Extending the Perimeter

Extending the Perimeter

How audio solutions can protect your campus

When the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed schools about security in 2018, it found that most public schools in the United States – 95 percent – reported that they controlled access to buildings during school hours. That number compares to 75 percent back in 1999.

What can be attributed to the increase? Some might point to the unfortunate and increasing number and effects from security and safety incidents within the past decade that have not only upped the ante on school security, but have also forced security teams to consider newer, better and faster security solutions to mitigate risks and to protect lives and property.

In some parts of the United States, school security measures are required. For example, an examination of school safety and security data after the February 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, FL, reveals that 15 states have mandated requirements for school safety. The data from the Police Foundation found that security requirements included:

  • Intercom solutions
  • Restricted visitor access and access controls
  • Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)
  • Emergency and mass notification systems
  • Bullet resistant solutions

Another report, by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) that was released in February 2019, also summarizes statutes and regulations on K-12 school safety for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report, 50 State Comparison: K-12 School Safety, provides a synopsis of school safety regulations in each state.

The report provides data for five areas: school safety plans, school safety audits, school safety drills, school resource officers and weapons in schools. Its key takeaways:

  • At least 43 states and the District of Columbia require districts to have a school safety plan, many mandating the involvement of local law enforcement.
  • About 13 states and the District of Columbia mandate safety audits at school facilities, some with the help of local law enforcement.
  • At least 42 states require schools to conduct safety or security drills, such as active shooter, evacuation, lockdown and emergency response training.
  • About 28 states and the District of Columbia require specific training for school resource officers either similar to law enforcement training or tailored to the school setting.
  • At least 30 states and the District of Columbia allow school security staff, including school resource officers, to carry firearms in school. Some states allow other school employees or concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms in schools. Other states allow local districts to decide if firearms are allowed in their schools in any capacity.

Defending the Perimeter with Audio

Whether security teams are required to have security technology and safety plans in place or not, pushing the perimeter further out is an effective method to mitigate school security risks.

It’s not a new concept. For example, at Metlife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and entertainment events, the perimeter begins at the stadium’s parking lot entrance, where larger vehicles that enter the Meadowlands Sports Complex parking lots are well outside the visitor parking areas and away from the stadium. The ingress program includes a 40-foot standoff area for observation of fans followed by inspection, including pat downs and/or baggage checks, all of which take place at the entrance to the stadium, prior to ticket scanning.

How can audio and HD voice play a role with perimeter security?

For instance, at a school entrance, video intercom solutions with HD voice can identify parents and visitors, and help school staff and security teams quickly determine if the person should enter the school, or not.

Moving out to the school’s outer areas, PA speakers are easy to install and offer excellent two-way communications, in all conditions. School security teams, using video surveillance, can see a person trying to enter the school perimeter, and either determine, through audio, why they are there, or direct them to leave.

Emergency stanchions, which are commonly used when an individual needs assistance or to help deter crime, don’t have to only be used for emergencies. They can be employed to provide a visual and audio indicator, to help security teams to identify visitors and vendors outside of a school’s entrances and exit points. They can also be employed within school parking lots, far from a school entrance and exit areas. Once activated by the user, campus security can pull up a video feed and see and hear who wants access to the school or approved visitors need information such as directions to another area of the campus.

At exterior fences and gates, which may still be on school property but a distance away from a school’s entrances, intercom solutions with HD audio can be mounted on the fence to help school security teams to identify persons, from a distance.

There are Numerous Benefits

The benefits of implementing these measures and extending the school security perimeter are numerous.

First, it means that your security solution is interactive. Security teams talk and listen to the person that’s seen on a video surveillance system, via the intercom, no matter where the location or where a person is on school grounds. A clear voice and sound clarify the intent behind the images that are captured on a camera and increases situational awareness.

Audio can also detect voices, noises or other sounds that are not within direct view of a video camera. Those sounds can be analyzed by a security team and action can be taken before the person gets to the school entrance and doors.

Adding audio to your strategy also means that a security officer and the person in front of the camera at the intercom, can interact, even when that person is at outer perimeters, which, if they have ill intent, is where you want them to stay until your security team can arrive on scene. That data, which goes beyond video surveillance images, can be shared between security, police, emergency services and more. Your security team is now providing first responders with actionable data for a more effective response to the incident and a strategy to mitigate future incidents.

Every K-12 school security team faces increasingly complex threat environments. Increasingly, audio is the new value hub for K-12 schools, providing intelligence and communications and allowing people to the need to hear, be heard, and be understood in virtually any environment.

In today’s risk environment for schools, a silent security system cannot be an effective security system. Extending the perimeter by incorporating audio via intercom solutions can help security teams to stay well ahead of security and safety threats.

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

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