Integrator Roundtable: University Campus Security

Sept. 13, 2018
How security integrators service and provide trusted advice to this important vertical

Though rare, an active shooter at a college or university is a nightmare for a campus administrator. But while they prepare for the worst, campuses must also be ready for the crimes and security events that occur daily.

What are campus security teams doing to protect people and property? What security tools are they using, and how do they handle the big events such as football games and concerts?

These and other questions were recently asked of owners of three Security 101 integrators: Mike Dorrian of Security 101 – Pittsburgh; Rich Montalvo of Security 101 - Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa; and Demus Oxford of Security 101 - Richmond (Va.). Each has experience helping secure public and private college and university campuses within their regions, including, respectively, Penn State University, the University of Florida and the University of Virginia.

SD&I: Overall, how would you rate college/university administrators’ handling of security?

Demus Oxford: They are doing more than they were yesterday, and that’s a good thing. Recent campus shootings have focused them more on planning for major emergencies, but I know they are talking more often with other campus administrators to share best overall security practices. Also, I see them being more willing to look at and accept new technologies.

Rich Montalvo: If I were to give them a them a grade, I would say a C or low B. They could be doing more, although they are often limited by budgets. Campuses we deal with are increasing their security patrols, especially around residence halls. They are using more technology, and they are trying to educate staff, faculty and students about ways they can help with the security challenges a campus faces.

Mike Dorrian: I would give them a passing grade, but I still see a lot of folks out there – often because of budgets – who are not keeping up with technologies that can benefit them in ways they don’t fully realize. It is our job to make them aware.

What makes securing a college or university campus a challenge?

Montalvo: The openness of a typical higher-education campus makes it difficult to create access choke points. Most people can get on a campus with virtually no restrictions, so you can only do so much to funnel them into areas where you have full control of the environment.

Dorrian: Compliance issues can be a challenge. Many of the higher-education campuses we work with have research facilities. Depending on the work they are doing, they may be subject to local, state and/or federal regulations requiring additional security. Also, we work with campuses in very rural settings and others right in the heart of a major city. Each environment requires different security approaches.

Oxford: Securing a higher-education campus is like trying to secure a small city. (There are) buildings spread across hundreds of acres, and then we have to deal with varied infrastructure – buildings that were constructed over decades and, often, aging security systems. We have to make it work until we can migrate the campus to newer, more modern technology.

What technologies do you install most often?

Montalvo: Video is still the best product for providing forensic evidence and information for campus security officers to respond to incidents. Access systems control building access and provide audit trails. Blue-light systems offer a sense of security not only to students but also to parents, and I am one of those. The first thing I looked for when I walked on a campus with my two girls were the blue lights, then I asked how many cameras had been installed.

Oxford: I agree with Rich – video is most important, but how do they use it? Adding analytics, whether they are built into a system or from a third party, greatly reduces the time needed for forensic research and helps campuses become more proactive rather than reactive in their approach to security.

Dorrian: If I had to pick just one technology, it would be video surveillance. It is the most important tool campuses are using. On a weekly basis, we are working with the campus and/or city police departments to go back and find video for some campus event.

What often overlooked security tool is your favorite?

Oxford: I like a service and maintenance software tool we provide our customers that enables us to partner with administrators to monitor systems and ensure all components are fully functional. That helps a campus get maximum benefit from its security investment.

Dorrian: I agree. We had a campus pass on a service maintenance agreement due to budget constraints, only to come back a year later and sign up again. In the year they didn’t have it, they saw the tremendous value the SMA provided them – it is a true asset for any college or university.

Montalvo: I keep looking at the all the mobile devices on a campus. Every student has a mobile phone – I think they are surgically attached to their hands. Then I look for ways to leverage that for communication and mass notification needs; also, with their built-in cameras, the phones could provide a campus with thousands of extra eyes and ears.

What other newer security technologies are being used?

Montalvo: Gunshot detection systems are being looked at more frequently; so is social media monitoring software. Most of the recent tragic campus incidents had signs on social media that if caught in advance may have helped to mitigate or prevent attacks.

Oxford: We are seeing a greater need for incident management. Social media monitoring would help (in that regard) – it is amazing how quickly a social media post can gather students and other people into a potentially dangerous mob. The more information campus security officers have, the faster they can react.

How do you handle the big events like football games and concerts?

Dorrian: We frequently deal with events that attract between 10,000 and 75,000 people. For the bigger events, we will have a staff member in attendance. The systems we put in place are critical for maintaining security. Halftime at a football game is no time for a system failure – if something does go awry we can immediately react.

Oxford: We try to be a partner in planning security for the big events. First, you want to make sure your security systems are well-maintained; then, we do a lot of work on traffic management. That may not sound technology-driven but when campus security can manage traffic from a single location using video, access and other systems we have put into place, everyone gets a better game-day experience.

How do risk assessments fit into the picture?

Montalvo: Campus security needs are constantly changing and security teams need to evolve with the changing times. Regular risk assessments are vital, because what was important five years ago may not be as important today; and things that were never considered five years ago may now be a priority.

Oxford: One of the most important parts of the risk assessment is asking the right questions and getting the folks in charge to think about things they might not have thought about before. You have to make sure you are helping the campus covering all facets of security.

Is anything being overlooked when it comes to campus security?

Montalvo: It is important to approach campus security with a multi-pronged plan. Campuses use technology, traffic control and training among other programs to maintain the security and welfare of students, faculty and visitors, but we should also not forget about CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) to further enhance security. You cannot limit yourself – you need everything a budget permits to secure a large college or university campus.

Editor’s Note: Security 101 recently opened its 39th franchise in the United States. Learn more about the company and its franchise locations at

Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I) magazine. Access the current issue, full archives and apply for a free subscription at