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Best Practices for Campus Physical Security

Best Practices for Campus Physical Security

While picking a school or college for their children, parents have lots of things in mind. But the main concerns are no doubt the quality of education provided and the campus safety. Given active shootings on the rise and vulnerabilities associated with COVID-19, assuring a safe environment for learning and student life seems a great challenge for campus security. Add to this assaults, burglaries, vandalism, and bullying, and it turns into an overwhelming task for campus security unless cutting-edge technologies are utilized to enhance the efficiency of the security system on campus.

To maintain school discipline and safety, educational establishments across the United States have implemented various preventive and responsive measures. Heavy-duty door locks, gates, fences, access control systems, and video surveillance cameras are the familiar mainstays of physical security. While these are important features of a physical security barrier, there remain many other gaps in securing educational institutions which can be easily filled with the help of robust and innovative security technologies. Let’s delve into the campus vulnerabilities and explore how AI-powered cutting-edge technologies help to meet these physical security needs.

Assessment of physical security vulnerabilities

Typically, educational establishments face common threats. Nevertheless, each and every one has its unique challenges they have to address. Thus, before creating a safety plan and choosing proper tools to enhance campus physical security it’s important to conduct a site assessment so as to identify where vulnerabilities lie on the school campus. Potential risks can come from parking lots, playgrounds, learning or residential facilities or relate to intrusion, health risks, and violent incidents, among others. With a big-picture understanding of safety challenges, emergency managers can determine which areas require special attention while students and staff can keep themselves safe from such threats.

New technologies coupled with intelligent analytics can help to carry out the site security audit and provide invaluable insights into the weaknesses of the security system so that safety managers can tailor better-defined plans, processes, and policies to cover the incidents most likely to affect each location on the campus, and coordinate actions between educational institutions, local law enforcement agencies, and other first responder professionals. To ensure an effective emergency response it’s also vital to conduct regular training and drills for students and staff so that they know how to behave in critical situations.

The necessity to keep a huge site under control

A school or college campus occupies a large area that includes various learning facilities, some with valuable assets like computers or lab equipment, a residential area for students, and shared spaces such as libraries, cafeterias, meeting rooms, sports grounds, and parking lots. All of them require appropriate round-the-clock monitoring.

Normally educational establishments have a security department keeping track of the facility at all times. They watch the feeds from cameras installed across the campus and coordinate mobile guards in case an incident occurs.

However, managing a large number of feeds is a daunting task for security operators and inevitably leads to fatigue and more importantly to missed threat detections. Even more pressing task falls on security personnel during celebrations, concerts, sports games and other public events which are regularly held by educational institutions and gather crowds of visitors.

In this respect, it’s paramount to leverage AI-powered solutions to enhance campus monitoring as those analyze the situation across the site 24/7, detect threats, and alert local agencies, staff, and students to potential danger. What takes manned security hours takes seconds with state-of-the-art technologies. The integration of false alarm filtering with the campus video surveillance system also prevents security guards from noise fatigue and unnecessary stress caused by numerous false positives as the system helps to impressively reduce those up to 99%.

Campus Physical Security

Providing open but safe environments

Another security gap stems from the necessity to strike a balance between building a secure environment and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for students on the campus. Without an effective access control system, it’s hard to close that gap as entrances to the premises of schools and institutes of higher learning can become vulnerable to unauthorized access.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics survey about security, most public schools in the United States – 95 percent – reported that they control access to buildings during school hours. Still, there are many cases when the access is breached, including visits of non-custodial parents or guardians, active shooter situations, and even unauthorized guests within the halls of residence. That forces campuses to consider newer, better, and faster security solutions to mitigate risks and protect lives and property. In the Campus Safety Magazine 2019 Access Control & Lockdown Survey, more than 75% of participants shared they have an interest in implementing effective security tools like door hardware and/or biometric access control systems.

Keys and locks are no longer sufficient. It’s vital to implement AI-powered access control systems integrated with face recognition technology. Those make control over the entrances and exits of an educational facility fast and hassle-free. Coupled with the face recognition technology they automatically verify the identity of students, faculty, and visitors granting access only to those with valid credentials and denying entry to unwanted visitors. It also helps curb tailgating, preventing unauthorized parties from sneaking in. At the same time, an access control system is used to restrict entrance to areas that have special safety and regulatory concerns like labs that may contain biohazards, toxins, or radioactive elements and sends alerts to notify in case of perimeter intrusion.

Besides, access control systems utilizing IoT technology and artificial intelligence can connect various types of door locks into one high-tech school-wide security tool that allows security staff to quickly and easily lock down a campus at the touch of a button, which can be critical in the event of an emergency or threat.

Physical security threat prevention and emergency preparedness

Even the most efficient school security teams cannot prevent security hazards like school shootings and violence on the campus. According to one nationally representative survey of college students, approximately 17 percent of students reported experiencing some form of violence or harassment. In the US, every year more than 3,000 children and teens are shot and killed and 15,000 more are shot and injured according to reports.

Having cameras all around the campus, security personnel can monitor what is going on and respond if an incident occurs. The problem is that with such a huge number of video feeds it’s easy to miss potential threats and fail to prevent escalation of a dangerous situation. When it comes to preventing violence and active shooter incidents, an effective threat detection and response mechanism is not just desired, it is absolutely required. Therefore, school security is increasingly utilizing anomaly and weapon detection technologies these days to advance security operations. As soon as the system identifies a weapon and defines the situation as potentially dangerous, it alerts both school officials and first responders to a pending emergency providing location information and video data in real-time. It can also trigger lock-down protocols to prevent students and staff from unnecessary risk. Not only are AI-powered technologies able to detect and identify an assailant, but they are also capable of tracking suspects in real-time across all the connected cameras based on their appearance, even after the weapon has been hidden.

Managing parking lots

Identifying and tracking vehicles coming onto campus is a security fundamental. K-12, colleges, and universities face the influx of vehicles coming onto their premises daily, many of which belong to unauthorized individuals who often park their vehicles in the school parking lot. The number of ride-share drivers is also growing dramatically. Security personnel and administrators should understand who is coming onto the campus and control their access to ensure the safety of their students. One way is to implement solutions with AI-powered analytics which can identify authorized and non-campus associated vehicles by reading vehicle license plates and alert security personnel when a blacklisted vehicle enters the area.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19

With a new school year starting this fall, educational establishments welcome students back to school and have to ensure a safe learning environment for them. Below are some ways of how AI can be leveraged to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protective measures and prevent the spread of infection:

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Integration of thermal cameras with AI allows detecting elevated skin temperatures helping school security staff pinpoint COVID-19 symptoms as well as trace contacts.
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It detects social distancing violations and mask usage and triggers alerts in case of non-compliance with the CDC’s social distancing recommendations.
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AI analytics can be used to run occupancy monitoring in real-time. K-12 and higher education institutions will also see value in utilizing people counting analytics when it comes to organization of events and concerts.
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One of the ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is implementing AI-powered access control technology as it can leverage touchless sign-in and face recognition systems to grant or deny access to certain areas.

Final Takeaway

K-12 and higher educational establishments are security-intensive environments whose campuses need efficient and effective tools to protect students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Today cutting-edge technologies offer solutions that can help security managers curb numerous threats they have to address and fill the gaps in their campus physical security. Implementing AI-powered access control systems, video analytics, intrusion and weapon detection technologies is critical nowadays for educational facilities to enhance their overall security to make every campus a safe one.

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