When IT did, in fact, become tasked with overseeing the CCTV systems in all district schools, “We thought, ‘wow. We can’t manage this beast. If we’re going to do this, then we’re going to do it right and start from the ground up and do an enterprise solution,’” Johnson says.
In late 2007, IT put out a Request for Information (RFI). “We didn’t have a clue what was out there,” Johnson states. “But we knew we wanted one unified system; we knew we wanted one manufacturer; and we knew we needed some type of hybrid system to support the analog cameras [that were in place]. And we needed something that worked across platforms and had centralized management from one location so that we could have better oversight.”
IT received eight responses to the RFI, and from those, three were selected as contenders. Johnson jokes that the IT department then “brought the vendors in for a bake-off.” The three systems were placed in “one of our high-risk schools that had lots of analog cameras. We had a school resource officer (SRO) there, and we thought ‘What better way to test the systems than to let the SRO test drive it?’”
Of the three possible systems, one was immediately eliminated. “It didn’t last a day,” Johnson states. “The SRO couldn’t operate it. The ease of use was just not there.” Of the remaining systems, the one that stood out was by March Networks of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Describing it as “light years above the other competitor,” Johnson says that the system includes March Network 4000 C series hybrid network video recorders (NVRs) and Command Enterprise video management software. IT was also impressed with March Networks’ commitment to its products. Unlike some companies, the company supports its old equipment, and that was important because placing the new systems in Escambia’s schools would be a years-long project. (It began in 2008 and is still ongoing.)
The next step was to prioritize which schools would get the upgrade first. “We originally sat down and put together a threat matrix and had the administration weigh in,” says Johnson. It was decided to start with the high-risk high schools, then the rest of the high schools, then the middle schools, then, finally, the elementary schools.
As of the first half of 2013, all of the high schools and middle schools were equipped with the new systems, as well a few of the elementary schools that had available funds from other construction projects, but the rest of the elementary schools are still waiting.