Mass communication is a critical tool for K-12 schools when it comes to safety and security.
During a crisis, intercom systems can help to communicate critical messages to staff and students quickly and effectively. For day-to-day operations, these systems help administrators and staff disseminate messages throughout campuses. With the addition of video monitoring, video intercom systems help staff to manage daily traffic and on-campus visitors, among other benefits.
Video Intercoms Systems Offer Remote Monitoring
We often stress the importance of access control—managing the traffic that enters school campuses. Video intercoms allow school personnel to view and speak with visitors before allowing entry.
Video intercom systems are often paired with cloud-based software that allows staff to remotely monitor and manage school entrances across multiple points via live video feeds. And the video quality has come a long way, too. These days, video intercoms often stream and record video in high definition (HD).
The Jay School Corporation in Portland, Ind. has used video intercoms for about a decade, according to Superintendent Jeremy Gulley. Gulley also serves on the PASS Board of Directors and Advisory Council.
“We have that capability at all of our entry points,” he said. “All schools have a single entry point for access control with a push button for intercom and video that’s observed by the secretary and front office staff.”
Staff communicate with each visitor and conduct an initial security assessment based on their observations, Gulley said. Additional access control measures continue at the entry point.
“As a PASS Tier 1 requirement, video intercoms are the most basic for safety and security for school access control,” Gulley said.
Helping to Bridge the Gap
Last fall, the Chamberlain Group, a PASS Partner, launched a campaign to give 100 free LiftMaster Smart Video Intercoms to K-8 schools across the country through its Safer Schools initiative. The company began producing its Smart Video Intercoms in 2020 to enhance access security for residents within multifamily properties.
But after seeing how successful their products performed, the company thought they could also be a powerful solution for schools.
“Video intercoms are an economical and simple way to install a modern retrofit solution for buildings with an old, wired intercom,” said Rebecca Peterson, LiftMaster Group Product Manager. “Most require only an internet connection, electronic/lock door strike system, and power to run; typically, no additional hardware or wiring is needed.”
Additional Benefits of Video Intercom Systems
As a critical component for safety and security planning, we include video intercoms as a Tier 1 requirement for enhancing school safety in our Safety and Security Guidelines. Video intercom systems also allow schools to:
- Discreetly report intruders: Have concerns about a visitor that doesn’t have legitimate business with your school? Don’t grant entry. Instead, discreetly report them to authorities.
- Crime prevention: Oftentimes, just the presence of video surveillance and intercom technology is enough to deter vandals.
- Monitor after-school activities: Beyond the school day, school campuses often bustle with many events. Video intercoms record who is coming and going. If there’s an issue, staff can refer to recordings to learn more.
“Video Intercoms allow faculty members to monitor and control any doors within the school, including the front entrance, side/back doors and inside doors,” said Joe Miedzianowski, Senior Sales Representative at LiftMaster. “Many come with smart access systems that give faculty members full administrative privileges to grant individualized access rights to staff and guests, view and store video footage and remotely lock/unlock access points to the building.”
The Importance of Regular Testing and Maintenance
Intercom systems are invaluable components of school safety and security plans—so much so that regular testing and maintenance are essential to avoid technology failures when you need those systems most.
As our guidelines note, implementing security and life safety technology creates a district-wide responsibility to ensure the equipment is operational and receives proper maintenance.
“Our systems operate daily,” Gulley said. “If a system fails, it is immediately known to the operator, who would not be able to see or hear the person trying to gain entry. It would require an immediate response from the supplier to maintain the system, so that it’s operational again.”
This is most often accomplished through regular testing by staff, built-in monitoring features or third-party monitoring services. Any of which can alert staff when equipment is not functioning properly. When addressing equipment failures, installation agreements are one of the best ways to provide timely equipment replacement when necessary.
In addition, some school districts may have the resources to employ security technicians who can troubleshoot and repair problems immediately.
“It’s essential enough that we would not permit a failed system,” Gulley said. “It’s our first layer of building perimeter security.”
Incorporating Intercoms Into Your Safety and Security Plan
Download the PASS Guidelines for key recommendations and insights on incorporating video intercoms into your school safety and security plan.
To qualify for the Chamberlain Group’s LiftMaster Smart Video Intercom System giveaway, interested K-8 schools can complete the online application form. * Please note: Additional fees for installation apply. See program FAQs for more details.
Contributors: PASS thanks Jeremy Gulley of The Jay School Corporation, the PASS Board of Directors and Advisory Council and Jennifer Lytle and Kelly Shumaker of LiftMaster for contributing to this article.
The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) bringing together expertise from the education, public safety, and industry communities to develop and support a coordinated approach to making effective and appropriate decisions with respect to safety and security investments. You can download the complete PASS Guidelines or check out our PASS Safety and Security Checklist for quick start tips. These resources—as well as whitepapers on various topics including barricade devices, lockdown drills and more—are available at no cost.
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