After the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas and two unexpected fire alarms on our own campus, BHS staff and students have been discussing safety on our campus. There are cameras on campus, a campus security guard, and a school safety officer; but compared to Aragon high school, which has a total of 60 cameras on campus, the BHS campus is lacking in terms of an up-to-date security system.
Currently, there are 16 cameras located inside and around the exterior of the gym. The feed is sent directly to a monitor in Dean Fred Wolfgramm’s office. Another set of cameras monitor the parking lots near the portables and C-building, but this feed sent to an office in the C-building.
The main purpose of the cameras is to review footage recorded in the event that a theft or fight occurs. In addition, the cameras are meant to identify when a suspicious person or vehicle enters the campus.
However, the cameras at BHS face multiple issues.
The first issue with the cameras is the location. While other schools monitor activity near dense student populations, such as the quads and courtyards, surveillance cameras at BHS are only located near the gym and portables. While surveillance in this area is definitely a positive in the event of a bike/skateboard theft; it is vital to have cameras viewing inside the campus to ensure that fights and disruptions that occur inside campus can be reviewed.
The second issue is that in order to access the cameras, one must physically be in Wolfgramm’s office or in the office in the C-building (depending on the camera feeds needed).
“When a fire alarm or a burglar alarm goes off in the middle of the night, our security team has a call list… and right now it’s sometimes me or Mr. Lien, or Mr. Belzer or Sergio, our facilities person, coming down in the middle of the night trying to figure out what's going on,” Vice Principal Valerie Arbizu said. “It would be wonderful if you’re woken up at 2:00 in the morning to be able to log in [at home], and take a look at what’s happening so that we can be in touch with the police right away and identify if there is an issue or not.”
But the biggest reason why the security cameras need to be improved is their inability to do their one job: record footage 24/7.
According to Wolfgramm, the cameras are unable to record on the current system unless the monitor is turned on. This is a problem because the system also has a habit of automatically turning off, leaving wide periods of time when nothing is recording.
“It was always a plan that this system would be overhauled in Burlingame. They were going to redo the alarms and redo everything once construction [of the F-building] was finished. But I guess we ran out of money,” security guard Jim Brooks said.
When this article went to print, The Burlingame B learned that some progress is currently being made to obtain new cameras.
“The district has contracted out with a company that will do an assessment of our current system and then would incorporate new cameras and inspect the system for how much that would cost,” Principal Paul Belzer said. “Once that is finished, those plans will be brought to the board and then the board will evaluate whether the cost is worth the input. Hopefully, the systems will be able to work together… we would continue with the current cameras we have up, and these would be additional cameras.”
The exact date of the decision is not known.