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Current campus safety concerns include threats of terrorism, mass shootings, the pandemic, stalking, student mental health, assault and more. Schools have to remain diligent in order to keep students and faculty members safe. The responsibilities of campus security officials have always been substantial but they are even more distinct in the modern era. As campus safety continues to be a major concern moving forward, new technologies are being developed and upgraded that help security professionals effectively support and safeguard campus communities.

In the 1980s, anxiety grew about crime and security at the nation's postsecondary institutions. Higher education institutions traditionally had been considered to be safe havens where students could focus on their studies. However, a number of high-profile violent crimes on college campuses changed that perception. Such concerns led Congress to pass legislation regarding campus security and crime reporting at postsecondary institutions.

Clery Act Evolves and Protects

When Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986, access control in the residence halls was primitive at best. Prior to Clery's death, there were reports that her residence hall had 181 situations of auto-locking doors being propped open by residents. The murderer likely gained access to Clery's room through a propped door, as well as her own room door having been left unlocked for her roommate, who forgot her key.

The Clery Act, named after Jeanne Clery, was championed by her parents, Connie and Howard Clery, in her memory. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) is a federal law established in 1990 that requires colleges and universities to report crimes that occur on campus and establish school safety policies. The Clery Act also requires schools to send timely warnings to the school community when there are known risks to public safety on or nearby campus. It is enforced by the United States Department of Education, and institutions that fail to comply could face a fine of $59,017 per violation.

This information is also available each year in an Annual Security Report (ASR)—and the associated Fire Safety Report—which can generally be found on the institution’s website. Every college and university that receives any federal funding, including financial aid for students, must be transparent about all crimes committed on campus. Through Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments including the Campus SaVE Act, reportable crimes also include stalking, intimidation, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and hate crimes.

The ASR, submitted in October of each year, documents three years of specific crime statistics for each specified crime at all applicable geographical locations, and include procedures and information pertaining to crime victims’ rights. Also included in the report are education awareness programs for students and employees and emergency response systems and procedures. Institutions must make the ASR available to all current and prospective students and institutional employees.

Avoiding the Spread of an Incident’s Impact

Instant, multi-modal communication to students and faculty during an emergency situation keeps the campus community as safe as possible. Timely warnings of significant specific crimes—and emergency notifications of ongoing or impending hazards—that threaten a campus are mandated through the Clery Act. These warnings need to include credible information that can be used to prompt immediate student and employee action in response to the event. Promulgating these warnings and informative directions to large populations on a campus remains a challenge and requires many different simultaneous methods including sirens, loudspeakers, email, text messaging, social networking tools and word of mouth.

These multi-modal communication tools aid in minimizing tragedies and are used to provide up-to-the-minute instructions to students, faculty and staff for campus lockdowns and associated response postures. Emergency notification systems are also proving to be lifesavers in the case of significant natural and man-made disasters.

The access control sector has been on the cutting edge in developing and deploying innovative technology. Consider entering into an academic building or residence hall that has future-proofed its access control. Push aside the traditional access control card where the card is touched to the reader and you wait for the click that signals access. All that touching, clicking and pointing includes putting your hands on more objects and surfaces. All that extra touching could result in an elevated risk of spreading a virus such as COVID-19.

Frictionless access control permits access to an area by using mobile applications on a smart phone. This technology was around well before the pandemic, but the advent of COVID-19 has fast-tracked frictionless access control into primetime.

These apps leverage NFC (near field communications) and Bluetooth to allow completely frictionless access control. Employees and contractors no longer have to carry a badge or present credentials. Team members can keep their mobile device in their pocket or purse and wave their hand near the reader and the door will unlock.

More systems are coming onto the market that don’t require a traditional card reader at the entrance door. They employ software that can use access the mobile device’s location to determine their proximity to the door for hands-free access control.

Academic institutions are trying to navigate how to ensure the security of their physical spaces and assets without having someone on site, and how to handle daily operations if they shift some or all of the team to a remote working environment. Even with less people coming into the college, there are many security risks to consider in addition to the health and safety of their students and employees.

Because academic environments are prime locations for COVID-19 and its variants to spread, more colleges and universities are operating with reduced staffing or a fully remote workforce. They’re also making major changes to who has building access and how students, visitors, and employees are coming and going.

What’s the “gold standard” for pandemic access control? Powered by artificial intelligence and Bluetooth, the access control system is integrated with a video platform which weaves medical safety technologies into the security practice.

Access control services help ensure that those present on campus have a legitimate business there. Regardless of the institution’s access strategy—from a fully-open campus to one with increasing security with perimeters tightening around potential targets such as residential students, vital research facilities, institutional collections and other restricted venues—ensuring that security professionals are diligently standing post in select locations is important. As important as technology is, it is the trained security professionals who can verify legitimate access, manage visitor access and detect and deter intrusions.

By actively monitoring educational building systems operations and guarding against threats to the structures and their occupants, security professionals are monitoring to proactively identify hazards and to respond when appropriate. All while providing solutions that monitor and report on specific hazards with a watchful eye on issues that affect risk, liability, cost of operations, and sustainability. Institutions with off-campus locations often seek us out to ensure protection of these facilities and the safety of their students, faculty, staff and visitors to those locations.

Remote Security Management

Some academic institutions are transitioning to cloud and mobile-based security systems which simplify site management without the dependency on local servers or on-site personnel. With pandemic security at heightened importance, having a system that can be managed remotely offers enhanced control and flexibility. Remote security management includes many innovative tools and techniques which can include:

  • Instant Credentialing: Employees can use their mobile phones to access the facility, and visitors can access the facility at set times via a text or email link.
  • Remote Unlock: Unlike unlocking a door by presenting a credential or key to the lock itself, remote unlock allows for any entry point to be remotely unlocked from anywhere.
  • Elevated Body Temperature Monitoring: Body temperature measurement systems are a fast and safe way to measure body heat and can be seamlessly integrated into access control systems.
  • Contact Tracing: Using Bluetooth contact tracing technology that interfaces with access control, companies can observe their workforce social distancing and record contact distance and duration.
  • Lockdown: Consider a riot that breaks out on campus. With remote lockdown, the campus is able to implement a remote lockdown, which can be implemented from anywhere, that closes all the doors to the facility and ensures the campus’ safety inside the premises.
  • Schedule changes: Managing building closures, changes in personnel hours, etc., across multiple academic facilities can be done by the security administrator remotely. The ability to make real-time changes keeps access available and facilities secure.
  • Real time alerts: Students, faculty and administrative staff can get notified immediately about potential security threats such as nearby protests, or interior physical security threats like a critical door propped open, so that the facility is secure when workers aren’t there.
  • Integration Critical: Depending on the legacy system, there are many integration opportunities to streamline a current system with other tools, offering an enhanced security experience. For example, a university could integrate video monitoring with remote security management so that the system administrator can remotely access and monitor real-time video feeds in conjunction with access events.

An emerging technology that is picking up steam as a powerful addition to a campuses video security and analytics portfolio are concealed weapon detectors. These scanning solutions use advanced sensors and artificial intelligence to detect a wide range of concealed weapons and threats, such as firearms, metallic weapons, and improvised explosive devices, on a visitor entering an educational facility.

Additionally, more and more colleges and universities are staying ahead of cyber-threats that might slip past traditional security defenses with the help of professional analysts and cyber security specialists. Engineers and architects are contracted to assess IT and cyber system infrastructure, identify vulnerabilities and assess risks, and uncover electronic evidence. Specialized areas of service include threat assessment through cyber forensics and e-discovery, cyber intelligence and threat management for people, organizations, and events around the globe using a combination of intelligence-gathering technology, human analysis and mitigation measures.

Evolving Training Key for Campus Security Professionals

Committing to training programs helps ensure that campus security professionals are prepared for—and ready to respond to—all hazards that could threaten the institution or an individual. Security professionals are trained to respond to the most common incidents including First Aid, CPR and AED practices, as well as complex scenarios including handling confrontations, dealing with fire and being alert to all safety hazards. Additionally, campus security professionals must be a “good fit” and possess the necessary mindset and training to work, communicate with, respect and protect today’s increasingly-diverse and vibrant campus communities. The security team must plan, practice and revise their operational procedures to ensure readiness. It is important that university security directors work with a trusted physical security services and system integrator to assess the systems and processes currently in place to best understand where they are at risk. This will allow them to make informed, personalized decisions when they begin implementing changes to their security platform and processes.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2022 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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