Covering All Layers of Security
Making the infrastructure work for the campus
- By Samuel Shanes
- Nov 03, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Security Today.