Achieving Top Honors in Campus Safety
Benedictine University earns state-wide recognition with high-tech security solution and Emergency Operations Center
- By John Bartolac
- Jan 01, 2015
Campus safety is fast becoming
a prerequisite for
students and their families
when they explore options
for higher education. As
their expectations grow, they also are becoming
increasingly savvy about security
technology. At Benedictine University, a
four-year university located in Lisle, Ill.
the school’s chief of police, Michaelo
Salatino has seen this change firsthand.
“Now at the orientations, we’re dealing
with more informed parents and students,”
he said. “When I start describing
our card readers and camera system,
people are actually asking, ‘How sensitive
is it? Does it work? How do you use
it?’ These are questions that were not
asked just a few years ago. Our community,
at large, is a lot more sophisticated.”
The campus police have dedicated
themselves to meeting these concerns
with comprehensive security programs,
and the school has been accredited by
the Illinois Law Enforcement Accreditation
Program for its safety and security
initiatives. One such initiative is their security
camera network featuring Axis
network cameras, which the school began
deploying in 2007 with systems integrator
Convergint Technologies. Convergint
also network-enabled a number
of legacy analog cameras in the campus
parking garage with six-channel AXIS
Q7406 Video Encoder Blades.
The camera system “definitely extends
the range of our university police force.
We wouldn’t be able to operate as effectively
as we do without it,” Salatino said.
On the strength of this and other programs,
the school was ranked as the second
safest four-year school in the state of
Illinois in 2013, and the university’s efforts
have become a clear draw for students.
“Even as recently as six years ago,
security technology was not really on
people’s radar,” Salatino said. “Today,
parents tell me they selected our university
because the safety and security
programs we have in place aren’t being
offered by other institutions down the
road. It’s pushed us to keep up with the
latest security technologies and partner
with Convergint to make sure we deploy
the best products out there.”
Salatino sees this increased awareness
as a trend throughout the country.
“Security is of extreme concern to
parents and students,” he said. “That’s
what really has launched a lot of public
safety operations across the country—
meeting the demands of your community.
And that’s exactly what we do here.”
High-Tech Security Campus-Wide
The cameras help support a police force
of 14 state-certified peace officers and
At any given time, there are hundreds
of students, faculty and staff on campus,
and special events can bring in an additional
4,000 people and their vehicles.
Handling routine calls would be challenging
without the camera system, according
to university police.
The campus-wide security solution
takes full advantage of the latest technology,
including new features such as
HDTV-resolution, H.264 compression,
wide dynamic range (WDR), lowlight
color fidelity and 360o field-of-view.
The ultra-fast PTZ control of AXIS
Q6035-E gives the police department
the ability to track activity along a busy
walkway between four buildings and
zoom in instantly when an incident occurs.
A 360°, five-megapixel AXIS
M3007-PV Network camera provides
a panoramic view of the library with
its multiple points of entry and atriumstyle
architecture. “My field of view has
increased tenfold,” Salatino said. “If I
don’t see you coming in, I’m going to see
you going out.”
Covering a 108-acre campus can be
challenging, especially for a university
which was founded in 1887. The campus
features buildings constructed in
a variety of styles dating back to the
1930s—from concrete slab ceilings to
dropped ceilings to three-story atriums.
Fortunately, IP cameras can be easily
installed in a range of building environments.
Convergint also used a variety of
mounting options to ensure the cameras
blended in with the aesthetics of the
campus. “We’ve never had to abandon
or reconsider a location,” Salatino said.
“All you need with these cameras is a network
drop and you’re in play.”
Cameras are monitored 24/7, and
the IT department archives video for 30
to 45 days on rack mounted Dell PowerEdge
multi-processor servers. This
helps security staff quickly resolve incidents.
For example, if an expensive pair
of jeans goes missing from the laundry
room, police can easily check the video
to see if another student had mistakenly
grabbed the wrong clothes.
“Invariably it’s another student who
accidentally scooped up clothing from
the wrong washer or dryer,” Salatino
said. “And it just takes a knock on the
door to get those clothes back.”
In addition to serving as a force multiplier
for routine service calls, the Benedictine
University police department has
integrated the camera system into its
emergency preparedness program to assist
officers in informing students, faculty
and staff of severe weather conditions
and emergency evacuations, as well as
coordinating with local law enforcement
during active shooter drills.
The cameras are tied into a separate
Emergency Operations Center (EOC),
which allows administrators to keep
continual watch over the campus while
police dispatch handles first response.
The Department of Education’s Action
Guide for Emergency Manager at Institutions
of Higher Education compares
college campuses to small towns in their composition, as they are active around
the clock and include a variety of facilities
ranging from residential buildings
and businesses to dining halls and athletic
centers. To manage security protocols
in such a diverse environment, the
action guide recommends universities
develop a thorough, comprehensive
and collaborative emergency management
plan. An Emergency Operations
Center, like the one established by
Benedictine University, is one of the
keys to a successful plan.
The EOC is connected to a broader
emergency response plan that includes
their University Emergency Alerts
and Information Notification systems.
As outlined in the school’s 2013 Annual
Security Report, the emergency
response is highly interconnected and
features audio alerts over their mass
communications system, strobe lights,
emails, voicemails and personal communications
from Residence Life staff
to each student. The integration of the
cameras with the rest of the emergency
plan provides critical visual information
to coordinate responses.
The university found the camera
system to be extremely useful for emergency
preparedness. During building
evacuations, they are able to coordinate
their mass communications protocol
through the PA system in conjunction
with the cameras.
“We can see which way people are
travelling or if there’s going to be a
traffic jam at a particular staircase,”
Salatino said. “With that information,
we can give directions on our campuswide
public address system instructing
people on which way to go.”
In the event of threats or an active
shooter scenario, the cameras provide
invaluable situational awareness to the
university and first responders.
“With the cameras, we’re already inside
the building,” Salatino said. “This
helps support officer safety, and we’re
able to coordinate with responding law
enforcement jurisdictions that would be
backing us up.”
University police also use the cameras
to keep track of everyone entering
“Our staff quickly learns to recognize
who belongs and who doesn’t,
plus their access card gives us the
time/date stamp that can be matched
with the video,” Salatino said. “If
officers see someone enter that
they don’t recognize, they’ll initiate
a search to confirm whether it’s
a friend of a resident or an intruder.
Conversely, if someone reports suspicious
activity and gives a general
description such as ‘a male wearing
a banana yellow shirt and brown corduroy
pants,’ campus police can use
the video to track that individual’s
whereabouts on campus.”
When it comes to security, Benedictine
University won’t settle for anything
less than top marks.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Security Today.