Ross Wilks, Head of Marketing Communications, Vanderbilt discusses the factors that need to be considered when establishing effective campus security.
Schools and higher education campuses face a number of challenges, not the least of which is the basic principle of safeguarding students, staff and faculty from emerging threats. They must strive to strike a balance between building a secure environment and maintaining a welcoming one. A combination of policies and procedures for educational institutions to follow can be instrumental in achieving this goal, but it’s not enough to simply lay down strategies. Implementing robust and innovative security technology is key and manufacturers and integrators must work diligently to meet the needs of educational facilities by embracing convergence and unification.
Assessing the security challenges and threats to campuses can help map out the most effective solution. Vandalism, theft, arson, bullying, assaults on staff, abductions – these are just some of the threats now faced by educational institutions and there is no question that an efficient security installation, which can include an integrated access control, intruder detection and video surveillance, can help address these threats. However, lack of budgets can be a problem, as schools face challenges with providing robust protection within certain price points.
While effective security is an essential requirement for every educational establishment, many institutions are not maximising the use of their security systems. With careful design and implementation, however, they can deliver a wide range of invaluable benefits and can even help to improve efficiencies while reducing energy costs and their carbon footprint. Covering all the bases for accomplishing thorough school security can seem overwhelming, but five components are key for establishing effective protection in today’s educational facilities:
Recent unfortunate incidents have made it clear that monitoring entrances and exits of a school building and controlling or restricting access are paramount when it comes to ensuring the safety of those inside. Access control technology is a powerful tool that offers officials the ability to quickly and easily lockdown a campus at the touch of a button, which can be critical in the event of an emergency or threat. By strictly monitoring where individuals are within the facility at all times and ensuring any outside access to the institution is authorised, access control can enable schools and higher education campuses to protect against the risks they most prominently face today. Utilising access control and visitor management systems can enable controlled access to the whole site as well as providing selective access to IT rooms, libraries and offices where high-value equipment or confidential records may be found. Access privileges can be individually tailored for each individual user of the system and functions like restricting access to normal working hours are easily implemented.
It’s important for a school to work with well-qualified systems integrators and manufacturers that have experience in this vertical. The smartest security strategy is layered and fills in gaps as best as possible and a seasoned integrator or manufacturer can assist with this. They can work within a budget and timeline to put together the most cost-effective and efficient system possible. The key is to get started and build a system over time, if necessary, to reach end goals.
Educational facilities must engage in collaboration to build technology solutions that efficiently integrate with the security solutions already in place to maximise capital investments that budget-conscious schools have made. When designing a system, the unique needs of the organisation must be identified. Are streamlined management and situational awareness the goal? If so, a close integration between various systems is critical to the success of the implementation.
Despite physical security concerns acting as the most prominent threat to schools, the technology and solutions used to combat these challenges face an inherent risk of cyber vulnerabilities and attacks. In the event of a breach, an entire security system may be left ineffective, which could severely impact a school’s safeguarding procedures. A school’s IT department must be brought into the deployment process to ensure proper data safety protocols are being followed and software updates and patches are installed frequently.
Implementing a security solution can be a significant investment, so it’s critical for educational facilities to think outside the system’s primary purpose and take a look at how it can also be used for business operations. With today’s evolving technology, modern campuses are using security and IT functionality to address more than just safety; access control systems can be used for event or building management, energy savings and to gather data about building usage and operations. Instead of simply granting and restricting access, they’re also adding more value to capital investments by incorporating information from student and building management platforms in an effort to build more intelligent solutions. For example, when two systems are integrated, the simple act of swiping a card can both enhance security and communicate to the building management system to turn on lights in a specific area, ensuring savings on energy costs.
While the lack of resources seems to be a constant barrier for educational institutions, there are many ways to justify and reduce the cost of deploying a security solution without compromising efficiency. For example, much of the cost of installing a security system has, in the past, been associated with extensive cabling requirements. The latest systems, however, can communicate via a standard Ethernet network and can even share this network with other services. These cost-saving benefits enable schools and higher education campuses to protect against the risks they most prominently face today.
Though educational facilities are now experiencing more threats to the safety of students and staff than ever before, school security officials can take a proactive approach to securing these facilities through a number of integrations and technological advancements aimed at delivering higher levels of situational awareness across a campus. Through collaboration and innovation in access control, video and intrusion detection, solutions can be implemented to assist in making every campus a safe one.