New Upgrades to Security Cameras Bring Improvements to School Safety

Catherine Cossaboom, Staff writer

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A major feature of the security at Chamblee High School relies on a set of digital cameras positioned throughout the school building. Recently, there have been several upgrades to the camera system, including an addition of cameras to the outside of the school. Resource Officer Joseph Bielicki explains the new developments.

“Before the break, I noticed that the conference room was full of cameras and I spoke to the workmen and [found out that] they are updating the cameras,” said Bielicki. “We had no cameras on the outside of the building, so they are replacing [them]. They have night-vision capabilities.”

There was a rumor that the security cameras will now be able to record audio, but this is not true.

“The district is not recording audio,” said Bielicki.

The cameras rely on motion sensing to record only the important parts of the footage.

“The cameras only have so much memory,” said Bielicki. “When [a camera] sees activity, it takes pictures. When there is no activity, it is not doing anything. So when the memory gets filled, it’ll recycle. It [how often the camera recycles the footage] depends on the activity of the camera. It could be seven days, it could be two weeks.”

“The camera is on all the time, but unless something activates it and makes it motion-activated, it won’t record. It’s just on,” adds Bielicki.

In addition to the recorded photos, the camera also has a live feed.

“You can pull [the camera’s footage] up at our central precinct and there are several people – administrators and campus supervisors – that have access to it,” said Bielicki. “It pulls up a live feed where we can watch what’s going on in live current time, and then there is a recorded portion that only records motion.”

Bielicki will only examine the camera’s footage if there is a crime involved.

“You got to understand that the cameras were put in the school system for burglary suppression,” said Bielicki. “Their best and primary function is to protect school property. We have burglars, we have vandalism and that’s why the cameras are in the hallway. We’re putting them outside now so we can identify any vehicles or strange people on the property.”

There is a specific procedure in place in the event of a burglar alarm.

“If we get a burglar alarm, our dispatcher can pull up the cameras and tell us where people may be in the building or give us a description of the vehicle and that gives us something to go on when responding to burglar alarms,” said Bielicki.

The cameras are also used when there is a fire alarm to confirm the existence and location of a fire.

“We can pull up the cameras and observe where the fire is,” said Bielicki. “There [often] isn’t a fire. We get false alarms all the time because of dust in the ductwork or something similar.”

In the event of a fire, the cameras get pulled up at a central office, which helps the school with contacting the fire department if it is a real alarm and confirming there is no fire if it is a false alarm.

“Every time the servicing company gets an alert, they notify the fire department and send the fire department,” said Bielicki. “We are saving resources because when we can pull up the cameras and say, ‘No, there’s no fire. You can cancel the fire unit,’”

After a false alarm, feedback is given and help brought in to figure out the problem. The steady stream of information between the school and external sources helps to keep the school secure.

“We can send somebody out and double check … reset the alarm, and notice what the problem is,” said Bielicki. “We can advise the service center and let them know, [for example,] ‘Okay, we got a problem over here with the sensor.’ [They’ll] tell us [what the problem is] and we can report it to facility engineers and make them get it fixed.”

There are also additional security benefits at Chamblee High School, such as 24/7 police protection. The security cameras, in particular, are a major feature that helps to further the goal of safety and security.

“The school benefits from the cameras because they are a deterrent to criminal activity and help to provide a safe school learning environment for students, parents, faculty, and staff,” said Bielicki.