N.C. school district moves from people to tech for access control

42 schools to receive Aiphone system
Thursday, September 11, 2014

WILMINGTON, N.C.—Visitors to most schools in the New Hanover County district at the start of the new school year will be viewed on video before being allowed in. For the 42-school district, which previously “relied on people” for access control, that’s a big security move, its safety director said.

New Hanover County has deployed Aiphone video intercoms at all 27 elementary schools and seven of its eight middle schools. The system, which is also audio-equipped, will soon be rolled out at the remaining schools, according to Dave Spencer, the district’s safety director.

Access to schools before “was largely based on the honor system. Signage for visitors was up: ‘Please report to the main office.’ The vast majority of folks complied with that. We didn’t really have any problems,” he said. “We relied on people.”

But a safety and vulnerability assessment about a year and a half ago recommended a stricter approach for access control.

The system is being installed by American Detection Systems. The cost for the equipment and installation was $128,564.

The Aiphone video intercom system is marketed across the security verticals, to schools, correctional facilities, health care, government, commercial and residential.

At Spencer’s schools, all doors will be locked. The Aiphone will be positioned at main entries. A visitor will push the button and be seen and heard by a main office employee, Spencer said. “If something strikes (the employee) as odd, or if they don’t recognize you, or if the person seems extremely agitated or upset, they don’t get in.”

The video footage will be retained “to a point,” he said, declining to elaborate.

“This is a very efficient safety process,” he said.

Aiphone was chosen after collaborations between the district’s technology and maintenance departments and Spencer, who has been a teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal and principal.

The system “just adds another level of peace, comfort and confidence” for the district’s 26,000 students, their families and employees, he said.