SD&I magazine sat down with Hollis Stambaugh after the event and got more in-depth information on the discussion of mass notification, security protocols on campuses and campus and life safety. Here's what she had to say.
What are the challenges that schools are facing right now, both in general and specifically on the funding side?
Stambaugh: One of the challenges is that incidents are becoming somewhat more frequent and it's important to know how to protect the student body without it feeling like it's an armed encampment where everyone is walking through metal detectors and you've got surveillance cameras in every classroom. It's about reaching some sort of acceptable medium between a general level of comfort in getting to campus and going to and from classes and protecting students while they are there.
The first thing to look at is immediate warning capabilities, processes and authorities. Some schools thought that did the trick; others thought that 'not only do we need the capability and know that we are poised and ready to make a very thorough response using a multi-layered communication, even if it is using the low-tech capabilities [old-fashioned sirens] but they have a place even in the evolving higher tech communication because they are part of that layered system. The sirens get the attention and alert you that something is happening. Another thing that I recommend is that all incoming freshman be required to provide their contact information to receive those alerts or sign a sheet of paper that states, 'I have chosen not to receive any alerts.' I think if they have to sign something like that, that really encourages them to leave their cell phone number with the school.
The second thing important thing is the need for a threat assessment team. You have to have a way to connect the various pieces of information about a student displaying adverent behavior over a period of time and intervening early enough where you can help them if they are a possible threat to the campus.
The third piece is a much more comprehensive emergency plan for the school. Have you addressed a public information officer so you can maintain good communication with the media and also control the information that does get out? A school should be at least three deep in your top positions. There has to be a key person who is responsible for IT and is making all these communication systems work but that just can't be one person; that person has to have a second and a third in command. The head person really ought to be at the emergency operation center doing that 'big picture' coordination with other departments and agencies, getting the info about what is happening elsewhere so they can make the command decisions necessary for their people.
From your experience, is there at least any conversation about having surveillance in place?
Hollis: I think it's just something that has not been acted upon yet because colleges are incredibly slow. Everything is decided by committees. But you have to keep that sense of urgency present; it's very easy to get distracted and move on to other things and not remain vigilant to some of these remaining pieces that need to be put on campus. But there are exceptions to every rule.
Are schools and some of these larger campus environments approaching security systems in schools and having them in place versus just having an emergency plan in the case of an incident like Virginia Tech or Columbine?
Hollis: Unfortunately, not enough. There always has to be a communicative approach. You are talking about an environment at a college where kids are technically adults and you've got an open campus. So the idea of having visual surveillance runs contrary to the mentality on those campuses. I agree that having a surveillance camera in every hall in dorms would be quite intrusive and very 'big brother.' But I can find no reasonable objection to having surveillance cameras at the entrances to buildings, especially dorms.
NEW NAME, FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS AT ISC EAST
The Security Industry Association's (SIA) CEO Richard Chace announced a new format for ISC East, November 3 through 4 in New York City. The show is a collaborative event produced by Reed Exhibitions and SIA. Chace said the ISC East event is changing its name to ISC Solutions, and instead of being a booths-and-new-products show like the current ISC West show the focus will be on developing the show as a "solutions focused" entity that is designed more for security end users and systems integrators looking for full solutions and systems by vertical market. Visit isceast.com.