DVRs - 90% of installation companies (and their clients) choose that stand-alone equipment.
School surroundings: sports fields, playgrounds, parking lots etc.
Outdoor cameras are often installed on street lamp posts. The posts enable easy access to 230 VAC power line - there may be used housings with heaters powered by 230 VAC. Such a housing accommodates a 12 VDC camera and its AC/DC adapter. The adapter can also supply other installation components such as video transmitters/transformers, video amplifiers, wireless transmitters.
Using 230 VAC power network it is indispensable to obey safety regulations, including grounding of the housings.

The outdoor set consists of:
M5406 - outdoor Marathon housing MH-806/12 (with heater and thermostat that guarantee proper operation of CCTV camera in changeable weather conditions),
M5142 - Marathon bracket MH-610 for outdoor housings,
M11209 - color day/night camera SN-BXC5930CDN (without lens),
M2135 - Jensen lens: 2.8-12 mm, F1.4.
Outdoor Camera Housing: Marathon MH-806/12
Camera Bracket: Marathon MH-610 (for outdoor housings)
Day/Night Box Camera: SN-BXC5930CDN (D-WDR, 650 TVL, Sony Effio-E, ICR, 0.03 lx)
CCTV Lens: JENSEN 2.8 - 12 mm DC F1.4
Marathon housing M5406
Marathon bracket M5142
Color day/night camera SN-BXC5930CDN M11209
JENSEN lens M2137
Swimming-pools, kitchens and canteens (rooms with high humidity)
For this kind of rooms there have been designed cameras equipped with hermetic housings, compliant with IP 68, IP67 ingress protection ratings. Some of the cameras can even work in immersion up to 30 m.
The suitable models include M11280, M11270, M11249, M10245 - they are prepared for operation in high humidity, but not in water.
A limitation of the cameras is often a ban on exchanging the original lenses - it would simply void the manufacturer's warranty. But such action will not be needed in 90% of cases - the original wide-angle lenses are just what is required.
Compact Outdoor Camera: Sunell SN-IRC4920AJ (day/night, D-WDR, 600 TVL, Sony Effio-E, 0.08 lx, 2.8-10mm, OSD, IR up to 40m)
Vandal Proof Camera: v-cam 500 (D-WDR, 650 TVL, Sony Effio-E, 0.05 lx, 4-9mm, OSD)
Outdoor color camera Sunell SN-IRC5920AHLDN M11280
Vandal proof color camera M10772
Corridors, cloakrooms and the gym
The cameras in these rooms may be exposed to higher temperature changes, dust and malicious actions of some students (e.g. changing direction of operation, or even trying to destroy the device). For that conditions, the ideal solution is provided by vandal-proof dome cameras, like color cameras M10739 and M10737, mounted directly to the ceiling or wall.
Vandal-proof Dome Camera: SN-FXP3200MIR (550 TVL, Sony Super HAD II CCD, WDR, 0.1 lx, 2.8-11mm, IR)
Vandal-proof Dome Camera: V-CAM 412 (420 TVL, Sony Super HAD, 0.01 lx, 3.6mm, IR)
Vandal proof color camera M10790
Vandal proof color camera with IR illuminator - M10746
The cameras are easy to mount and maintain - it is enough to wipe their domes. Due to closing of the camera and lens inside the dome, such camera ensures discrete observation - it is difficult to notice at the first sight the direction and angle of observation. The cameras enable choice of lenses, so they may be adjusted to the job. It may be utilized e.g. in the case of monitoring long corridors, where large focal length of the lens will be indispensable for ensuring identification of persons.
Notice! It is always important to specify the needs and methods of their accomplishment in the designing process - 12 questions for those who plan to build a monitoring system:
A short CCTV guide for investors and developers
Hybrid CCTV networks
Once unattainable, largely because of the high price, IP video surveillance becomes a regular solution. Although the system consisting only of IP cameras is still relatively expensive, the application of IP cameras in several key points, such as the main entrance (face identification), courtyard, parking lot (number plate recognition), is an investment that pays off.
The general recommendation is that hybrid network should be based on equipment and software from the same company. Both the DVRs and IP cameras from HIKVISION can be managed by a dedicated, high-quality software, which is described in the article Network applications for security systems and remote monitoring: iVMS4000, NVR Server, Stream Media Server - powerful and free. All these applications are free. The software library is designed for Windows. It can support up to 50 devices, which is completely sufficient even for the largest schools. The video data can be stored on the same computer that is used for managing the system and live monitoring, or on another, arbitrarily located server.
Installation of video surveillance system with recording capability in a school increases security levels, and improves working conditions for the staff and learning environment for the students. It lowers the number of incidents and minimizes devastation of school infrastructure, so it is very cost-effective venture. Simply it saves money that would be needed for repairs and renovations and this way guarantees the return of invested resources.
There has been noticed tremendous improvement of safety in schools where some cameras were installed, and the process of installing video surveillance systems in educational institutions is just accelerating in many countries. The current systems are often extended and improved to meet higher requirements for better control of school environment and safety.
Professional video surveillance of schools - cooperation with the city monitoring system. The most effective solution is combining of school systems with the city system (especially the parts covering external areas). So far, such systems are still rare, mainly due to organizational problems. More on this subject in the article Video surveillance solutions to cities
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