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How Torrance Unified School District Chose the Right School Access Control Systems

How it Began

With a mission to enhance security at its 31 schools, Torrance Unified School District in California employed an effective tool for controlling access to campuses — a durable and networkable video intercom from 2N.

Rather than being prompted by a single incident, it was media attention on school shootings in general at the time that had school boards, administrators and parents talking about what could be done to stop these tragic events from happening. Torrence Unified School District (TUSD) was part of that ongoing, nationwide discussion. It formed a safety and security committee whose members attended conferences and spoke to professionals about best security practices for schools. Using their advice, the committee then developed its own plan, with the goal of providing a safe and secure environment for students and staff.

Their First Selection Was Flawed

TUSD’s initial exploration of an access control solution, recommended by a consultant, led them to an entry-level intercom that seemed like it could do the job of controlling and logging access to the schools. Upon closer inspection, however, the system’s shortcomings were exposed. It would have required copper cable runs to connect the intercoms, but TUSD wanted a solution that operated on their network instead of on an analog infrastructure.

The district also had recently put in a new phone system — Cisco Call Manager — with which it wanted the access control to be integrated so the phone system’s desktop units could be used to manage access.

Guidance From NIC Partners

TUSD worked with integrator NIC Partners to continue looking for a solution that would meet all of its needs. Nil Radadia, director of partners and alliances and senior account manager at NIC Partners performed a demo of the 2N® IP Force, an extremely durable IP intercom that provides for visitor communication monitoring and access control.

“We presented the demo to Gil and his team and they liked it. We did a proof-of-concept with two units at their smallest school site, Carr Elementary, and tested it out for a few months. TUSD enjoyed how simple it was to work with and troubleshoot. On top of that, it didn’t take up any additional real estate on any of the staff member’s desks because they already have a Cisco phone,” Radadia said.

The latter option is possible through the 2N® IP Eye, a freely available application that displays video from an IP intercom on a PC in the event of an incoming call. No additional software is needed. Video feeds also can be integrated into the school’s existing video management system if desired.

Built to Last

A key attribute of the 2N® IP Force, which the school district found advantageous, is its super ruggedized construction. “Our 2N rep said these units are used at the Marine bases in southern California, where tanks run into them and people accidentally shoot them. So, at Torrance if kids are hitting them with their skateboards or climbing on them, they’re basically almost indestructible,” Radadia said.

Radadia at NIC Partners mentioned another benefit: they help schools verify whether certain visitors actually need to be on campus or not. This helps limit interactions with school staff and helps maintain distancing protocols during the pandemic.

“It’s a great solution, especially if you’re trying to secure your campus and especially if you have a good integrator to install it for you. Especially for a product that’s mounted on the exterior of a building, you’ll need continued support,” Mara said.

Installation and Deployment

NIC Partners installed 102 of the intercom units district-wide. Most sites have two units, usually installed at front entrances. Some of the schools also have side entrances that necessitated an intercom there, as well. Mara described it as a tricky project because not all gates are the same. “Some doors or gates had crash bars, some had knobs or handles — so it was very custom per site and it took a while.”

While most of the intercoms were installed on gates, depending on the school some of them had to be wall-mounted or pedestal-mounted. Behind the scenes, TUSD had to do maintenance to make sure the gates weren’t misaligned off the hinges, because if they were askew then they wouldn’t open or unlock properly.

When the new intercoms were first installed it took the staff some time to adjust to them. “It’s one more task on their plates, especially when you’ve got a pretty busy office with a lot of questions coming in and teachers needing things — and then all of a sudden someone buzzes you to get let in and now your phone is ringing,” Mara describes.

Once entry control became a matter of routine, however, staff expressed their peace of mind. “From a sense of security, our staff really likes being able to control that so folks aren’t just coming in and out,” he said. If a staff member is suspicious about someone requesting entry to a school, they simply keep them locked out until further vetting can be done. The intercoms just “stop people in their tracks,” Mara said.

Upgrade Your School Security

NIC Partners can help your school district find the right products to keep your school safe from outside threats. To learn more about how we helped Torrence Unified School District, download the full case study now.

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