Why Innovative and Integrated Security Works for K-12

Approaching K-12 emergency management from an integrated perspective

As we have seen time and time again in critical situations involving our nation’s schools, every second counts in an emergency. Therefore it is imperative that schools have the ability to instantly go into lockdown conditions while simultaneously providing alerts and critical information to on-site personnel and first responders so they can determine the best course of action to safely evacuate occupants and apprehend intruders. At the same time, schools must also implement policies for performing day-to-day security functions, such as limiting access to facilities and identifying potential internal threats.

LAYERED APPROACH

School and campus security teams have a multitude of solutions to choose from when developing a holistic security plan. Aside from achieving specific security objectives, this can be a challenging task when deciding the priority in which selected solutions are deployed relative to purchase and installation costs, manpower training and operational expenses.

There is no single solution that will provide the comprehensive security coverage that’s needed to mitigate all security risks. By implementing security technology as individual tools, and not integrated solutions, many school security managers are missing out on the opportunity to provide even more control, convenience, cost savings, and efficiency to their facilities. In reality, all components should be viewed and function as one integrated layered security system, especially for emergency management.

There are foundational elements that should always be included when configuring a layered security system, including securing the perimeter, access control, emergency communications, lockdown capability, and video surveillance.

PERIMETER SECURITY

Secured entrances and exits, no matter their location, are necessary to track the many individuals that can enter and exit a building each day. In many cases, door locks are connected to a centralized access control system that is monitored by security personnel, and can be quickly opened during an emergency or incident.

Entry control points can be easily established to only allow authorized individuals initial access to a facility or to specific areas within it, while also restricting access to high-profile areas. Additional safeguards to control entry points may include the integration of turnstiles or security doors, mantraps, video surveillance with analytics, visitor management systems, intercoms and intrusion detection devices, and more.

ACCESS CONTROL

An access control system records all access activity so a school has a complete record of who has entered or exited all entry points, when they did so, which areas that they accessed (or attempted to access), and how long they stayed. This is valuable information to help mitigate current and future security risks. Assigning different access permissions for employees, visitors, vendors, and First Responders provide even greater levels of protection and tracking.

VIDEO SURVEILLANCE

A video surveillance system is a useful security tool for any facility, big or small. The use of video surveillance can resolve many security incidents that arise and help document liability issues. Organizations that choose to install IP-based video surveillance systems can take advantage of the benefits of digital storage, remote monitoring, and analytics capabilities that may deter crimes or security incidents.

EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS AND LOCKDOWNS

Regardless of whether an emergency occurs because of an intruder, a threat, or severe weather, system-wide communication is essential for any school or university. Additional information such as room condition status inside the facility helps quickly evaluate a situation and determine the most appropriate response to initiate including lockdown, shelter-in-place or evacuate. Real-time situational awareness enhances overall physical security and operational efficiencies.

AN INTEGRATED SOLUTION

When combined, perimeter management, access control, video surveillance and emergency communications are the foundation for a safer and more secure educational facility.

These specially engineered emergency notification solutions provide vital emergency status details to first responders so they can best help to manage events. A security team can issue an alert to notify responders of conditions in real time while communicating details based on the level of the alert. Employees and staff can report their specific location, enabling first responders to view detailed facility maps with room-by-room, color-coded conditions that are updated in real time as the situation evolves. Staff members who are logged in can use a chat feature to enable two-way communications, issue messages with response instructions specific to each alert level via email or text and override any computer on a facility’s network to ensure the highest visibility of alert status.

Perhaps one of the most comprehensive safeguards of an emergency notification solution is the ability for a facility’s security team to create a lockdown alert level and push that notification out to all employees in seconds while simultaneously locking all doors and blocking credential readers to everyone except authorized responders.

Security management and administrators at schools face tremendous pressure to protect the people and assets they oversee, especially in the case of an emergency. And most often they are supposed to do so with tight security budgets. That’s even more reason to remove the security component mentality and purchasing practices and instead, implement a complete and layered security solution. Simply put, layered security solutions offer superior protection and risk mitigation. When tough choices need to be made, a layered management system provides a “better” solution while being cost-effective, powerful, and scalable. It’s the key to making schools safer and more secure.

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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