A Proactive Approach to Campus Security
Denver Public Schools security department utilizes leading security technologies and emergency response practices for edge-to-edge security solution
- By Ellie Randall
- June 01, 2019
Denver Public Schools (DPS) is comprised of more
than 200 schools, including traditional, innovation,
magnet, charter and pathways schools. Serving one
of the fastest growing school districts in Colorado,
the DPS safety department is constantly working to
create a safe and secure environment for over 90,000 students, 15,000
staff members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Led by Chief Michael Eaton, the department has over 140 team
members including investigators, armed patrol officers, dispatchers,
emergency preparedness professionals, and campus security officers.
In addition to training district staff in emergency management, DPS
protects their stakeholders from harm and offers guidance to school
administrators to enhance school safety in a wide variety of situations.
“At the core of all our efforts in safeguarding our students, faculty,
and staff is our campus security protocols, and perhaps most importantly,
our access control system,” said Eaton.
Some of the major requirements DPS needed in their access control
system included flexibility and scalability. After much research,
DPS discovered Open Options and named them as their access control
partner of choice in 2013.
“When looking for a security technology provider, it was essential
for us that we found a partner, not just a provider,” said Melissa Craven,
director of emergency management for DPS. “We now have a
solid access control solution that has allowed DPS to grow over the
years. The system we invested in seven years ago looks nothing like
the system in use today.”
As security for a school district has many layers, having an access
control system with an abundance of features is critical.
“Open Options has provided this for the district and more,” said
Craven. “There is still more to be done in building the most robust
system in K-12 education, and I feel confident Denver Public Schools
can accomplish with the help of Open Options.”
While an access control system serves as the primary component of a
security system, coupling it with additional technologies—such as
video management, wireless locks, visitor management, and more—
allows for a well-rounded solution that covers multiple aspects of
For over two decades, Open Options has partnered with Mercury Security to provide a true open architecture access control solution
that focuses on delivering a comprehensive set of both software and
hardware features to the end user. Open Options’ flagship access control
platform, DNA Fusion, interfaces with a host of other systems,
including intelligent locks, video management systems, critical communications,
elevator systems, visitor management, and many more.
“DNA Fusion essentially allows us to tie all of our security technologies
into our access control system, which plays a critical role
in our day-to-day security processes,” said Craven. “For instance,
the ability to call up live video on an alarm or door forced from the
events grid helps us to assess and respond to the issue in a quick and
DPS utilizes Bosch for intrusion detection and Video Insight as its
video management platform, both of which work seamlessly with
DNA Fusion. Other technologies include OpenDX database exchange
software, which provides DPS an easy-to-use interface for configuring
the data they want to transfer into the DNA Fusion access control
system, and Fusion Web, a remote security management solution.
Communication & Response Protocols
The DPS communications center handles over 20,000 calls for service
each school year and also monitors all radio communications
between their command and patrol staff. The center trains extensively
with the Denver Police Department for a wide range of situations.
Through their radio communications system, they are able to
communicate with every police district in the city as well as Denver
dispatch. The center also works in collaboration with jurisdictions
across the metro area, US Department of Homeland Security, FBI
and Secret Service.
“Communication is key, especially in the event of an incident or
potentially violent situation,” said Craven. “Having the technology
and protocols in place to efficiently communicate with outside emergency
response teams is crucial to the safety of our schools.”
Lockdown, Lockout & Other Threats
In order to further streamline their security processes and procedures,
DPS monitors all the components of their system across campuses
from a single location. This significantly cuts down on response
time in the event of an emergency, as all decisions related to campus
lockdown or other high-threat situations are centralized.
Being an urban school district, lockdowns are not uncommon for
DPS. With the implementation of DNA Fusion and creation of a custom
Graphic User Interface (GUI), the DPS dispatch center is able to
remotely place a building in an emergency state with a single click.
Once information is received by their dispatch center, they are able to
implement the emergency protocol.
“With the implementation of the custom GUI, we have been able
to reduce the amount of time it takes to secure a school from six
minutes to only two minutes. Seconds count during critical incidents
and this capability gives us hundreds,” said Craven. “The safety and
security of our students is paramount to what we do.”
Oftentimes, school security goes beyond lockdown or lockout situations.
Because of this, DPS also practices “Shelter-in-Place”, a safety
drill that occurs when there is a hazard of a tornado or a severe
weather warning, and it has been determined by the Department of
Safety—with the assistance of outside agencies—that evacuation or
early dismissal could possibly place students in danger.
Similarly, a lockout takes place when a threat has been identified in
the area of a school. All exterior doors are locked to prevent any hazards
or threats to enter the school, and no entry or exit to the school
is allowed during this response.
Looking to the Future
“As threats to campuses continue to evolve, inevitably so will our
security system,” said Craven. “We are committed to providing the
most up-to-date technology available to safeguard all our campuses
and the students, faculty, and staff who inhabit them every day.”
As DPS looks to the future, they will be adding door position stations
to all exterior doors, allowing operators to monitor perimeter
security. If a door is unsecured, an alarm will sound at the school via
the DNA Fusion web client. Should the alarm persist, the Department
of Safety dispatch center will be notified. Conversely, once the
door is secured, the alarm can be silenced.
With the upgrade of their intrusion systems, DPS will be able to
monitor their alarm system through DNA Fusion. This will allow the
dispatch center to arm and disarm the system from the console. It will
also allow staff to use their access cards to disarm and arm the building
at the entry. They will be able to do away with alarm codes and tie
this technology into each individuals’ access levels.
Graphic mapping is also something DPS will be implementing due
to Open Options’ ability to integrate with numerous VMS and intrusion
systems. This will bring all of DPS’s technology together in an
extremely user-friendly format, where operators can easily view and
address events through strategically placed interactive icons and easily
access all card readers, cameras and intrusion points on the maps.
It will also drastically improve an operator’s ability to determine a
false alarm versus an actual event and will aid in officer safety when
responding, as well as asset protection.
“Over the last seven years, the partnership between Open Options
and Denver Public Schools has only deepened,” said Craven. “From
installation to the expansion of the system, Open Options has been
there for every step, year after year, and we look forward to continuing
to grow together.”
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.