September 29, 2020

BY ROB MENDONSA

In an effort to make Conestoga College a safe place for students, faculty and staff, Security Services has upgraded its system from analog to digital and added 67 new digital cameras, giving guards 167 cameras to cover all areas of Doon campus. As well, Exact Vision Software is now being used, which can spot potential intruders on campus and follow them from A-wing through to F-wing and out to the parking lots if needed.

During a Jan. 9 tour, which showcased some of the new security features on campus, staff demonstrated how the new software is able to spot people in a crowd and zoom in on them, allowing security guards to move into a position to monitor them.

The guards are not hands-on, so they do not enforce the laws, but will keep a safe distance and observe. If the person seems approachable then contact will be made, but if there is any indication of a weapon then they will alert police through a direct line to the Cambridge detachment and will keep people from harm’s way until officers  arrive. Guards will then liaison with the police once they are onsite, helping them with any assistance in identification and providing them with video of the incident.

As the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn. has shown people, even our schools can be vulnerable at times, which makes the job of Don Willis, Conestoga’s director of Safety and Security Services, even more crucial.

“Cameras are an essential tool in locating a person. We will never be able to stop someone who comes onto the campus who wants to hurt someone, but what we can do is minimize the damage.”

Another concern that the college has addressed with the new digital cameras, is the ability to have a camera monitor the wooded area, which they were not able to do using analog cameras because of the high cost of running wire underground. The new digital cameras are able to monitor the entire pathway making it safe for people walking to and from their vehicles at night.

“So, if I’m a faculty member for example, working late at night and I’m on my way to my car and for whatever reason I don’t feel safe, I am more than welcome to call the front desk and if Walksafe (a service that provides escorts to the parking lots, residence and nearby homes) is not available we have the capability to keep an eye on you using the cameras, till you reach your vehicle,” said Willis. “It just makes you feel better.”

Along with the upgrades to the security system, Axis Communication Inc., which provided the college with all the video equipment, also donated some cameras for the protection/ securities and investigations program so that the students could have some hands-on training with the equipment. This allowed the college to add a mock training centre in the F-wing.

The students run mock patrols from the training centre, which gives them the opportunity to get some experience in the field that is typical of a security position in the real world according to Trevor Wey, who is a second-year student in the protection/securities and investigations program.

“The F-wing scenario helped me a lot when I started last year, just to break the ice and get a general knowledge,” said Wey. “It doesn’t matter how much academics you have, unless you’re put in a situation, you don’t know how you will react and handle it.”

Having access to the equipment also allows students to set up or troubleshoot video equipment when it isn’t working. It gives students a basic working knowledge of all aspects of the security business. The security field is so diverse now, that students can leave their program and go into any number of different areas in the field, from the obvious security officer or police officer to installation crews involved in setting up the video equipment for customers.

It’s all part of Conestoga’s combined effort to not only keep the people on campus safe, but to also train the students on the equipment and give them the hands-on training and knowledge that they need to succeed once they graduate from the security program.