A Day in the Life

Safety elevates; security gets tactical

Students, staff and instructors begin their day at a reasonable hour during a work day, but for security, time has no meaning. The criminal element does not watch the clock and often strikes when there is opportunity. Safety and security go hand-in-hand, no matter the hour of the day or night.


Early in the morning at a university in the Midwest, a vehicle breaches a staff parking entrance. The driver parks near a poorly lit loading dock and forces a service door open. Responding security officers get a head start when the vehicle’s license plate does not register in the school database and the gate camera sends an alert. The video intercom at the service door shows the door breached, and the suspect vehicle with an accomplice waiting inside. The vigilant campus command center operator dispatches law enforcement, which arrives immediately after campus security and apprehends the suspects.


The campus day begins with the arrival of a fresh security shift that checks in at command. The team reviews the last shift’s events with a quick overview of several video clips, providing the incoming safety and security officers with additional intelligence to keep their campus safe. The footage shows the usual main entrance monitoring and screening overviews, classes letting out, students returning to access-controlled dormitories, evening deliveries, and automated faculty escorts; plus, the one overnight breach. All these events are reviewed in minutes using the video management system’s search features. The team goes on their way to begin their tours and man their posts. All officers are equipped with tablets capable of real-time video view, alarm review, dispatched incidents and direct messaging to the local public safety answering point (PSAP) for all first responders including EMS, law enforcement, fire, explosives, HAZMAT and search and rescue.


Staff, student and faculty arrival builds continuously in the early morning, and command center operators and the safety/security director are all at attention and monitoring the activity. The use of 360°, HDTV, network cameras achieves a useful overview of controlled access points and the main student entry and reception area, with a panoramic view of school ingress and egress areas.

“My field of view has been increased tenfold,” said the safety and security director when asked about this system’s enhanced video surveillance. “If I don’t get you coming in; I’m going to get you going out.”


The campus lunch break has the usual students eating both indoors and outdoors with a number of activity tables on the common grounds. Seeing that the break has just started, the command center uses the campus’ public address system to direct students on which way to go for various events. The video surveillance system confirms they got the message as activity builds.


The day is nearly over for most of the student population, but not for staff and faculty.

The incoming evening security shift reviews the previous day’s events, again made simple by intelligent searches and embedded applications inside these network cameras. These apps, whether license plate detection, cross-line detection, student activity mapping or people counting, literally turn these network cameras into domain-awareness sensors, relaying a steady stream of data that is available on demand.

The video surveillance “heat” or activity mapping tools let the incoming security crew know when to expect the student exit activity to decrease, waiting until after this time to conduct the shift transition to avoid any missed incidents.


The evening student’s dorm access control entries continue, and security officers on patrol are ready to receive alerts of doors left propped open. The door entries are silent until a signal buzzes on a door that was left open. Safety and security command reviews the door breach on video and verifies that no suspicious activity or “piggybacking” has taken place. This simplified alarm “histogram” guides the operator over to the video associated with the door alarm.

Safe waiting areas around the campus see a good amount of pedestrian traffic as students and faculty board transportation at prearranged locations around campus. Each area features enhanced LED lighting; 360°, HDTV, network cameras; area video analytics; wireless connectivity and an audio system. If someone walks toward the waiting area, the LED lights flash as a safety indication. The person in the waiting area then has the option to use their smartphone or call box as an alert device should they feel unsafe.

Also, this time of evening finds faculty and staff walking to their vehicles and using a “video escort” app on their smartphones. If they confirm an incident or fail to check in while they walk to their cars or dorm, campus command is immediately notified and nearby cameras are activated. The system has preprogrammed camera locations that are related to the alert’s location.


Our “day-in-the-life” concludes with the security staff verifying cafeteria and facility supply deliveries. Each of the delivering vendors has checked in online prior to delivery and entered their commercial trailer license plate and approximate delivery window. The embedded license plate recognition system automatically detects the plate on entry and exit, and delivers an exception alert if the plate is not in the database or the truck fails to exit.

The safety/security officers work together with command to make a visual verification of the delivery into the transition space. This means the vendor does not have to enter the secured building space for delivery, simplifying and shortening the process for both parties. An HDTV, network camera monitors the delivery transition area, and the camera’s embedded video motion detector is active after hours.

These are examples of technology in action, enhancing campus safety and delivering tactical advantages to campus resources.

Forensic Video Readiness in Campus Security

In campus security, recorded video and related feature data of events is one of the first and most important resources for incident review. But, what is available in this data, and what are the opportunities for command center personnel, first responders, operations management and safety teams? To understand this, we first need to define what is included with this “forensic” video data and then apply a process for its use.

Digital Multimedia Content is more than just video data. It represents audio and video content, content stream data, location-based information, relevant IP addresses, recording time, system time and any other information attached to a digital file. Designing a video solution to provide maximum coverage is of great importance for systems used for forensic review. Advances in camera technologies that produce usable color or find the lights in dark or low-illumination scenes are improving forensic video content.

Video analytics help campus safety and security professionals by performing complex, repetitive functions, such as object detection and recognition, simultaneously on many channels of video. These tools can provide improved searches based on object characteristics and behavior. One popular example is a “people counter.” This analytic can report student behavior at main entry/egress points and return the number of people passing into a zone, through a boundary or into the field of view. This can provide criteria on increasing camera frame rate and stored resolution during the time of highest traffic.

Another popular video-recognition solution is fixed license plate recognition/ capture (LPR/LPC). This specialized app runs either as an embedded network camera application or in the video management system to capture license plate data. LPR is a mature application embraced for campus safety at entry and exit locations. The trend to embed this function reduces cost and allows greater flexibility, while embedded video analytics represent a growing segment.

Heat activity mapping is a type of video content analysis that can improve safety by analyzing the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic on campus. Understanding staff traffic flow will often help camera placement and ultimately the video forensic-review process.

A balance of operational responsibilities, appropriate response, technology engagement and, hopefully, personal growth and insight into their service delivery mark the day-to-day activities on campus for the safety and security professional.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Security Today.


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