Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison, Axis Communications
Decision making in education security on campus varies with the complexity of the property, number and type of sites, and, of course, the most important assets: students, faculty and staff.
In the case of the independent K-12 facility, security lies with school superintendent, facility manager or, in the case of higher risk, a manager of child protective services. If there are a number of facilities, as in a “school district,” site security management is still required for operations and often has influence in the decision. However, school security policy, system specification, project management and purchasing moves to a centralized management team that can better interact with industry and maintain compliance.
When the total number of sites is in the tens or hundreds, a school construction authority holds responsibility for all previously described aspects up to the point when the site is turned over to the school facility and operations group.
The case of higher education has a dual design and operations responsibility for the campus safety and security director, coupled with additional members of the project team. IT management and, as applicable, campus law enforcement have differing degrees of decision influence and are actively involved with system operations.
With the complexity of today’s threats to education facilities, increasing emphasis on interoperability with first responder functions impacts the decision process. Since the security and emergency communications systems are integral parts of crisis management, the trained response team will also often impact the decision process or, at least require the solution to have maximum usability in all disciplines covering fire, law enforcement, EMS and other first response.
Buying cycles vary greatly with the complexity of facility as the progression to more complex safety and security management as described above. Unfortunately, a shorter selling cycle can come as a result of a “knee jerk” reaction and the suspension of the development of a sound Security Master Plan, and the well-designed solution. Sound security decisions will almost always have a degree of inertia; however, temporary improvements in physical security and target hardening can often be done in conjunction with on-site campus safety and security patrols, or “remote” guarding.
The IP video system deployed in a school setting can solve a range of problems and provide solutions, with the simplest as a “force multiplier” or contribution to CPTED, or crime prevention through environmental design. A video system’s primary use in these use cases is “forensic” or after the event, so the biggest problems can be solved by video systems that allow for fast incident review by using tools like summarization or “synopsis” of view, where video motion is fully represented in a compressed timeframe, yet can point directly to the high resolution content.
Pro-active “smart” cameras with embedded analytics can read license plates from vehicles on campus, make comparisons in real time with back office servers having access to the National Crime Information System (NCIS). Persons and vehicles “of interest” can improve security and often solve a problem that has not yet happened.
Additionally, with the popularity of BYOD, mobile devices on campus can improve student and faculty safety by originating a distress call that can be linked to nearby camera locations and initiate an appropriate, intelligent emergency response or allocate resources.
There is a great array of safety and security solutions available to all education practitioners; build the solution and project team and you’ll have a strong problem-solving tool that is integrated into your school security and crisis management plan.