Streamlining Security

Campuses react for enhanced visibility and faster emergency response

With increasing concern for employee safety, and for data and asset theft, organizations recognize the need to develop a more comprehensive approach to protecting and managing their resources -- equipment, inventory, buildings, data and people. Although a simple concept, the reality of securing an organization is quite complex. With hundreds, if not thousands, of video devices, motion detectors, fire alarms and access control systems deployed today, often across an organization’s multiple campuses and facilities, obtaining a complete view of a potential physical security incident, coordinating staff (both inside the organization and with first responders) and reacting in real time are extremely difficult.

Additionally, situation responses can be inconsistent, and information about them is difficult to gather for analysis, compliance tracking and further investigative requirements. The consequences of these inconsistencies can be substantial, including financial damage, loss of assets and even the loss of life.

In emergencies, time is critical. Ineffective or limited communication with first responders can be the difference between safety and disaster, life and death. To ensure a quick and safe response, whether at a company or on a college campus, responders need more access to what is happening at the scene before they arrive. For organizations with multiple buildings and even multiple campuses, this complete visibility, and a consistent security strategy, is vital to ensuring the safest, most effective emergency response.

Having a streamlined security plan across the entire organization that considers the company’s overall risks enables the standardization and automation of emergency response and allows operators to track trends in security breaches to better prepare for and prevent future situations. But developing an organization-wide security network for organizations with multiple campuses is easier said than done, and obtaining and sharing situation information to determine the right course of action in mere seconds can be overwhelming.

What Technology is Helping?
Organizations today need a solution that translates the data from any number of physical security devices and systems into relevant information that assists in detecting, analyzing, diagnosing and resolving situations.

A number of global organizations are now using state-of-the-art technology to do this for all of their campuses and facilities, on a single security platform. The software, called physical security information management (PSIM), provides a platform and applications that collect and correlate events from existing disparate security devices and information systems -- video, access control, CAD, sensors, analytics, networks and building systems -- across multiple agencies and campuses to identify true situations and then provide staff with the information and tools needed to resolve them.

PSIM provides a complete situational awareness and management solution to manage any security or emergency situation in real time efficiently and effectively. It enables organizations to get the right information to the right people at the right time while leveraging existing infrastructure investments. For command center operators, PSIM software eliminates the need to manually review and correlate data from multiple systems, including video, thereby saving time and resources -- which translates to cost savings.

A complete PSIM software system has five key capabilities:

1. Collection. Device management-independent software collects data from any number of disparate security devices or systems.

2. Analysis. The system analyzes and correlates the data, events and alarms to identify the real situations and their priority.

3. Verification. PSIM software presents the relevant situation information in a quick and easily digestible format for an operator to verify the situation.

4. Resolution. The system provides standard operating procedures, step-by-step instructions based on best practices and an organization’s policies, and tools to resolve the situation.

5. Reporting. The PSIM software tracks all information and steps for compliance reporting, training and, potentially, in-depth investigative analysis.

A Platform with a View
Many organizations have facilities in multiple locations, some spanning different countries, and it can be a challenge to manage security and enforce a consistent application of corporate security procedures and policies at each location. Especially with the acquisition of new corporate property, it’s critical to find a solution that can combine resources and leverage the existing security infrastructure.

With a single cross-campus security network, an organization can quickly and cost-effectively join security operations; they can seamlessly work together without having to replace existing systems and security devices.

A Fortune 100 technology company, with more than 50 buildings around the globe, recently built a global security operations center to monitor all security issues including Intellectual Property protection, personal property theft, fire and medical emergencies, access control maintenance and personal assaults. For this company, it was important to have one central view of events occurring across the company at a given time.

The company decided on a “follow the sun approach” in which the local security staff would monitor their facilities during normal business hours, and in the evening the global operations center would take over the management of the local center, including security devices such as cameras and access control systems. In the event of a security breach after hours, the company’s global operations center has immediate access to all of the campus’ security systems and devices. In addition, because the whole system is browser-based, local security staff can be notified, and they can access the system on a mobile device to assist in resolving the situation.

With the PSIM software, this firm can monitor all security and safety issues with one platform. Operators no longer have to manually review and correlate data from multiple disparate systems but instead have one common operating picture. The ultimate result is quicker identification and resolution of potential situations, minimized theft and reduced operational costs through more efficient practices. Additionally, the organization can respond to a greater number of incidents with the same staff, which is particularly important given its global growth. The result: lower costs, better service and lower risk.

The University of Delaware
School shootings, campus violence and educational theft are a reality of today’s world.

Learning institutions are committed to creating a safe living, learning and working environment for students, faculty and staff, but the success of this objective is dependent on effective collaboration and communication between public safety personnel, emergency responders and the community. In order for a school to obtain a complete view of its campus, it’s important that existing security systems and devices across all buildings and facilities are tied together for a campuswide security network. As new buildings are acquired or constructed, their technologies -- even existing, legacy systems -- are integrated into the security network for added visibility.

The University of Delaware strives to keep its 20,500 students and more than 3,500 staff members safe no matter where they are on the campus, no matter what time of day it is. Crime on the campus and people who are not registered students coming onto the campus are also of utmost concern. To tackle these security challenges, the school invested in a campuswide PSIM solution to promote a safe and healthy learning environment by significantly enhancing the visibility of campus incidents.

The PSIM solution delivers interoperability and collaboration needed to give the campus and public safety staff -- the local police department -- working access to intuitive, real-time video information for faster and better outcomes to campus incidents and crime deterrence. The system offers video surveillance in high-traffic campus areas, with coverage expanding to student housing located on the fringes of UD’s campus, where it is often difficult to provide a continuous security presence and crime deterrence.

The university’s system is designed to incorporate campuswide video surveillance with its overall security management. The resulting campuswide command-and-control center addresses the university’s need for a comprehensive solution that helps improve situational awareness, tactical response and incident management capabilities. After having the software for just a few weeks, the system identified a potential armed robbery on the campus. A camera captured an image of the license plate, and video surveillance of the situation was immediately reviewed. The five suspects and their vehicle was identified.

As a direct result of the PSIM software, four of the five suspects were charged, and the video evidence was used during the prosecution phase of the investigation.

Having a Complete View
Whether at a global enterprise or an academic institution, it’s important that security operators have a complete picture of what’s going on across their organization. Several unique sets of security devices, security personnel, and emergency response guidelines usually exist for an organization with multiple facilities and campuses, rather than a single, cohesive security solution. With PSIM tying all of these disparate technologies and information together, automating responses and automatically tracking and reporting emergency details, organizations can operate in a more holistic manner, increasing safety and security and lowering operational costs.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.

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