An Essential Access

As K-12 campuses reopen this fall, hygiene safety solutions sought

The past two school years have presented many challenges with virtual classrooms, hybrid programs, and increased hygiene measures being implemented in K-12 and higher learning educational facilities. As schools prepare to enter a new year, the emphasis on health safety won’t disappear, but with educational facilities reaching full in-person capacity, other security concerns will again resurface. As they reopen doors and implement new technologies and policies, many K-12 and higher education institutions will be searching for solutions that will promote hygiene safety while also offering enhanced security.

Intercom solutions have long been a fixture on educational campuses of all sizes. From basic audio-only systems to IP video intercom systems, intercoms have been a go-to solution because they are cost-effective and easy to use. Once thought to be a basic security tool, intercoms can now be combined with video and other security peripherals, offering decision-makers the ability to solve multiple pain points.

Campus-wide occupancy management

Pre-pandemic, many educational institutions were focused on enhancing visitor management as threats to student safety have become more prevalent. While educational facilities have long utilized intercoms to manage access, now it’s more important than ever to ensure the safety of students and staff by thoroughly vetting all those who enter a building on campus.

Intercom capabilities have extended far beyond their original functionality. What was once a simple speaker connected to a telephone can now be an IP video system offering visual verification that the person requesting access into a school building does indeed belong there. Pairing an intercom with a camera allows for this important, realtime visual communication between the front office and those requesting access.

For campuses planning to utilize new thermographic technology, IP intercom systems can be used in tandem – allowing operators to communicate specific safety protocols to staff or students before they are granted access. For example, if a parent is dropping off a student at a school that requires temperature checks before admittance, they can approach the intercom located at the campus entrance where they can communicate with front office. The designated staff member can then talk to the parent and student through proper protocols and ensure the student is within the temperature guidelines to be granted access.

Mobile apps for convenient access control

Mobile access is a capability many are looking for today, as it offers the ability to manage full access control capabilities from a mobile app. There’s also increased flexibility when working from a mobile app. For example, if a campus is not able to staff the lobby of a main building or dormitory, they can remotely manage access from a mobile device. This enables security personnel to access video feeds and directly communicate with the student or staff member requesting access to a building. This is also an efficient and safe way for campus deliveries to be made.

The past year has taught us that it’s no longer enough to only manage access to main entry points and exits of any educational facility. Campuses will now have to manage occupancy levels in classrooms, living facilities, common areas, and recreational buildings. End-users will find value in a video intercom solution that enables them to directly communicate instructions to those requesting access, ensure identity and proper credentialing, and help maintain the overall health and safety of all those who pass through their doors.

Enhanced campus security and perimeter protection

For campus staff, it’s critical to see how many people are requesting entry at a door where access is managed – as well as who is at the door. If a person is requesting access into a science laboratory where only certain people are allowed, a video intercom provides a safe way to confirm identity. This is also of great importance in college dormitories where visitor access might be limited, or not allowed at all. This solution can also be particularly valuable if a student has lost an access control card and is requesting access to a gym, library, or other shared common area.

Additionally, an IP system can integrate with cameras and a network video recorder. Video can be streamed to a third-party NVR – offering a 24/7 campus security system. This offers increased security, as campus safety officers can easily request logs from certain dates and times. For example, if someone accessed a building after hours, or if there’s unknown activity at an access point, security could access saved video footage to see who’s been there. For campuses who use mobile apps, or access control cards, daily activity logs are retained– allowing security staff to review in case of an incident on-site.

With crime on campuses being a continued safety concern, security directors have a wider range of potential threats to manage. From post-pandemic hygiene safety concerns, to active shooter situations and general student safety; these threats are unlikely to decrease, as campuses start to fully open. Now is the time for educational facilities to review existing security infrastructure and choose an option offering convenience of use for students, staff and visitors – as well as enhanced security and peace of mind.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

Digital Edition