Universities, colleges face challenges when standardizing protocol
- By Kyle Gordon
- Jan 05, 2016
For multiple reasons, colleges and universities encounter distinct challenges when faced with the formidable task of standardizing security protocol, procedures and technologies. Campuses are often spread out over sprawling acreage, with buildings serving various purposes, including anything and everything a resident, student or faculty member could need, from medical facilities, research labs and auditorium classrooms to athletic arenas, residence halls and cafeterias.
In what has become an increasingly volatile climate, colleges and
universities are expected to anticipate the needs of their students, faculty
and visitors, and are now designing campus environments to
ensure safety and security for all. The overall expectation and execution
of campus safety and security standards is regarded highly
amongst communities nationwide. In overwhelming instances, the
safety and security of a campus has become the cornerstone in successfully
establishing an environment in which students are free to thrive
and focus their academic efforts, while enjoying the quintessential collegiate
experience in whatever way they have envisioned it.
For campus administrators, public safety officers and police, creating
a secure campus cannot merely rely on the security technology
implemented throughout the facilities. What has become necessary in
bolstering these preventive deployments is the development of functional
security standards, communicated and carried out campuswide.
Functional safety and security standards are essential to effectively
crafting a foundation, a framework for all building construction
on campus whether new or renovations to existing structures. Not only
physical building standards need to be adhered to, but policy and procedure
standards should be addressed for such things as timing for
locking/unlocking of doors and people flow through various buildings.
All of these standards offer a significant context, forcing stakeholders
to take stock of their facilities and evaluate potential risks, security
needs and begin to establish an efficient operational procedure for
those specific campus community members that require access.
As a result of the rapid pace at which technologies, such as access
control, video surveillance and intrusion detection have been introduced
to campuses in recent years, institutions are finding it more
difficult to keep up with the development of accompanying security
procedures and protocols to determine the needs and uses of these
systems. Too often, deployments are assessed ad hoc; card readers may
be installed on doors at a newly constructed residence hall, but not on
existing living facilities without any real justification.
In other instances, an access control solution may be implemented throughout a science or lab building on campus, for example, due to
new regulations or mandates, and soon after, a campus-wide call to
action rolls out the intent to implement a similar solution in buildings
across the entire campus. With only the science building’s installation
as reference, colleges and universities will often use that single deployment
as the template for others, which in no way takes into consideration
the disparate functions and operational patterns of other facilities.
To ensure that these standards are developed and implemented
immediately, as well as throughout the duration of and beyond the
scope of any security project, campus administrators should plan to
enlist the expertise of a trusted security integrator at the project’s
onset. By drawing in and allowing the security integrator to become an
integral part of the standard writing process, campus institutions can
more readily mitigate security risks in an environment that is nearly
always subjected to capital construction projects.
The following are some of the most fundamental assessments that
need to take place in conversations surrounding functional security
standards to maintain campus safety as a priority in all institutional
construction, renovations and targeted projects.
GATHER STAKEHOLDERS FOR A COLLABORATIVE,
Perhaps most important in setting out to develop appropriate safety and
security standards for any campus environment is to be certain that all
pertinent campus stakeholders are involved in the conversation. These
include high-level campus executives, public safety officers, university
police, residence life authorities and facility management, as well as the
campus IT department, communications department, athletics, medical
and religious facilities, and community members, at large.
With so many security technologies moving toward a more networked
approach, involving IT as early as possible is critical to ensure
that the campus network can accommodate the various systems, or
determine the bandwidth required. Athletics, medical and worship
facilities are just as integral to campus life as the dining and residence
halls, and all will have different perspectives, needs and concerns in
any standards discussion.
Finally, early involvement of the college or university’s communications
department will help to determine ways in which students, faculty
and applicable surrounding communities are notified of any new
security measures, expectations or requirements. Standardized language
will dispel panic or misconceptions amongst the college or university
population, instead showcase the situational benefits of the new
systems without fear of relinquished privacy or infringing on community
DISCUSS SPECIFIC, UNIQUE PAIN POINTS
FOR DIFFERENT CAMPUS FACILITIES
Due to the varied nature of many campus buildings, the issue of security
varies from facility to facility. It’s never in the best interest to
assume that one campus building’s needs inherently mirror another’s.
Consider the building structure, the purpose of the building, who frequently
occupies it, common access times and the personnel designated
to respond to incidents at the location. All of these are major
factors that contribute to the deployment and anticipated use of the
security technologies selected for each location.
For instance, athletic arenas have to account for coverage of wide
areas and a large number of non-community members, warranting the
need for extensive video surveillance and immediate mass notification
if a widespread emergency were to occur. Residence facilities need to
account for 24/7 movement of authorized students in and out of the
buildings, requiring robust access control that can be both discerning
and constantly monitored, but in no way impedes student living.
Medical facilities and research labs must be equipped to safeguard
the campus population from the potential spread of biohazards and
infectious diseases, limiting access to research and testing areas to
reduce risks of tampering or biochemical attack.
Each of these varying facilities’ functions and security-related possibilities
should act as the basis of standards development, accounting
for every subtle nuance and how they contribute to the context of the
overall campus environment so that appropriate sub-standards, when
necessary, can be developed for major sites and buildings.
CONSIDER FRONTLINE AND BACKEND INTEGRITY
OF SECURITY TECHNOLOGIES AND OPERATIONS
AT ALL FACILITIES
In the deployment of modern security technologies in campus environments,
a progressive trend toward a network-based operation has
grown massively in recent years. This includes the critical pillar systems,
including mass notification, access control, video surveillance,
intrusion and fire detection, all riding on a network and tying into
databases that are wholly unique to the campus experience.
Databases for dining halls, residence access, administrative records
and human resources all now carry information that is crucial and
intrinsically woven into the functions of security systems to ensure
they are effective.
Throughout the development of functional standards, campus
stakeholders must be cognizant of this network-based reality, and the
integrity of systems’ and databases’ backend. Too often, many institutions
are faced with significant issues because these systems – both
security and those related to campus life or administration – have
grown so quickly that the network has become almost unmanageable.
By sitting down with an integrator, campuses can deal with any integral
backend challenges, solidifying all lines of defense in the event
that an on-campus emergency occurs.
ALIGN ALL MAJOR PLAYERS WITH A DOCUMENTED
SECURITY STRATEGY FOR ALL CURRENT AND FUTURE
When all is said and done, select an administrative leader preferably in
the institution’s executive office to champion documented standards. A
strategy which hasn’t been clearly defined has a greater risk of being
value-engineered out of a campus construction project or renovation.
By dedicating time to a comprehensive evaluation of campus security
threats and the development of functional standards with a trusted
integrator, college and university personnel ultimately ensure the output
of a clear alignment across the campus and representative stakeholders
in regards to how the institution plans to protect the community
as a whole, as well as safeguard its students, faculty and staff.
In essence, these standards carry a core quality of flexibility and scalability
to be able to grow, bend and support the campus as it faces new,
unforeseen challenges now and into the future. In
all senses, these standards should contribute to the
longevity of the campus institution itself, a testament
to the openness and drive associated with the
all-encompassing academic pursuit.
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.