University Security Strategies

Technology and crisis management are keys to success

Security practitioners often talk about their most challenging project in terms of the number of facilities and their geographical distribution. The challenges associated with a classic enterprise class design and implementation project, however, often pale in comparison to the challenges facing a university security director whose charge is to secure a small city.

The typical university campus setting includes:
• A population of tens of thousands.
• An average resident age of just slightly above that required for legal access to alcoholic beverages.
• A raft of high-profile research activities that certain segments of the population at large find offensive. These activities could range from live animal testing to bio-security research programs.
• A high-profile athletic program.
• Concentrated student housing facilities sometimes distributed within the surrounding community.
• A mandate to maintain an open and unrestrictive environment to promote independent thinking and academic creativity.
• A study-abroad program that puts students at locations around the globe.

Central to a university security program is the accountability provided by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. This legislation was signed into law in 1990 under the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990. Under the provisions of this Act, universities are required to publish an annual report containing three years worth of campus crime statistics. While the Act specifically requires distribution of this report to all students and employees, organizations like Security on Campus ( collect and make available to the general public the data from these reports from universities and colleges across the county.

With even the public safety department subject to this final exam, campus security programs must be comprehensive and robust. While the development, dissemination and enforcement of various security-related policies are essential to a secure campus environment, technology plays a key role in not only monitoring campus activities but also aiding in the response to an incident.

Mass Notification Technology
One particular piece of technology that has received reactive interest on university campuses is mass notification. Before the Virginia Tech tragedy of April 2007, many universities had some form of mass notification system in place; however, that incident prompted a renewed interest in enhancing the coverage of such systems. What has resulted is a combination of approaches to increase the likelihood that every member of the campus community is notified by at least one method, which include:

Broadcast loud speakers: This option is an extension of the emergency duress telephone stations that have become an industry best practice in parking lots and institutional campuses.
Cell phones: Systems are readily available that will call any number of cell phones in a targeted group with a prepared message.
SMS messaging: Similar to the cell phone option, systems can send SMS (text) messages to any number of cell phones in a targeted group. As above, the likely degree of success of this approach is dependent on the capacity of the local cell equipment.
Cell broadcasting: A relatively new technology is available which uses the existing cell phone network to deliver geographically targeted messages to cell phone users while avoiding the channel clogging limitations associated with voice and SMS messages.
Desktop pop-ups: Certain services offer content delivery to desktops in the form of pop-ups.
E-mail/Faxes: Almost all providers of emergency communication services include e-mail and fax notification in their offerings.

Technology to Fight Crime
While communication methods in the midst of a crisis are an important tool, the university community has also focused on elements that will reduce the likelihood of the complete spectrum of criminal events. For example, lighting is widely recognized in the security industry as the one of the most cost-effective security expenditures. Organizations like the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) have promulgated standards specifically addressing lighting standards for the university environment. The IACLEA guidelines generate much discussion since they call for lighting levels above those recommended by the Illumination Engineering Society of North America (IESNA); however, their error, in the view of the IACLEA, if any, is on the side of safety. In addition to these organizational standards, individual universities often publish own standards, many of which are available on the Web.

Universities have also strongly embraced implementation of campus-wide facility access control and CCTV systems. Access control systems have been common at the entrances to selected campus facilities such as dormitories for some time. It is now common for card access to be implemented at the individual dorm rooms, in part due to the reduced infrastructure implementation costs associated with wireless door control units. This trend is likely to continue especially as the IP-addressable door control units mature and are interconnected with the campus security management system through a secure wireless network.

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