How Technology Can Address the Security and Safety Needs of Small Campuses

Todd Keller

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On February 27th In Access, IP Surveillance Video
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Security officers can keep an eye on things remotely from this camera

On practically any given day, America is bombarded with headlines about security incidents. This steady stream of news has prompted campuses large and small to adopt a wide variety of technology solutions so they can protect their people, property and other assets. The challenge for many smaller organizations, however, is that they often find themselves searching in vain for solutions that will appropriately meet their safety and security needs in a budget-friendly way.

“Either they have an elaborate system, or they have nothing at all,” says Todd Keller, owner, and president of Speco Technologies, which is a leading provider of video and audio security solutions. “If the campus doesn’t have anything, that leaves the organization vulnerable.”

This problem is pervasive. About 40 percent of American colleges enroll 1,000 or fewer students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. So, what is a small campus or organization to do? Buy a solution with lots of bells and whistles that it doesn’t need? Or on the other end of the spectrum, should it do nothing? Fortunately, there is a middle path to address this conundrum.

New technology on the market now provides video management systems which can trigger notifications during emergencies to employees so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and notify first responders. These affordable solutions use video analytics, audio, and other ques. When a dangerous situation is detected, the system automatically sends notifications to the cell phones of administrators, teachers, clinicians and other stakeholders who have signed up to receive emergency alerts. This enables them to respond effectively to an incident, keeping themselves, their students and patients safe. For example, in the event of an emergency, rather than employees running to see what is happening, which could put them in harm’s way, they could be notified electronically that they need to lock down or evacuate to stay safe. At the same time, the system can summon help from campus police, security or other local first responders.

The system will also typically include a panic button, which is hardwired or can be activated via a mobile phone app (or both). When there are signs of trouble, an employee, nurse, administrator, faculty member or other authorized individual can press the button. When the panic alarm is activated, a notification is sent to other staff members’ mobile phones.

A handy use for a feature such as this is that is can augment visitor management policies at the front door. For example, at a high school, if a non—custodial parent, a former student with a history of concerning behavior or other unauthorized individual comes onto campus and creates an issue, an employee can activate the panic button, which then sends out an alert to other staff members.

However, in some situations, a person on campus might not have the time or wherewithal to press a duress button. When this type of incident happens, no human action is needed to send out an emergency notification because the system will detect the activity and send out an alert automatically.

Another feature included in leading solutions is facial recognition, which can identify individuals who are not authorized to be on campus. Facial recognition works by scanning a photo of unauthorized individuals or using images of that person taken by the facility’s security cameras. Once the system identifies the unauthorized person, emergency notifications are sent out so that employees can take protective actions and first responders can be summoned. Additionally, an audible warning can be broadcast where the unauthorized individual is located, instruction them to leave the premises immediately.

An important feature to look for in these solutions is that they be scalable and can be programmed, so emergency messages are broadcast to a wide variety of devices. That means they can be programmed to reach not only cell phones, but also public address systems, digital signage, computer pop-up screens and more.

If the facility has a video monitor, administrators and public safety can view the location of where the alert originates. This enables staff and first responders to quickly and effectively address the issue.

All this functionality may sound too expensive for a small campus budget, but there are many solutions on the market that are surprisingly affordable. That’s because many schools, universities, healthcare facilities, and small businesses already have security cameras, emergency notification devices and other equipment that can integrate with an emergency notification system.

Today, smaller campuses and organizations can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with today’s advanced security technology. No longer is that a luxury reserved for larger campuses, organizations, and businesses.