Technology Trends to Safeguard Your Campus
Consider your systems working together as an interoperable enterprise
- By Rick Tampier
- December 01, 2019
Not all campus environments are created equal and neither
are the threats they face. The first step is to assess risks by
working with trusted partners to identify and prioritize the
dangers. Then you can determine the most viable solutions
to fit your budget and address your concerns.
Think of your fire, life safety and security systems working together
as a cohesive, interoperable enterprise protective system, combining
tried- and -true methods with newer innovations to focus prevention-
reducing techniques on the primary areas of risk on campus.
These areas may include open areas, stadiums and public events centers,
offices, classrooms, libraries, dormitories and laboratories.
Reported Campus Crimes
A 2016 study from the National Center for Education Statistics
reported an annual average of 28,400 criminal incidents on college
campuses across the United States and an additional 1.4 million
crimes reported at elementary and secondary public schools that
same year. An FBI study examining active shooter incidents occurring
between 2000 and 2013 concluded that active shooter events can
happen anywhere at any time, with the two greatest at-risk industries
being places of business and educational institutions.
The increasing frequency and, at times, lethality of on-campus
crime requires campus administrators to consider a multi-faceted risk management strategy as a part of their overall security plan. Security technologies can be the cornerstone of a successful program
that includes, among other considerations, gunshot detection,
enhancement by intelligent video systems, mass notification and
Gunshot Detection Systems (GDS) were first developed for police
departments in the early 1990s, adapted by the U.S. military to detect
snipers, and are now available commercially. They use optical, acoustic,
gun blast and infrared sensors to detect and classify the unique
characteristics of gunshots. Key to the technology are multiple sensors
to triangulate the locations of gunshots, with proper conditions,
often pinpointing them to within a 10-foot distance of the system. In
localized areas such as a classroom, the individual sensors can work
much like a smoke detector to identify a specific room where a gunshot
Gunshot systems vary depending on requirements needed for specific
applications. There are stand-alone systems, wired and wireless,
and Distributed Sensor Arrays (DSA).
Stand-alone systems use local, and even single microphone arrays,
to help protect small, open spaces such as parks or parking lots. These
can offer immediate detection of a shooter in the vicinity.
DSA systems are the standard for public safety because they use
readings from multiple sensors to triangulate the location of shots
fired. DSAs are best suited to help protect critical infrastructure,
transportation hubs and campuses.
Shot-detection alerts can be sent to police, third-party monitoring
services, or in-house security operations centers. The alerts may also
be integrated into both the access control and video management
systems to quickly assess the severity of the event, notify building
occupants and initiate an appropriate response from first responders.
Video management systems leverage digital cameras with high
resolution, and low light power to help keep eyes on the situation, no
matter the circumstances. This transforms your video into actionable
intelligence. The addition of video analytics using artificial intelligence
or deep learning can help identify objects, behavior or people
of interest quickly across a large volume of video data. Additionally,
video systems can be used for crowd management, traffic control and
student movement optimization.
Conforming to the Clery Act
Mass notification systems offer a platform to virtually, instantaneously
deliver information to a group of people via email, text message or
reverse 911-calling mechanisms. In fact, federal regulations, such as
the Clery Act, already require colleges and universities benefiting
from federal financial aid programs to help provide “timely warnings”
of certain crimes. Since 95 percent of students on campus have
access to a smartphone, it is important to lean on mobile access when
configuring an integrated mass notification system.
Push notifications and texts can assist with the effective distribution
of widespread emergency notifications, while intrusive alerts
and one-way voice communication can help to alert to a threat on
campus, including severe weather events or crimes in progress.
Fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems are central to any campus risk
management program to help save lives and reduce property damage.
This includes everything from monitored fire, smoke and carbon
monoxide alarm systems to fire sprinkler systems, coupled with evacuation
plans, smoke detectors and emergency lighting.
The most effective systems are those that employ both active and
passive elements. Active fire protection or prevention systems are
those that work to eliminate or remove smoke and flame, such as
sprinklers and smoke control systems. Passive elements are materials
that can help stop a fire from spreading, such as fireproof walls
and smoke curtains.
A Comprehensive Look
Installing a fire sprinkler, fire suppression or smoke control system
should include a comprehensive look at the building itself, how it will
be used, how many occupants it will have and its overall layout.
According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA),
during the five-year period from 2011 to 2015, U.S. fire departments
responded to an estimated average of 4,100 structure fires in facilities
that included dorms, fraternities and sororities.
Confirming that fire sprinklers can help to save lives, a survey by
the National Fire Incident Reporting Systems (NFIRS) shows the
death rate per 1,000 reported fires was 81 percent lower in properties
with fire sprinklers than those without.
Libraries or other rooms housing bookshelves, exhibits or display
materials also warrant special attention because they can be easily
damaged by smoke, soot or water. Optical smoke imaging detection
systems are great solutions for libraries and other large, open spaces.
Laboratories also may require special hazard protection aimed at
trying to stop the spread of flames and smoke and helping put out,
reduce, or remove flames or smoke already in the building.
Bi-Directional Amplifiers (BDA)/Distributed Antenna Systems
(DAS) help firefighters, EMS and police who rely on two-way radios
for life-saving communications every day. Only recently did The
International Building Code begin requiring systems that can boost
radio signals in certain buildings to help make sure first responders’
portable radios work correctly. Concrete or metal construction, larger
buildings, underground structures or those using low e-glass negatively
impact the signal strength needed for reliable communications
by first responders.
The most effective solution is the installation of a signal booster
or BDA along with a DAS, which must include supervisory signal
monitoring by the building’s fire alarm system. Often, these systems
carry different names, which can create confusion, but are generally
referred to as Emergency Radio Communication Enhancement
Some AHJs have well-written requirements regarding timelines for
RF site surveys and compliance, but others may not be familiar with
the requirements. NFPA 1221 is the standard for the Installation,
Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems
and contains the requirements for these crucial systems. Select
a technology and service partner that has taken the time to understand
the various code requirements and has factory-trained and certified
installation and service technicians.
Access control systems are becoming more streamlined and
sophisticated to help minimize the risk of unauthorized access to
physical and logical systems. While a wide variety of systems exists,
smartphones have become more prevalent and are increasingly used
in access-control applications as well. Give special attention to updating
older access-control system technologies to address the many
known vulnerabilities that exist with proximity cards.
Silent panic alarms, hold-up alarm buttons or pendants are proven
security devices that can quickly notify law enforcement in emergency
situations. Some states are requiring, with other states considering,
that schools should have at least one panic alarm available for
school emergencies. Hold-up or panic alarms must have a direct connection
to local law enforcement to send an immediate signal to first
responders once activated.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.