Campus Standards

Campus Standards

Universities, colleges face challenges when standardizing protocol

For multiple reasons, colleges and universities encounter distinct challenges when faced with the formidable task of standardizing security protocol, procedures and technologies. Campuses are often spread out over sprawling acreage, with buildings serving various purposes, including anything and everything a resident, student or faculty member could need, from medical facilities, research labs and auditorium classrooms to athletic arenas, residence halls and cafeterias.

In what has become an increasingly volatile climate, colleges and universities are expected to anticipate the needs of their students, faculty and visitors, and are now designing campus environments to ensure safety and security for all. The overall expectation and execution of campus safety and security standards is regarded highly amongst communities nationwide. In overwhelming instances, the safety and security of a campus has become the cornerstone in successfully establishing an environment in which students are free to thrive and focus their academic efforts, while enjoying the quintessential collegiate experience in whatever way they have envisioned it.

For campus administrators, public safety officers and police, creating a secure campus cannot merely rely on the security technology implemented throughout the facilities. What has become necessary in bolstering these preventive deployments is the development of functional security standards, communicated and carried out campuswide. Functional safety and security standards are essential to effectively crafting a foundation, a framework for all building construction on campus whether new or renovations to existing structures. Not only physical building standards need to be adhered to, but policy and procedure standards should be addressed for such things as timing for locking/unlocking of doors and people flow through various buildings.

All of these standards offer a significant context, forcing stakeholders to take stock of their facilities and evaluate potential risks, security needs and begin to establish an efficient operational procedure for those specific campus community members that require access.

As a result of the rapid pace at which technologies, such as access control, video surveillance and intrusion detection have been introduced to campuses in recent years, institutions are finding it more difficult to keep up with the development of accompanying security procedures and protocols to determine the needs and uses of these systems. Too often, deployments are assessed ad hoc; card readers may be installed on doors at a newly constructed residence hall, but not on existing living facilities without any real justification.

In other instances, an access control solution may be implemented throughout a science or lab building on campus, for example, due to new regulations or mandates, and soon after, a campus-wide call to action rolls out the intent to implement a similar solution in buildings across the entire campus. With only the science building’s installation as reference, colleges and universities will often use that single deployment as the template for others, which in no way takes into consideration the disparate functions and operational patterns of other facilities.

To ensure that these standards are developed and implemented immediately, as well as throughout the duration of and beyond the scope of any security project, campus administrators should plan to enlist the expertise of a trusted security integrator at the project’s onset. By drawing in and allowing the security integrator to become an integral part of the standard writing process, campus institutions can more readily mitigate security risks in an environment that is nearly always subjected to capital construction projects.

The following are some of the most fundamental assessments that need to take place in conversations surrounding functional security standards to maintain campus safety as a priority in all institutional construction, renovations and targeted projects.

GATHER STAKEHOLDERS FOR A COLLABORATIVE, PRODUCTIVE CONVERSATION

Perhaps most important in setting out to develop appropriate safety and security standards for any campus environment is to be certain that all pertinent campus stakeholders are involved in the conversation. These include high-level campus executives, public safety officers, university police, residence life authorities and facility management, as well as the campus IT department, communications department, athletics, medical and religious facilities, and community members, at large.

With so many security technologies moving toward a more networked approach, involving IT as early as possible is critical to ensure that the campus network can accommodate the various systems, or determine the bandwidth required. Athletics, medical and worship facilities are just as integral to campus life as the dining and residence halls, and all will have different perspectives, needs and concerns in any standards discussion.

Finally, early involvement of the college or university’s communications department will help to determine ways in which students, faculty and applicable surrounding communities are notified of any new security measures, expectations or requirements. Standardized language will dispel panic or misconceptions amongst the college or university population, instead showcase the situational benefits of the new systems without fear of relinquished privacy or infringing on community members’ rights.

DISCUSS SPECIFIC, UNIQUE PAIN POINTS FOR DIFFERENT CAMPUS FACILITIES

Due to the varied nature of many campus buildings, the issue of security varies from facility to facility. It’s never in the best interest to assume that one campus building’s needs inherently mirror another’s. Consider the building structure, the purpose of the building, who frequently occupies it, common access times and the personnel designated to respond to incidents at the location. All of these are major factors that contribute to the deployment and anticipated use of the security technologies selected for each location.

For instance, athletic arenas have to account for coverage of wide areas and a large number of non-community members, warranting the need for extensive video surveillance and immediate mass notification if a widespread emergency were to occur. Residence facilities need to account for 24/7 movement of authorized students in and out of the buildings, requiring robust access control that can be both discerning and constantly monitored, but in no way impedes student living.

Medical facilities and research labs must be equipped to safeguard the campus population from the potential spread of biohazards and infectious diseases, limiting access to research and testing areas to reduce risks of tampering or biochemical attack.

Each of these varying facilities’ functions and security-related possibilities should act as the basis of standards development, accounting for every subtle nuance and how they contribute to the context of the overall campus environment so that appropriate sub-standards, when necessary, can be developed for major sites and buildings.

CONSIDER FRONTLINE AND BACKEND INTEGRITY OF SECURITY TECHNOLOGIES AND OPERATIONS AT ALL FACILITIES

In the deployment of modern security technologies in campus environments, a progressive trend toward a network-based operation has grown massively in recent years. This includes the critical pillar systems, including mass notification, access control, video surveillance, intrusion and fire detection, all riding on a network and tying into databases that are wholly unique to the campus experience.

Databases for dining halls, residence access, administrative records and human resources all now carry information that is crucial and intrinsically woven into the functions of security systems to ensure they are effective.

Throughout the development of functional standards, campus stakeholders must be cognizant of this network-based reality, and the integrity of systems’ and databases’ backend. Too often, many institutions are faced with significant issues because these systems – both security and those related to campus life or administration – have grown so quickly that the network has become almost unmanageable. By sitting down with an integrator, campuses can deal with any integral backend challenges, solidifying all lines of defense in the event that an on-campus emergency occurs.

ALIGN ALL MAJOR PLAYERS WITH A DOCUMENTED SECURITY STRATEGY FOR ALL CURRENT AND FUTURE TECHNOLOGICAL DEPLOYMENTS.

When all is said and done, select an administrative leader preferably in the institution’s executive office to champion documented standards. A strategy which hasn’t been clearly defined has a greater risk of being value-engineered out of a campus construction project or renovation. By dedicating time to a comprehensive evaluation of campus security threats and the development of functional standards with a trusted integrator, college and university personnel ultimately ensure the output of a clear alignment across the campus and representative stakeholders in regards to how the institution plans to protect the community as a whole, as well as safeguard its students, faculty and staff.

In essence, these standards carry a core quality of flexibility and scalability to be able to grow, bend and support the campus as it faces new, unforeseen challenges now and into the future. In all senses, these standards should contribute to the longevity of the campus institution itself, a testament to the openness and drive associated with the all-encompassing academic pursuit.

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.

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