Online Exclusive: Integrated Access Control Sends School Safety to the Head of the Class

Online Exclusive: Integrated Access Control Sends School Safety to the Head of the Class

Online Exclusive: Integrated Access Control Sends School Safety to the Head of the ClassKeeping students safe is a universal priority for educators, administrators and parents alike, and many school security officials find themselves asking how they can do this through the school’s security systems. Access control solutions that can integrate with a school’s existing infrastructure are a smart choice, according to the experts – especially when coupled with video surveillance systems and the school’s data systems that help track incidents as they emerge.

When faced with threats such as those encountered during a campus lockdown, it is critical that all systems function together in a seamless manner to ensure functional confidence and reliability. When systems fail during an emergency, resulting in situations such as classroom doors not opening or alarms not being sounded, it can pose a critical safety issue. Implementing a comprehensive security solution that can work together seamlessly is an important factor in helping enhance the safety and security of students, staff and faculty.

More specifically, access control tools should identify, log and report people entering the campus as well as classroom buildings. Video surveillance systems can also help boost access control capabilities, allowing monitoring to occur remotely. This, coupled with security officials present, can help make campuses feel more secure overall.

It’s important to remember that despite media reports of violent crimes, theft also is a major concern for many universities. Access control solutions, coupled with video surveillance, help raise the bar, securing intellectual property, software, sensitive data, laboratory and computer equipment. An integrated access control system can track student IDs, deactivate lost or stolen key cards, lock or unlock doors on a schedule, and even note when action occurs — such as lights being turned on in a building.

Most educators, including administrators, school district officials, faculty and staff need help when it comes to implementing security systems. Investing in access control solutions that can integrate easily with other security solutions is a step in the right direction for securing today’s diverse campus communities.

When Old Systems Fail

The College of Saint Rose, in Albany, N.Y., is serious about keeping its 4,500 students safe. It employs a highly visible, uniformed security patrol and has a 400-camera surveillance network in addition to an access control system. Despite these measures, the school’s access control system experienced performance issues, potentially putting students at risk. For example, buildings were not opening or closing as scheduled and access cards were able to open unauthorized doors, even during a campus-wide lockdown. Because the system was outdated, unstable and not intuitive to use, the college sought a new solution to their access control issues.

The administration wanted one solution that would centralize disparate data sources and simplify the task of managing a secure campus. Security officials decided to upgrade the access control solution in place to a Vanderbilt Security Management Solution (SMS) because its intuitive interface dovetailed perfectly with the college’s other security and administrative systems. The single-source SMS solution simply worked, according to college administrators, increasing the security of campus buildings by 100 percent. The system gave the school unlimited reporting, detailed report scheduling, manual and automatic overrides, and a programmable flash for downloads and firmware updates.

College officials were so pleased with the upgrade that they now have plans to fully integrate it with the campus-wide surveillance network. An access control system that allows complete integration like this means a solid return on investment.

Because universities are a maze of diverse facilities with multiple points of entry, it is important to make sure there is access control at each and every location. Sometimes, when budgets are stretched thin, universities may wait to upgrade systems. Additionally, administrators often are divided on how to best approach the daunting task of securing an educational facility. To plan for the future, however, it is wise to choose an access solution that is able to expand as the security needs of the university widen. The right access control software can readily accommodate any size campus. If school officials are unsure how to begin the process of updating access control, a good way to start is one campus facility at a time.

Access Control in a Single Location

When the Oregon State University (OSU) needed to ensure that its 100,000-square-foot facility for faculty and students, Austin Hall, was secure, it added a complete SMS from Vanderbilt, giving students and faculty the ability to use their IDs to not only access rooms, but also reserve them.

Austin Hall is home to 21 project rooms, 10 classrooms, 10 faculty-use conference rooms, IT closets, a four-room research suite, a mailroom and an assortment of event spaces. There are many of access points to control in this sprawling facility. The solution they chose needed to streamline ingress and egress and allow for students to utilize the facility, like reserve project rooms with their existing credentials. The solution also needed to work with the HID Global identification cards, used by the students across the campus.

The new system utilized its intuitive user repository that combined the access levels of students and staff members, with their respective rights and privileges, through a process known as nesting. This enabled OSU to use the system in a productive, innovative manner that was not previously used by the university. The decision to implement an automated lock system at Austin Hall resulted in a significant savings in time and manpower, according to officials.

One key enhancement: the system’s automated platform did away with the need for manually scheduling rooms. It also allowed the university to track who came in and out of the rooms, giving the administration the ability to know who could be held accountable if equipment in the room went missing. This integration of multiple systems helped make Austin Hall a beacon for integrated access control. Currently, OSU is considering implementing the system in other large-scale buildings on the campus because of the initial success of integration.

The Future of Integrated Access Control

Today’s schools and universities require access control that does more than simply locks and unlocks doors. It must respond to the ever-evolving needs of a large campus. Implementing access control solutions that not only allow students and faculty a way to easily access the places they need to go, but also can keep them safe in an emergency situation is imperative to a university’s operations. Access control in its many forms is the first line of defense on a campus, but integrating video surveillance, event management and student records into a single solution can help today’s school security solutions pass with flying colors.

About the Author

Mitchell Kane is the president of Vanderbilt Technologies.

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