Covering All Layers of Security

Making the infrastructure work for the campus

Each year, college campuses across the country are faced with new security and safety challenges. Campus police and security departments need to adapt to these challenges by implementing new strategies and/or infrastructure.

It’s been discussed that the overall best way to address current and future security obstacles is by improving campus coverage, the area that an acting police or security department can safeguard/patrol at one time. During the recent economic downturn, though, many campus police and security departments have had to downsize, resulting in a decrease in coverage. However, even before this decrease in personnel, many departments were still unable to simultaneously watch over large areas of their campuses. This was due to expansive infrastructure and improper or deteriorating communication tools.

In order to maximize the coverage of college police and personnel, many departments have looked to address the layers of security.

Three Key Layers of Security

The first layer, emergency communication, addresses the connection from student and faculty to police. Many colleges discovered that it was hard for their student population to quickly get in contact with campus dispatchers or patrol officers.

Frequently, campuses lacked convenient and noticeable emergency phones. At locations with phones, many were antiquated, neglected or left in disrepair. To make matters worse, students, when using their personal phones, did not know the direct phone number to campus police or security. This lack of connectivity led to slow response times and confusion for both officers and the individuals who needed help.

Layer two, and probably the most important, is mass notification capability. A standard for schools across the country is to have some way for police and personnel to communicate with the mass campus population.

Many colleges incorporate email and text messages as their mass notification solutions, but like many have discovered, it isn’t enough. Emails and text messages aren’t always received and read at necessary times. Students, such as those walking to and from classes, most likely aren’t looking at their email and may not have access to their phones. When instructions and information are essential for saving lives, holes such as these can leave large amounts of people uninformed.

The third layer, surveillance, covers the ability of campus police and security to watch and patrol areas where an officer may not currently be.

Universally, surveillance cameras are typically found at all colleges. Unfortunately, many cameras are not used until after a crime or emergency has occurred. Also, many campuses lack ways to use their cameras in real-time scenarios, whether that be following a suspicious individual or patrolling a 360º area.

Implementing Increased Campus Coverage

Loyola University, located in Chicago, Ill., has been at the forefront of implementing increased campus coverage. Loyola’s police department has focused on improving emergency communication, mass notification and surveillance, and is now one of the safest campuses in the country. With a student base of nearly 16,000 students spread out across multiple campuses, the challenge of providing a safe campus has been monumental. In order to address these challenges, along with the key layers of campus security, Loyola University turned to Talkaphone.

“We wanted to address all areas of campus security,” said Bill Curtin, Loyola’s director of environmental services. “We originally had emergency phones that were outdated and starting to fail. Additionally, those phones did not meet ADA requirements. We felt that newer emergency phones could address multiple layers of security. Due to these factors we wanted to upgrade, and the IT department agreed on the choice.”

First layer of security. Freestanding Emergency Phone Towers cover the first security layer for Loyola University and are the most common of the upgrades found on campus. Standing more than nine feet tall, these towers are two-way communication phones for individuals in need of assistance. Additionally, these towers act as campus perimeter indicators, sporting a LED blue light that can be seen across campus during the day or night.

“We wanted something that was durable, had high visibility and provided a quick connection to the caller,” Curtin said. “We wanted the units to be recognizable and easily visible no matter where you are on campus. The towers are no more than 300 feet apart from each other, which makes sure that students are only 150 feet away from a phone at any time.”

Second layer of security. To address Loyola’s mass notification needs, Curtin had WEBS towers and paging units installed throughout each campus. The WEBS towers include bright LED blue lights, camera arms and a direct line of communication through a phone. They also include four mass notification speakers that provide 360º of coverage.

“We also use Talkaphone’s WEBS Contact software to manage and operate our mass notification messages,” Curtin said. “WEBS Contact is fantastic software that allows us to easily use and organize the messages we broadcast from our WEBS towers and indoor speakers.”

WEBS Contact, in conjunction with WEBS Towers, allows Loyola’s police dispatchers to maintain several prerecorded mass notification messages that can be broadcast throughout multiple or single towers. Advantages like these save time and provide endless broadcast options for department personnel. An additional benefit of the WEBS towers is the ability to broadcast messages directly from a unit location. In the back of each tower is a hand-held microphone that allows officers to make onthe- fly messages through the tower’s loudspeaker. This gives officers flexibility if a mass notification broadcast needs to be made immediately.

Complementing the towers and software at Loyola University are the indoor paging units. These units are placed in discreet, indoor locations and can provide clear and intelligent messages, just like their outdoor complement.

All of the towers on the Loyola University campuses provide a quick and uninterrupted connection to campus dispatchers. This means that when a tower is activated, an individual does not have to press and hold a button every time he/she wishes to talk, allowing that person to address their current situation without having to handicap one hand. Additionally, when a tower is activated, the campus dispatcher knows the exact location of the caller. This saves the dispatch center time in trying to figure out the location of the call, allowing them to send quicker assistance to the caller’s location.

“When a phone is activated, the dispatcher sees and knows the exact location of the caller,” Curtin said. “Our dispatchers will immediately relay the location to our on-duty officers, drastically cutting down on response time.”

Resting on the windy and wet shores of Lake Michigan, in conjunction with the intense summers and maniacal winters of Chicago, Curtin also needed weather resistant units that could bear the brunt of consistent and extreme conditions.

“We’re right on the lakefront, so we get heavy winds and rain,” Curtin said. “Even through that constant barrage, they hold up well. The phones are extremely dependable.”

Third layer of security. Camera-equipped extension arms on top of the towers provide individual identification during an activation as well as general surveillance. The cameras are operational before, during and after activation thereby allowing the dispatch center to watch, evaluate and identify a situation before officers arrive on scene.

“The towers near our athletics fields are frequently activated,” Curtain said. “Those calls address sports injuries or some type of medical emergency. We’ve had some incidences where an individual has activated a phone to report a robbery or assault off campus.”

These cameras can be automatically turned on, in real time, from controls at the campus dispatcher. Abilities like these allow Curtin’s officers to follow individuals and events from tower to tower across campus.

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

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