Education Market Focus: Building a Playbook for Campus Wide Security

Feb. 10, 2012
SMS has all the right moves for education customers

If you are going to play the college security game, you’ve got to play smart. Just as a good basketball coach looks for a cohesive game plan, so too a good security integrator will have a unified strategy for the college.

“Colleges are universities are no longer comfortable with disparate systems and are looking for fully integrated comprehensive solutions to manage their security profile,” said Craig Albrecht, vice president of Security Management Systems (SMS), Great Neck, N.Y. His father Al is president of the security integration firm which specializes in IP-based solutions.

Face it: security and the safety of students and faculty are a prime concern at today’s college and university campuses. This plays right into a security company’s wheelhouse when approaching a campus with a security program in mind.

“Incidents like Virginia Tech and others have heightened awareness amongst the school administrators, students and parents regarding the importance of security and crisis management,” Craig Albrecht said. “For parents and students, safety has become a concern even when evaluating which colleges and universities to attend.”

 Here, then, is a great marketing opportunity for a savvy security dealer.

 Albrecht has found that many campuses are taking advantage of IP-based physical security systems to leverage their existing network infrastructure, allowing all stakeholders access to the same pertinent information when required.

“Access control should be deployed to dormitory entrances or other access points, while cameras with edge analytics can utilized to monitor common areas such as open quads as a deterrent as well as situational awareness,” he said.

Parking areas, especially at commuter campuses, are a separate concern. “Parking areas should be equipped with surveillance along with integrated emergency call stations,” he said.

Common areas such as study rooms in dormitories or access to libraries may also utilize access control and surveillance.

Typically, Albrecht finds that all of the subsystems of access control, surveillance, emergency intercoms and mass notification are controlled through a central command center. In addition, remote access through workstations and PDAs allow for real-time information to be available anytime, anywhere to assist security officers with incident response and management.

 Getting feet wet in multifamily

His company has dealt with the college market only for a few of its 33 years in business. SMS also specializes in projects dealing with access control, video surveillance and analytics, intercom systems, turnstiles, perimeter/intrusion protection as well as mass notification. In addition to its education installations, SMS’s client base includes Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, multi-tenant residential developments, commercial high-rise facilities and hospitals.

In fact, Albrecht attributes their expertise in the multifamily and high-rise apartment markets for giving them the leverage that allowed them to do a dorm project for one school. They applied access control and video to that job. Soon they were established in the education sector.

 “We are a company that gets pulled into markets,” Albrecht said. “You get some traction and it leads you down a particular path.”

Open architecture sets coursework

One part of the playbook that college security people seem to like is their insistence on open platforms and IP-based networking.

While Albrecht is reluctant to single out any specific partners, he said they like to recommend open architecture-based systems which allow for a high level of integration and interoperability. “This enables us to use best-in-breed systems while still having a single platform for access control management, alarm monitoring, surveillance and IP based communications,” he said.

      On a typical campus, the security game plan includes the following:

  • Deterrence through access control and surveillance
  • Providing audit trails of student and faculty movement as well as forensic video
  • Providing the ability to centrally manage a crisis or event from a command center as well as through remote capability
  • Providing capability of locking down a campus quickly through preprogrammed response
  • Providing emergency information to all students by phone, email, text, and digital signage

Keep in mind that each of these bullet points can be the basis for an entire security proposal. Just as the basketball coach has certain goals in mind before each game, the typical campus security team has specific goals it wants to accomplish with its security setup. It pays to match the project proposals with what campus security has in mind. Sometimes in a basketball game one shooter is hotter than others. It pays to feed him the ball. The same is true in the education market sector: some areas are hotter at different times. Play to the hot markets and handle the others later.

“We see that emergency notification systems have become increasingly important,” Albrecht said.

“With most students carrying smartphones such as iPhones, Android and other devices, the campus or university essentially has a wireless communication system, which can be leveraged for this purpose,” he suggested.

  “You need to understand the overall approach colleges have to crisis management. Know about policies and procedures,” he advised.

  Know that different situations will trigger different security reactions. A level one alarm might call for perimeter security. Level two might shut entrance doors at all buildings in a sector. Level three closes every lock in the zone.

Colleges tend to have good infrastructures in place that allows an integrator to tie alarms to video. “Leverage what is there,” he stated.

Working the sale successfully

Most often, SMS finds itself dealing with the university’s security director. “However, there may be individual stakeholders such as facility managers,” he added.

In addition to the college market, SMS works in the K-12 space. Schools may have a SQL (structured query language) database in place. Perhaps they want to tract teacher time and pupil attendance.

“With those tools (IP, SQL and a good alarm system) in place, you have an infinite number of possibilities,” Albrecht said. “You can use that card to understand where students are, to do payroll, attendance,” he said. “Use that infrastructure.”

Like a good basketball coach, a good security dealer will play to the team’s strengths. “It is a growing market. There is a real need for security in that market,” Albrecht summed up. “Colleges need someone to address their concerns on access control and emergency notification,” he concluded.