One of the biggest mistakes a school can make in terms of its security is not properly addressing it. People tend to oversimplify issues in response to security breaches or school shootings. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to implementing security measures at any school could mean certain aspects are skimmed over or avoided entirely.
In a time when parents, staff, and children are more concerned than ever about school safety, it’s important to look at a school and its current security measures from within. Vulnerabilities will be detected at each individual school that might not be considered in standard top-down security protocol.
What Problems a Campus Security System Should Address
Campuses can successfully improve their security systems and procedures by taking note of the following common school security issues.
Inability to Reach Everyone
To ease concern among everyone from teachers and staff to parents, schools should implement concrete communication systems to ensure that everyone receives the necessary information in the case of an emergency. Pre-programmed alerts are one of the best options, as anything from a weather alert to a cancellation to information regarding a potential threat can be mass-released at the touch of a button.
Failure to Upgrade
Oftentimes, schools are prevented from improving campus security equipment due to a tight budget. Options to overcome this challenge include justifying new equipment as emergency notification expenses or investing in software solutions that will maximize and incorporate a school’s existing technology.
Dealing with Discreet Information
There may be situations where immediate communication is necessary, but not for everyone. Unlike a mass email or text message, some alerts may contain sensitive or private information only intended for specific personnel. Utilizing an app of PC alerts similar to those for mass communications will be most effective in delivering information to its intended audience without delay.
Security Improvement Measures
Campus Security: Improvement Measures
The following measures can be implemented to enhance a campus security system. Schools that best handle challenges in security and successfully prevent unwanted incidents in the future typically utilize a multitude of measures.
An Enclosed Campus
Fences and gates may hurt the visual aesthetic of a building, but they will certainly improve the security within it. By monitoring who comes in and out of a school, there is a greater sense of control over access.
Clearance and Security Check for Visitors and Staff
Similar to the idea of enclosing the actual buildings, campuses can screen visitors for safety before clearing them to enter the school premises. This screening process should also be required before employing teachers and other employees. It’s important to double-check before hiring something to be sure they do not pose any security threat.
Students along with faculty and staff should be trained on being security conscious. Making everyone alert, including students, will increase the probability that potential threats will be promptly reported. In this training, students should be encouraged to speak up if they ever see or hear anything suspicious or concerning.
Taking Preventative Measures
Teachers should not only know how to respond in any situation but should take preventative measures. For example, ensuring that every classroom has some means of communication with the administration, outside help, or situating the classroom furniture in a protective way are simple steps that will leave teachers more prepared.
Access Control for Campus
One option for schools is to give students access cards that allow them entry into the necessary buildings but restrict access for others. Other related access control measures include security cameras, headcounts of how many people are where, and simultaneous management of multiple locations.
Lockdowns within a school may be necessary when there is a physical threat already on the school premises. If an active shooter is walking down the hallways, a lockdown is one way to protect as many people as possible. Training students and teachers on how to act in the case of an emergency is the first step in securing everyone, but lockdown features like Kisi’s take it one step further. Administrators can override unlock attempts by enabling the lockdown feature on any device, thus preventing anyone from entering any building.
University security varies from school to school but always centers around making everyone feel comfortable and safe. Possible university security measures include trainings in self-defense and sexual abuse awareness and college resources for situations like rape or violence. Most U.S. colleges have some sort of “blue light” security system in place where students are able to click a button that immediately signals to university security personnel that someone needs help. Additionally, campus police departments typically provide escort services to anyone who feels uncomfortable walking somewhere alone, particularly at night.
Most students like to stay informed and feel as though they are receiving prompt communications. Many universities have systems in place that provide this. For example, Syracuse University utilizes an alert system where students receive an email and a text message—and sometimes an automated phone call— whenever there is important information the school needs to relay quickly.
Campus security is a growing concern especially in the United States where a series of school attacks have wiped dozens of lives in the past few years. Gun attacks are not the only security issue schools have to deal with, however. The premises of educational organizations are public places where one should manage a complex flow of visitors – ranging from scholars to educators to students to a variety of one-time and frequent visitors.
These institutions have to manage both the identity of visitors and access to certain areas and facilities. For instance, even a schoolteacher may be restricted in terms of access to certain rooms while visitors may have been permitted only to specific areas of the campus or the school building.
Those measures require implementation of often quite complex access management systems amidst growing security concerns across schools and other public institutions. It is not surprising then that the physical identity and access management market is estimated to double from $272 million in 2014 to $546 million in 2019.
Specifics of Security Arrangement for a Campus
Providing reliable campus safety and security is difficult. Unlike office building where you have a few points of entry, you should usually secure multiple buildings and wide open areas in the nearby surroundings. This in turn requires adoption of a mix of security measures and access control methods.
Video surveillance may be good to monitor open spaces but it is a passive method and can only complement a viable school security plan. School security, in fact, is impossible without having security personnel placed at each single entry point. By combining video monitoring and dedicated security guards, a school can take preventive measures against undesired visits and pay special attention to visitors who look like a potential threat.
Security for schools should also include a well-designed plan for access control once a visitor enters the campus area or a school building. Obviously, you have to restrict access to some rooms and areas, which is only possible through a system of electronic badges/cards, key fobs, and/or door locks that use advanced authentication methods.
A visitor’s card, for instance, could provide access only to a designated conference room where, say, parents are allowed to meet teachers. An advanced system would be able track even the route of a visitors and his/her current location within the campus or a specific building.Without becoming paranoid, a school may decide to implement door locks that always require access rights on entry while providing free passage out for persons who are already in the room.
Evidently, security for schools should also include emergency situations such as fire or gas leakage. Therefore, an all-encompassing security system should feature sensors for CO2 and other harmful gases as well as a fire alarm. Then, you should have an evacuation plan in place that takes into account various scenarios and envisages safe routes for evacuation even when one or more of the area exits are blocked or inaccessible. The more backup emergency action plans you have the better, for emergencies often develop in unplanned ways.
Also, you need power backup and surge protection to ensure all your safety and security systems are operational all the time. The security of any public institution is a mix of factors to consider while you should eliminate countless number of possibilities.
Systems for Campus Safety and Security
You cannot draft a universal blueprint for campus safety and security. Each school has specifics, including building details that should be taken into account. Hence, school security is more about a well thought system of safety and security measures rather than installing random electronic devices.
Even the most basic electronic visitor management system should feature ID capabilities, connection to a searchable database, and automatic door access. You should add one-time ID card printing to complete the basic functionality of an access control system for spaces with huge visitor traffic such as colleges and universities.
Such a security system provides a certain level of security for both school students and teachers as well as for visitors. For instance, you can instantly get report on the number of visitors in the secured area in case of emergency. A more advanced system will provide also visitors’ locations within the secure perimeter.
Here is how such a system works in practice:
- Visitor approaches the school’s entry point
- Camera takes photo of the visitor on entry
- The system records all required details of the visitor
- A visitor badge with photograph of the visitor is issued
- Access rights are assigned to the visitor (electronic card)
- The visitor detail are entered into the system and he/she enters the area
- The software records all visit details exit time for each visitor.
The above list is not complete and a school/college security system may feature other and more advanced functionalities. For example, an organization may decide to track their visitors in real time, which, however, requires a lot of effort and marked investment in both software and security personnel.
On the other hand, despite all the human errors in regard to security at public places, the physical presence of security guards is still a major preemptive safety and security measure. By combining a reliable school safety and security system with trained security staff, you actually get the ultimate protection for a school.