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Historic Florida school expands security capabilities with new technology

Mobile duress system from Inovonics part of diverse security strategy at the Cushman School

As the oldest continuously operating independent school in Miami-Dade County, the Cushman School in suburban Miami, Florida has a rich history. Founded in 1924 by Dr. Laura Cushman, the private school has a mission to develop students as responsible citizens and effective future leaders. With more than 500 students spread over a primary school, elementary and middle schools, and an academy for special needs students, Cushman presented a challenge when it came to developing a comprehensive security system.

“Students can thrive at a school where their needs are being met, and those include safety and security,” says Arvi Balseiro, headmaster. “That’s why safety and security are key objectives here.” The school already had a badge system in place for visitors, a surveillance camera system and a teacher communications system. There are phones in each classroom and walkie-talkies distributed to key staff members. An off-duty police officer is on campus daily, as well as five other security staff members. Despite these security measures, however, administrators saw the need for a system that could enable quick communication in a lock-down scenario. The challenge was to select a system that could function in the school’s unique infrastructure.

Cushman is comprised of a mix of buildings—some dating back to the 1920s—along with new construction. A security solution would need to accommodate the older infrastructure as well as cover the entire school grounds, from the classroom to the playground, as well as the parking lot. Because of all of these factors, it was determined that an enterprise-wide mobile duress system from Inovonics was the ideal solution. The school contacted local security integrator Cam Connections to install the Enterprise Mobile Duress system. Also known as panic buttons, these simple wireless devices can be worn by teachers, improving response time and facilitating quick intervention by providing a simple, fast and easy method for alarm activation in an emergency situation. To minimize false alarms, two buttons must be pressed simultaneously. The system achieves campus coverage with a series of repeaters, which allow the school to identify specific locations at the time of the emergency alert.

With several pre-plotted areas of high safety concern throughout the campus, the location can be refined to a specific room number, area of a playground, gymnasium, cafeteria, or even what side of the adjacent road the alert came from. The Inovonics system also works in harsh weather conditions, has long-range capability, is easy to install and maintain and includes battery life of months and years instead of hours and days. In addition, wireless duress systems can be installed almost anywhere in a building or campus without having to run wire or trench underground cable. If the school loses power, the system can still operate on a 24-hour battery backup. Another appealing aspect of the wireless duress system was the ability to integrate with existing technology. The system is tied into the school’s email and has a designated phone system for alert notifications. It is also integrated into classroom phones and the school’s walkie-talkies, and integrates with the existing video surveillance system. And, Inovonics systems can be expanded and reconfigured to meet the needs of building changes, such as new construction and facility upgrades.

“Not only has this positively impacted students, but it has also established confidence in parents,” says Balseiro. “Security policy is an evolving process,” says Missy Dolton, risk manager at the school. “It’s almost like a living document, because we continue to think of new things to do when the panic button is activated.”

For more information, please visit www.inovonics.com.

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