Campus safety up for debate after active shooter cases

Campus safety up for debate after active shooter cases
Ten people were killed and several injured when a gunman opened fire at a community college in the US state of Oregon recently. The incident was the 45th school shooting incident in the country last year, and there was little surprise when it brought college and university security in to the focus. 
 
The education sector has always been a strong market for the security industry, but unlike K-12 schools, university campuses have lagged behind in being up-to-date. The recent active shooter incidents could well be a reason to change this.
 
“The biggest driver for improved security (and use of security technologies) at schools and colleges has been the unfortunate shooting incidents such as those at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Blacksburg, and more recently in Roseburg, Oregon,” said Charles Volschenk, MD at Geutebruck USA. “Such incidents have highlighted the difficulties in securing educational institutions against attack whilst maintaining general freedoms of the students and teachers, and have led to a big increase in safety and security planning and spending in the vertical.”
 
But protecting colleges and universities come with a host of challenges that are unique to itself. Most of these are due to the operational nature of the institutions, and hence cannot be avoided. But with the right optimization, industry players argue they can be overcome.
 
Countering the Challenge of Open Campuses
 
campus safety
Open campuses pose a challenge to
implementing security solutions.

Colleges and universities are often spread over large areas that include different kinds of infrastructure, from classrooms to laboratories with expensive equipment, and open spaces like sports areas. Any security solution aiming to secure the whole campus has to consider their differences in function.
 
What make things really complicated is that such institutions are often open to the public and prioritize maintaining an open environment. This limits the chances of perimeter security, and has always posed a challenge to solution providers.
 
Fortunately, at least some colleges and universities are amending this model of operation to gain more control over their campuses. According to Jeff Whitney, VP of Marketing at Arecont Vision, this stems from the realization that insufficient security measures make campuses an easy target. 
 
“Maintaining an open, positive environment has been a goal of many colleges and universities,” Whitney said. “Yet modern times are gradually forcing an encroachment on at least part of this openness for security reasons. Being a soft target without adequate security can make a college or university a prime target.”
 
But even when an institute chooses to retain its open campus, there are modern solutions that can be put in place to secure them. David Jones, VP of Marketing at IntelliVision, a company that provides intelligent video analysis and automated monitoring solutions, listed some of them.
 
“One, for example, is creating zones,” Jones said. “There may not be a physical fence, but you can create virtual zones. When you look at the video, we can allocate zones within the video.”
 
Others point to the use of a wider range of products. According to Tristan Haage, CSO of Mobotix, intelligent LED lighting, emergency video call stations, advanced video analytics, and hemispheric and thermal cameras are just a few solutions that help secure open campuses.
 
Haage further noted that a major challenge, besides the open spaces, is prevention. It’s impossible to predict every occurrence on a campus, but steps can be taken to minimize the chances of untoward incidents. To this end, campuses should analyze human traffic, on-campus numbers, user scenarios of facilities, etc., to put a complete video management system (VMS) and analytics solution in place.
 
Managing Video for Immediate Action
 
safety in library
Video analytics can help look for certain anamolies
like a difference in people coming in and 
going out of a particular building. 

Experts agree that VMS, PSIM (physical security information management), and analytics have a key role in making campuses more secure. Modern VMS and PSIM solutions can draw inputs from various sources to present a comprehensive picture of the threats, thereby enabling authorities to take the right action.
 
According to Jones, video analytics software can detect and differentiate objects captured by the camera. More importantly, it can look for certain anomalies, like a difference in the number of people going in and coming out, which can alert the authorities to possible cases of intrusion.
 
The use of intelligent software solutions is not just limited to the data supplied by security equipment. Chris Berry, Chairman of Initsys, said his company’s software solutions have a social media interface that can draw key words and phrases, which could provide early warnings to an imminent threat.
 
However, most industry players stress that such measures would work only if combined with other systems to identify individuals and control their access. At any point, it should be possible to know the reason for a person being in any of the areas.
 
Importance of Managing Identities and Controlling Access
 
Modern access control systems are already part of most large universities and colleges, but more efficient deployment of these systems can ensure comprehensive protection.
 
“Identity management and properly controlled ingress and egress to specific areas are the key,” said Kevin Buret, MD of Sukema Integrated Solution. “Once an individual is correctly identified and verified against the reason for being in an area, better control is available and accountability is easier to determine post event.”
 
Volschenk agreed, adding that while outdoor areas are best secured with high-resolution, wide-range cameras and analytics, entries to facilities or buildings should be tightly controlled.
 
“This can only be effectively managed with a proper access control system (and procedures) with associated scan/X-ray systems to detect weapons,” Volschenk said. 
 
But these solutions are not as effective as standalone services, as much as they are when integrated with each other. In fact, similar to the direction security solutions are taking in most verticals, the education sector too is witnessing solutions that are connected to take advantage of each other.
 
Taking Integrated Security to the Next Level
 
integrated security college
Campus security solutions can be integrated
with equipments like vending machines in campus

David Ella, VP of Product Marketing at AMAG Technology pointed out that the ideal system is one that joins the different elements, would allow a complete instant lockdown when needed but at the same time allow proper communication between each department. The last part is critical as this would aid authorities in making decisions to evacuate or remain where they are.
 
“An integrated system that combines public address, lockdown, access control, and video surveillance is achievable,” Ella said.  
 
Buret explained this in detail. According to him, the first step is to integrate the operations management system to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to prevent duplication and maintenance of separate databases. Subsystems and technologies that relate to the people are fed from the ERP, which is the main source of information. Policy will decide what the staff, students, and visitors are permitted to do.
 
“In the ideal world, information relating to crime, modus operandi, identity, and movement should be shared between universities,” Buret said. “This enables trend analysis and prediction to take place which can assist greatly in the prevention of crime.”
 
Arecont Vision’s Whitney also gave his take on how integration can be optimized in campuses. Apart from using analytics to monitor people who come in and go out, license plate recognition (LPR) systems integrated with high-quality cameras can provide extremely useful information, both real-time and for forensic viewing after an incident occurs.
 
“Key cards and dongles are often used for access control into specific use areas such as athletic facilities, locker rooms, labs, etc.,” Whitney said. “Tying an access control system into identity management by using high-quality images from a megapixel camera is also common today in corporate environments and increasingly in college and university environments.”
 
But such concepts of integration are not limited to just combining security systems. Jammy DeSousa, Product Manager at Tyco Security Products, said colleges and universities that invest in open and integrated systems have an immediate advantage in quicker security management and analysis. Some of the most robust and open platform systems also offer opportunity for integration with other systems and processes commonly found on campuses, such as cashless vending, parking, or document printing.
 
“There are several open standards available today that are emerging, such as ONVIF, PSIA, and OSDP that are intended to offer paths for easier integration,” DeSousa said. “Most leading system suppliers today offer open SDKs and partner programs to foster integration and thus harness exponential value not capable by disparate systems.”
 
In terms of the current demand, the vertical is witnessing an increased need for mobility and bandwidth mitigation solutions for video systems, according to Haage. In cases like the active shooter incident, it’s vital that security officers are able to lock and unlock classroom doors remotely and evacuate spaces as they advance to the crime scene. 
 
But enabling such complex security solutions would require advanced processing systems and massive storage space, given the large size of university campuses. James Somerville-Smith, EMEA Channel Marketing Leader at Honeywell Security and Fire, suggests the use of cloud storage as the answer to this. Integration of various security applications can be done through cloud, making it easier for security managers to control the whole site from a single central location.
 
“The immense storage space and processing power of the cloud allows university security managers to store and review security footage cheaper and more easily, and its flexibility means it can be easily scaled up or down to suit the needs of the campus,” said Somerville-Smith. “For rapidly expanding universities in particular, the flexibility the cloud provides is the ideal option for keeping the campus a safe place to learn.”
 
Underscoring Urgent Need for More Investment
 
security investment, campuses
Colleges and universities are waking up to the 
need for stronger security solutions in campuses.

Traditionally, colleges and universities have aimed to implement “code blue” type panic signaling, theft security, and access control systems, to protect campuses. But Patrick Wood, Owner and Chief Consultant at Security Options and Solutions, points out the recent shooting incidents have prompted institutions to drop such ideas and take measures that directly address active shooter scenarios.
 
Many universities and colleges have expanded their campuses at rapid paces, but their security solutions have not been able to keep up. In Somerville-Smith’s opinion, security systems in this vertical have mostly grown on an ad-hoc basis. Initsys’ Berry added that in many educational institutions the security systems were not managed properly and did not take advantage of applications like analytics.
 
On the positive side, college and university authorities are finally waking up to the need for better security systems. That students and parents are increasingly placing safety as a criterion when selecting an institution has helped the case further. As concerns of violence continue to cast its shadow on campuses, demand in this vertical is set to increase.
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