School and campus security is an area of ever-increasing concern in the United States. As of October, there have been 22 school shootings in the U.S. so far this year that resulted in injury or death, and overall there have been at least 483 incidents of gunfire on school grounds since 2013. As a result, campus safety and security have come under heavy scrutiny from students, families hoping to keep their loved ones safe, and even from the media.
However there are a number of security issues schools have to take into consideration in addition to gun violence. All campuses, from K-12 up to universities, have to deal with a complex flow of visitors. Students, faculty, parents, staff, high profile guests, and potential students are among the thousands of potential visitors school campuses have to monitor every day. In addition, all of these visitors will have varying degrees of access (i.e. to classrooms, research labs, server rooms, etc), and a security system needs to be in place to limit the risk of a data or security breach.
The above concerns with campus safety and security, coupled with the heavy traffic that needs to be monitored, require complex and thorough access management systems. In this article, we’ll be outlining some of the steps required to implement a decent security system on a university campus, as well as talk about resources available to you to further research campus security.
Camera and Access Control Systems for Campus
Because campuses, unlike your typical office setting, have multiple points of entry and are often open to the public (in the case of public universities), providing reliable campus safety and security can be a challenge. As a result, a mix of security measures is often required.
Due to the multiple entry points for buildings on campus, let alone the campus as a whole, video surveillance is an essential part of any school security plan. While it is a passive security measure, it allows for the continuous monitoring of campus access points when having dedicated security guards might not be a viable option. However, given student privacy concerns, it will also be essential for you to have a thorough, detailed, and transparent audio and visual surveillance policy in place for students, teachers, and parents to be able to reference.
While a robust surveillance system is an excellent supporting security measure, it should only be part of the overall visitor management system (VMS) you have for your school. A VMS is what allows your security team to keep track of visitors as they enter and enter school buildings and areas. A good VMS will allow you to collect important visitor information (name, phone number, address, photograph, etc), and allow you to log visits. Some of the key features of a good campus VMS are:
- An easy and efficient means to log and track visitors, which could be in the form of a badge/keycard system or a code number based system.
- A robust screening system which can help easily track offenders or potential threats.
- A temporary ID/badge system for visitors that allows for limited access and has a hard expiration date.
- An alert system for school emergencies, which should also include a lockdown and lockout feature designed to keep students, faculty, and staff safe from potentially violent threats (such as an active shooter).
- A power backup and surge protection system in place that will allow the system to continue running even in the event of a power outage.
- Support for multiple languages, especially in diverse school districts.
- Compliance with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), to ensure the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff sensitive data.
The needs of every school and campus will vary wildly, and government policies in place may have different requirements depending on what city or state your institution is located in. However, the features listed above are a crucial foundation that should be part of any conversation when looking into different VMS systems.
Finding Campus Security Resources and Campus Security Training Programs
A good VMS goes hand-in-hand with proper training for your campus’ security personnel. While electronic visitor management systems have come along way in automating many of the administrative visitorm management tasks, campus security staff needs to be well trained on the technological, governmental, and interpersonal aspects of the systems in place.
There are a number of resources available to support campus officials in creating a safer campus community. Here is a list of some of those available resources:
- The National Center for Campus Public Safety (or NCCPS) is a government-funded program that works with campus safety, law enforcement, emergency management professionals, students, and other school officials to support safer campuses.
- The U.S. Department of Justice has created guidelines that campuses should take into consideration when thinking about campus safety and security.
- The U.S. Department of Education has a curated list of resources and data to help you analyze data related to campus safety and security.
There are a number of online campus security training programs available that provide security staff with the training they need to be prepared for a wide variety of scenarios. Many of these programs will allow your staff to take a campus security training course which are developed in partnership with government agencies to prepare all school staff with the training they need to be prepared for emergency situations.
Many of these programs will also provide you with the campus security certification that is required for employment at a number of educational institutions. An example of this would be SB 1626 Certification for California, and these courses are typically designed for security personnel like guards, managers, or anyone working in campus security.
Finally, another great resource would be for your security team, faculty, and staff to attend a campus security conference, where you can meet with other campus security professionals in an educational environment and catch up with the latest in campus security. The Campus Safety Conferences and the conference held by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) are great examples of what these kinds of conferences can look like.