The four pillars of campus security

A look at basic areas that need to be addressed as college students, faculty members head back to school

Cardkey-controlled entries should also be required for all dormitories as these systems offer a number of advantages. Lost or stolen cards can be immediately deactivated and a new card issued within minutes, eliminating the expense and time of rekeying locks. Administrators should select a smartcard system that will give students not only dorm access, but also entry into laboratories, recreation centers, offices and other buildings. These cards can be programmed to allow access only on specified days and times. Access systems also maintain an audit trail that can be valuable in investigating a crime.

Visitor management systems are another important layer of security for campus buildings, especially dormitories. Many visitor management efforts begin with a video intercom. These systems allow campus personnel to remain safely behind a locked door while still being able to see and communicate with visitors. Video intercoms are useful for remotely granting access to vendors and contractors needing entry into dorms, cafeterias, loading docks, storage buildings and other campus facilities.

A web-based visitor management system uses campus- or government-issued photo IDs to check visitors entering critical areas. The cards are swiped through a reader connected to federal and state criminal and sex offender databases. Once the visitor is cleared, the system takes the visitor’s photo and prints a self-expiring, adhesive badge that can be worn throughout the stay. The systems also make it easy to program a local watch list that could include disgruntled individuals such as fired employees or suspended/expelled students.

Mass notification systems provide students, faculty, staff and visitors with vital information and instructions to follow during an emergency.  A campus should employ both web-based communication tools and external “big voice” systems. A web-based system allows administrators to send notifications to thousands of people in minutes via the registered recipient’s landline, mobile phone, PDA/text-based device and e-mail account. A system can even remind students of counseling or health services appointments, fee due dates and other campus activities.

Outdoor systems are capable of covering a campus with only a few speakers, each capable of being clearly understood up to a quarter-mile away. By providing information when it’s most needed, both systems can help save lives and preserve property.

Another important tool is video surveillance, which gives campus police valuable real-time data to lessen the impact of or resolve criminal acts. Clear, noticeable signage stating an area is under surveillance also can help cameras act as a significant deterrent to many criminals.

Cameras should be placed at entries to all dorms, classrooms, office buildings, labs, gyms, stadiums, libraries, student unions, parking lots, and remote campus areas. When mounted on portable trailers, cameras can be moved to where they are needed for special events such as sporting events, concerts or other attractions that can draw thousands of people from surrounding communities.

Today's digital and networked systems provide for remote viewing of live and recorded video allowing authorized administrators to check on the campus from other locations. Officers in the field can view real-time video on smartphones and tablets. Local first responders can also share that same data helping them to better prepare for a potentially dangerous situation.


By placing all the previously mentioned disparate technology systems on the campus network it’s possible to integrate them for a more efficient and effective security response. For example, an access control reader can trigger an alarm that starts the nearest camera to begin streaming live video of the site to campus police.  Floor plans or maps of the location can accompany the real-time feed to give dispatchers important details to correctly handle a situation.

Many campuses already employ electronic campus credential solutions that allow a student’s access card to also be used to check out library books, buy supplies from the bookstore, access parking facilities, attend cultural or sporting events, use a copier or purchase vended products or food from on- or off-campus sites, so students no longer have to carry cash or multiple debit/credit cards. An access control solution that is integrated with the campus “one card” solution can help to eliminate the data and timing gaps created when multiple systems and credentials are used for differing purposes, thereby creating a safer, more convenient campus.