Adapting Security Technology
Innovations that will stand us in good stead for years to come
- By Paul Baratta, Bruce Canal
- October 01, 2021
Necessity is the mother of invention, especially when
it comes to battling COVID-19. We have tried
common sense practices like frequent hand washing,
masking, and social distancing. Yet the scourge
is still among us. With school districts eager to get
students back in the classroom, and hospitals desperate to curtail the
surge of COVID patients, it is clear they could use a helping hand to
return to some semblance of “normal.”
Where might that helping hand come from? Network security
technology. The same technology used to monitor and secure a campus
can also be used to address the variety of problems posed by the
presence of COVID-19. After all, protection is protection – whether
you are trying to stop an intruder or a virus.
The beauty of these investments is that even though they’re being
used to combat COVID-19, the technology will continue providing
safety and security value to a campus – whether an educational institution
or medical complex – long after the virus has run its course.
Two application perspectives: traditional security and COVID
Surveillance. Most schools and hospitals install video cameras to
keep an eye on who enters and exits the campus. They want to know
if someone is suspiciously loitering around the property or trying to
sneak into restricted areas. Those same cameras can be used for contact
tracing, determining who might have been within three feet of or
interacted with a COVID-19 positive individual. Since we know close
proximity contributes to the spread of the disease, early identification
and isolation of others who might have been exposed is critical to
stemming a massive population outbreak.
Remote monitoring. Many hospitals remotely monitor patients so
that medical staff can safely oversee multiple patients without compromising
quality care. During COVID, virtual monitoring limits the
spread of infection by reducing the number of times staff need to
enter an ill patient’s room. This also decreases consumption of personal
protection equipment (masks, gowns and gloves) per shift, a
significant cost savings.
Touchless entry. Hands-free entry systems have become a ubiquitous
convenience. A video camera or sensor detects motion and automatically
opens and slowly closes the door or triggers an alert for a
remote person in authority to activate the automated door mechanism.
People swipe a keycard to unlock the door themselves. During
COVID, many schools and hospitals are taking hygienic access to
another level with keyless entry systems that can be triggered by a QR
code loaded on a smartphone, thus eliminating the need to touch
virus-laden surfaces like door handles and keypads.
Replacing traditional doors with contactless power doors, like
those used at handicapped entrances, can be especially useful in elementary
school settings where students typically cluster in groups
and take turns holding the door for classmates going in and out for
recess. In entrances where additional security is an issue, campuses
can integrate audio-video intercoms to enable visitors to be vetted for
COVID exposure before activating the power door.
Intelligent audio. These systems provide a mechanism for conveying
timely communication – live or pre-recorded messages – whether
directing a trespasser to vacate the premises, announcing emergency
evacuation procedures, or simply paging someone to report to a certain
location. During COVID, many institutions integrating intelligent
audio systems with video cameras to automatically trigger prerecorded
health information to people entering the building, such as
a reminder to mask up and use the provided hand sanitizer.
Especially in schools where students tend to cluster, administrators can program a pre-recorded message to play throughout the day
reminding everyone to follow CDC guidelines, wear their masks correctly,
and keep three feet apart from one another.
Analytics. Many institutions enhance campus safety and security
with the use of video and audio analytics. Video analytics provide
early detection and proactively trigger alerts to potential security
threats like motion, loitering, and perimeter intrusion or track operational
issues like queue wait times or occupancy capacity. There are
audio analytics that listen for sounds of aggression, breaking glass,
weapons fire, and other acoustic signature that indicate danger to
individuals or property. During COVID, analytics could detect
whether persons are wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.
In school cafeterias, for example, video analytics can alert cafeteria
monitors to intercede when too many students are sitting closely
together or trigger an audio message to students to move to separate
tables. If a student has tested positive for COVID, intelligent search
analytics can be used to pull up video footage the shows everyone on
campus they recently met, so they could be informed and tested.
Radar. Radar is also gaining traction as a warning system for afterhours
intrusions into areas, such as athletic fields and hospital rehabilitation
pools. The technology is often integrated with surveillance
cameras to track trespassers or wandering patients to prevent safety
and liability issues. When tied to intelligent audio systems, they can
trigger a specific targeted message depending on the event – whether
a warning to vacate the premises or an alert to staff that a patient has
exited their room. In hospital settings, radar is often used on helipads
to warn of any obstructions needing to be cleared before a helicopter
arrives. During COVID, radar could detect someone approaching a
school or hospital and trigger a message directing him or her to a
single point of entry where they can be screened for health issues and
issued a mask before entering the building.
Financing Technology Investments during COVID
With so many school districts and hospitals strapped for funds,
financing any new technology investments might seem out of reach.
However, in 2021 the federal government passed two economic stimulus
packages – the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act,
which earmarked funding to schools and hospitals that can be used
to pay for these types of projects.
Schools would need to submit a proposal to their respective state’s
Department of Education, while hospital would need to apply to their
respective state’s Department of Public Health. The important thing
to remember when applying for these grants is to frame the proposal
in terms of how the investment would help your institution prevent
or mitigate the spread of COVID.
Schools and hospitals can apply for these monies through December
2024 or until their state’s allocation has been exhausted.
This article originally appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.