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Improving Physical Security For Higher Education

By Northland Controls, Aug 10, 2021

Higher education institutions are known for open and accessible campuses. This starts with enrolled students, faculty, and administrators — but also broadens to include prospective students for campus tours, visitors for cultural and sporting events, and third-party service employees delivering supplies or food

Add the sheer size of many campuses — physically and in terms of growing population — and it’s easy to see why physical security at post-secondary schools is an ongoing challenge for staff and administrators. From property damage to theft, physical assault to more worrisome weapons-related incidents, schools need proactive solutions that help them actively monitor campus activity, act as needed, and ensure staff and students feel safe.

Four Ways to Enhance Higher Education Security

With so much ground to cover, it’s easy for post-secondary security practices to focus on digital data. Not only is this a priority, thanks to recent remote learning shifts, but the volume of information created and handled by staff makes this a popular starting point for would-be attackers. From research data to students’ personal and financial information, valuable data is continually created and stored on university campuses.

Physical security offers different challenges but is no less important. By making staff, students and their families feel safe on campus, schools can boost their reputation, drive enrollment and be ready to respond if issues arise. While there’s no one-size-fits-all security solution for higher education campuses, three common approaches include:

Unified and Optimized Access Control Systems
While electronic access control systems are commonplace these days, in campus settings they are often disparate between buildings and departments. These systems are critical to help protect valuable equipment, safeguard students, and reduce the risk of property damage. However, setting up these systems isn’t as simple as installing new technology — they must be tested for everyday reliability and emergency response if the power goes out or disaster strikes. One key consideration on a college campus is the ability for your access control system to support both larger business and security goals while working to unify your campus-wide system. A unified system allows for easier alarm monitoring, system updating, and system optimization while delivering a stronger security posture. Taking it one step further, the right access control system can integrate several different applications such as visitor management and other campus-provided services. For example, one new technology making headway in this space is mobile credentials for their streamlined access and added layer of security.

Video Surveillance
Gone are the days of analog security cameras with low-resolution video streams. Today, colleges and universities can choose from a host of IP cameras that provide high-quality images and video. Installed correctly, these enhanced cameras coupled with the right video management system can cover a significant portion of your campus and substantially boost safety with features like enhanced search capabilities, event notifications, and more recently, the implementation of artificial intelligence-backed video analytics. That said, as with any internet-connected device, schools need to make sure that cameras are hardened against potential attack or compromise.

GSOC as a Service
Global security operations center as-a-service (GSOCaaS) combines security monitoring, management, systems health-checking, and critical event response into a unified security solution. GSOC security has evolved as the threat landscape has evolved for college institutions. It’s no longer just monitoring alarms, managing access controls and video management systems, and providing remote access and employee care 24/7. It also expands physical security operations to include threat intelligence, dispatch services and device audits — all from a professionally managed security operations center available anytime, anywhere, on demand. By utilizing a hosted GSOC, colleges do not need to invest time and resources into building their own security center but rather rely on seasoned professionals to monitor and manage their campus security.

Critical Event Management
A critical event can happen at any time and pose a real threat to employee and student safety, business continuity, and physical property. Ranging from natural disasters to active shooters, the best way to react to a critical event is to be prepared for it. This is where a critical event management platform comes in, equipping campuses with tools to detect a threat early and to develop and deploy well-defined contingency plans when a situation arises. Coupled together, a critical event management platform can take a campus from a reactive state to a proactive one, increasing safety and saving time and money in the process.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
Environmental design can create a safer campus by strategically designing and placing buildings, landscaping, roads, parking lots, lighting, entrances, green spaces, communication devices, and natural surveillance. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a national building design standard that focuses on psychologically deterring criminal behavior through how spaces look and feel. Striking a balance that allows students and faculty to feel welcome and safe while deterring bad actors through with covert surveillance, strict access control, and territorial reinforcement is the main tenet of CPTED.

Making the Grade

Improving university security is no easy task — but Northland Controls is up for the challenge. From initial consulting to integration, deployment and support, our teams have the industry knowledge and hands-on experience necessary to help create a best-fit security program that protects the people, places and property that make your school unique.

Bring us your biggest challenge — we’re ready when you are.