Laptop adds to security for schools

Photo by Hannah Bader Todd Murray (left) and Adrian Watkins (center) of Telecommunications Service present a laptop computer to Director of Carter County Schools Dallas Williams this week. The laptop will be used to remotely access video cameras throughout the school system, enhancing security in the schools.

Star Staff

The Carter County School System received a new security tool this week, as Adrian Watkins of Telecommunications Service donated a laptop computer to assist in monitoring the security cameras in the schools.

"It'll give us eyes into the school if there is an emergency," said Watkins. "They're going to work with the police departments -- Elizabethton City and Carter County -- who will be able to view remotely from this laptop and be able to dispatch to their officers. It'll be a tremendous benefit. We've only done Carter County Schools, but we're in talks with some of the other school systems about doing their security too.

"If we get the hospitals, the jail and the local school system all in one network, then the officers will be familiar with using the software. The resource officers will have them on their laptops to be able to view the smaller schools. They already have them in the high schools, but they'll be able to view the elementary schools if they have an incident."

"It gives them the option of providing one security guard to watch all the schools at night," said Todd Murray, network engineer for Telecommunications Service. "In case they have a guard that has to leave the scene for some reason, they can provide a backup. One of the biggest things that we provide is connectivity between businesses. We offer point to point VPN (virtual private network) solutions that provide voice, video and data that can be shared across the Internet, which will cut down on certain long distance and other charges you can incur in communications.

"Say you had another office in Knoxville," Murray continued. "I could connect the two offices together so you could do four-digit dialing and four-digit faxing. You could do televideo conferencing during the day. You could have the laptop with the software running and use a USB headphone and mike to communicate with a person on the other end of the video camera system."

"We do business telephone systems, computer networks and security camera systems," said Watkins. "We've done a couple of local hospitals and the recycling plant. We're getting ready to do a project at the Carter County Jail. We'll be redoing its security cameras. We're trying to offer convergence solutions for everybody. We can give them an all-in-one phone system, paging system, voicemail, security cameras -- everything in one stop. The only thing we don't do is alarm panels, like fire alarms."

Director of Carter Schools Dallas Williams was pleased with the added security benefit provided by the remote laptop.

"Our board has taken a very proactive approach in providing safety and security for our students," said Williams. "We're very thankful that our students' welfare is a number one priority. With the times we are living in and the threat of terrorism that we're facing these days, we feel that this is going to provide a more advanced technology approach. We'll have the ability to not only see what's going on inside the buildings but to record what happens. That will be a very valuable benefit to us.

"Hopefully, we will never have a serious incident, but we feel more prepared if we do. David Mitchell, who is the Governor's Homeland Security person in the state, said that through their research, they've found that schools are a target, and we feel that based on that information, we need to do everything that we can to provide a safe, secure environment for our students."

As this interview was progressing, the STAR photographer on the scene was dispatched to T.A. Dugger Junior High School due to a bomb threat, which fortunately turned out to be a false alarm.

"Had that been a county school, Mr. Williams and all the officials here would have been able to use the software and see that the evacuation was proceeding smoothly," said Murray. "If they needed to send extra resource people there, the Sheriff's Department could have called over and asked them to view it and see if they had seen anything.

"The cameras are set up to record off motion detection, so it's quicker to do the searches. You don't have to watch eight hours of video to find out what happened in that eight-hour time period."

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