How Safe Is Your Campus?

Consider strong access control systems

Effective campus security consists of more than just a budget line-item and the proverbial “knocking on wood” in today’s day and age.

Today, administrators are inundated with marketing that touts the latest and greatest security products whether it be: cameras, wireless devices, alarm systems, etc. These all might boast advanced technological characteristics and outstanding performance, but to what end?

Failure to consider things such as engineering specifications, efficiencies, and maintenance issues can result in buyer’s remorse. Prudent choices follow careful planning, and careful planning begins with a focus on the protection of people first.

Nothing protects people more than a strong access control system and effective communication. Campus personnel often make up the front line of a university security program and there should be an emphasis placed on equipping them with periodic instruction, electronic access briefings, and simple methods of communicating concerns in a timely fashion so they can be setup for success.

CREATING A LOCKDOWN PLAN

Today, campus security threats are becoming a more frequent occurrence and it’s essential that educational institutions have a lockdown plan in place to help minimize any potential threats and increase the safety of students, employees and visitors.

There are several items to consider when creating a lockdown plan, including the type of security system to implement, the types of emergencies to prepare for, and what needs to be communicated to students, faculty and staff whenever a lockdown occurs.

When it comes to securing a school or campus, there isn’t a onesize- fits-all solution. The age of the facility, the credential management platform and inherent protocols, budget and long-term security strategy must be considered.

Although a campus-wide lockdown may not always be practical or even possible in many cases, multiple lockdown options can help appropriately address an emergency or threat and ensure the safest and most efficient safety measures are taken across campuses.

For example, a preventive lockdown can limit access to buildings and classrooms, yet allow classroom instruction to continue. On the other hand, there are situations that call for an emergency lockdown meaning imminent danger has been detected.

In many cases, university facilities might need more than just a plan to ensure safety. This may involve installing new locks that enable lockdown from the inside such as those with a classroom lock function. In other cases, the solutions may call for architectural modifications, such as the addition of new walls or doors. Regardless of what it might be, it’s important to remember the safety of students, employees and visitors.

LOGICAL SECURITY

Access control is a critical aspect of any school safety strategy. It’s the way a school manages credentials and the access and egress of staff, students and visitors on a daily basis.

It is not easy to create and maintain an educational environment that acts as an asset in delivering quality service. All too often, systems and technologies purchased to improve business objectives and processes can create more complexity than intended for the people using them.

For example, there has been a significant increase in the number of card access systems, which is a wise move because the use of credentials can offer increased security and data exchange. However, sometimes these systems have been added in a vacuum and not through collaboration with other departments. If each department is doing it this way, users of the systems could end up using a different credential for each of the functions they do throughout the day and feeling frustrated over the complexity.

EMERGENCE OF SMART CARDS

University staff members and college students often use different credentials throughout their day to do basic functions. It could be entering the building, signing onto their computers, checking out supplies or paying for lunch. And if they work at or attend two or more facilities, the number of credentials they need to use multiplies.

The time required each day to find the correct credential for each function can be frustrating and decrease productivity and customer satisfaction. Fortunately, smart cards can provide one credential for a multitude of tasks. Additionally, they provide greater security, allow for fewer pin codes and passwords, and simplify duties.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

It’s also important to have a crisis management plan in the chance of an immediate need. The purpose of a crisis management plan is to minimize the amount of loss during an incident. Unfortunately, for many colleges and universities, existing crisis management plans are outdated and tend to disproportionately address environmental emergencies.

The questions below raise issues that must be considered by universities. Too often these are neglected until after an unfortunate incident.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT (PRACTICES & PROCEDURES)

  • How do we control access to our campus and facilities?
  • What are the school’s policies governing identification badges and off-site events?
  • Are staff roles and responsibilities for lockdown procedures clearly detailed, routinely disseminated and periodically tested?
  • How are students involved in the security program?

PATH TO SUCCESS

Any integrator can put electronic hardware products on a door, but in today’s changing society, there are more decisions for your customers than ever before, and helping them find the right solution is important to completing a practical security plan.

Those that look at how products fit into school policy and security procedures are the ones that will make a significant difference in the education market and enjoy a higher level of success. Each new sales lead is not just the opportunity to make a sale, but also an opportunity to build a lasting relationship that will lead to repeat business for your company.

The end result will be an access control solution for the present and future, and a satisfied client willing to refer you to others.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Security Today.

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