Can your principals and security staff access surveillance camera systems?

Posted by on March 11, 2014

Can your principals access the surveillance camera systems they are supposed to be able to access from their desktop computers, laptops, or other monitoring consoles?

This may seem like an odd  question. After all, who would install camera systems with the capability for principals, security staff, and School Resource Officers (SROs) to access and retrieve recorded images, and then not train their staff how to use them?

Well, the answer is: Too many school districts.

Don’t miss opportunities for getting the most out of your school security technology

Over the past year we have seen a number of schools with new or newer surveillance cameras.  Districts have invested in digital, Internet protocol (IP) cameras with reasonable storage capacity. The systems have the ability for school staff, in particular building principals, to access these cameras and their stored recordings via their desktop, laptop, and/or remote location computers.

We have been somewhat taken back, however, by how many principals, assistant principals, and other staff approved to access these cameras have not been trained on how to do so. In several cases, we discovered that cameras have been in place for months and principals have never been trained.

Invest time in your people. Don’t just invest in your equipment

It is imperative that once cameras are installed in schools, the vendors who sold the cameras along with the school district’s point-person for the purchase and installation, insure that principals, security staff, and others authorized to use the cameras are given timely training on how to do so. Requirements to provide training should be written into vendor contracts. Failure to provide such training puts student and staff safety at-risk, and the school district at-risk for potential questions during liability challenges.

Training means more than handing a principal a few pages of documents with technical jargon and diagrams so they can figure it out on their own. School surveillance camera users should be given hands-on training where they are walked through the steps of how to use the cameras, how to access stored images, and other aspects of camera operation.  Time should be given to manipulate and get reasonably familiar with the systems, and to receive some one-on-one coaching as would be given to students in a classroom learning how to use a new piece of technology.

We recognize that time for school administrators is limited and precious. But it makes no sense for school leaders to install hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of surveillance cameras and then not train those who are supposed to be working with them on how to use the systems. Today’s technologies offer many unique and superb capabilities over cameras of years past, and for users not to be familiar with those capabilities is a lost opportunity.

Are your principals, security staff, and other authorized users trained and comfortable with their surveillance cameras and other security technology? Have you asked? How do you know?

Chuck Hibbert

Consultant to National School Safety and Security Services

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