In the U.S., spending on security hardware by educational institutions amounts to more than US$600 million per year.
Despite increasing violence on school grounds, there continues to be apathy the "that would not happen here" attitude as well as a general lack of physical access control security acumen, said Beverly Vigue, Vice President for the Education Vertical, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.
Educational facilities in the U.S. are divided into the following categories: kindergarten to eighth grade (primary) , ninth to 12 th (secondary) and colleges and universities (tertiary). Video surveillance is more prevalent in the former, explained Fredrik Nilsson, General Manager, Axis Communications US. It is installed, he said, to minimize vandalism and theft. It also gives the police access to live video should the worst a school shooting happen.
"The most common issue that threatens a school on any given day is the outside threat," said Guy Grace, Director of Security and Emergency Planning at Littleton Public Schools, Colorado. "If there is a nearby bank robbery, then the school, for safety reasons, will be locked down. This entails placing extra police and security officers at the school and activating security procedures and equipment to enhance level of security until the emergency passes."
The majority of Grace's calls for potential outburst and violence responses are disruptive parents. Often, presence of security or a police officer keeps the situation under control. Other measures include staff training to learn how to de-escalate situations and devices that alert responders.
Elementary schools have police officers and security officers that patrol at all times. Middle schools (6-8) also staff armed police officers to protect staff and students. High schools are bit more liberal about allowing students to come and go. They are, however, continually staffed with several security officers and a police officer.
Vendors and Funding
The major providers of surveillance and video management systems for the North American educational market are Vicon and OnSSI, said Gadi Talmon, founder of venture house Viapplica; while Cheryl Bard, Product Marketing Manager for Bosch Security Systems in the Americas, pointed to integrators, such as ADT, SimplexGrinnell, Johnson Control s and SST. Grace cited Compass Software, Hardware, Sentrol, Inovonics, HID and Pelco.
"It is not much of a challenge to sell security solutions to educational facilities," Vigue said. "The challenge comes in trying to get them financed. Most institutions would install solutions tomorrow if they had the funds available."
Video surveillance systems must normally be approved by school boards, said Nilsson. Often, parents are concerned with where cameras are installed and who has access to video. Usually, local or on-campus police have access to live video from a remote location.
"Being able to lock down interior classrooms is important not only for K-12, but also higher education," said Vigue. "The previous mindset of not allowing students to lock a classroom (requiring a key or credential) has now changed to allow anyone to secure a door. Our customers are moving quickly, aided by consultants, and becoming more knowledgeable consumers in access control."
Some higher education threats are related to mass enrolment, explained Scott Howell, Director of Worldwide Marketing, Hirsch Electronics. At universities where students have access cards or PINs, the staff needs to enable or disable thousands of students' access within a short period of time.
Universities often have areas needing a higher than average level of security: labs doing research on viruses, animals and nuclear particles as well as chemical storage rooms; server farms; and child care centers. As campus areas must remain open to the public, universities cannot simply secure campuses with fencing and few gates; rather, they need to secure thousands of doors. Additional security needs include lock downs, mass notification, vandalism control and parking control.