How to Protect a College Campus with a Communications ‘Umbrella’
- By Kelly Lake
- July 27, 2022
How important is sound?
Hearing sound every day enables us to connect to people and to the world.
Sound is vital to sharing information, whether it’s interacting with our friends and family or people at work. Sound enables us to understand the context of words spoken when we can’t physically be in front of someone.
Sound protects us from danger, such as the sound of a car or a train horn telling us to get out of the way. Sound is also a medium of entertainment. Without sound, we would not be able to listen to music or watch movies and fully enjoy them. Health-wise, sound plays an important role in providing treatment, like when doctors use a stethoscope to hear the heartbeat of a patient.
Sound augments and enhances our vision, informing us and moving us in ways that visuals cannot. Sound communicates to the brain far more quickly than sight. Even more, certain combinations of sound and visuals can evoke what neither can do alone. Therefore, the combination of sound and vision is important because it can help to determine and give clarity to what we see.
Sound is also present and important on university and college campuses, whether it’s students interacting with each other in dorms, classrooms, and common areas; professors and faculty speaking and teaching in large lecture halls; and in musical, sporting, and other entertainment events. Sound allows the individuals at all those buildings, venues, and events to communicate.
Sound and Security: Creating a ‘Communications Umbrella’
We know that it is complex and difficult to physically secure university and college campuses. Their open environments; large numbers of faculty, students, and vendors; and multiple buildings spread across large areas make them vulnerable to crimes against both property and person.
And that’s where sound via voice security solutions can play a vital role: creating a communications network that forms a protective umbrella over and throughout a campus. The “communications umbrella” enables security teams to better mitigate security and safety risks.
Communications are as critical to a successful security strategy as more prominent technologies like video surveillance and access control. So, the question is: Does your communications strategy allow your security teams to clearly hear what they see and understand what’s happening?
Video surveillance allows security teams to see and record incidents. It has long been embraced as an essential element of a physical campus security solution. However, surveillance footage is often recorded without sound, even though some security cameras can capture it. The result is an incomplete and often unclear record of what took place. Access control is an additional and essential component, as it can either allow or deny access—but it, too, is limiting. There’s no doubt that both technologies are very important. However, they are about monitoring and control, and they do not give campus security teams the ability to completely understand the situation and clearly communicate with people before, during, and after an incident.
Human intervention and interaction through voice and audio will always be necessary to secure college and university campuses. Communications technologies like IP intercoms and speakers bring video and access control together, and they provide a well-rounded and responsive “communications umbrella” that offers actionable insight into potential physical breaches.
Implementing the ‘Communications Umbrella’ on Campus
How and where can you implement a “communications umbrella” on your campus?
- In a campus classroom or lecture hall, intercoms can be used for room-to-room communication. While a professor is teaching, intercoms can help them to communicate with staff in another room or area.
- In campus buildings, intercoms and speakers can provide critical information to professors and students during emergency situations.
- Throughout the campus grounds, sports stadiums and entertainment halls, speakers and horns can notify everyone with general or emergency messages.
- Along the campus perimeter, speakers allow staff to trigger warning messages or issue live instructions if needed. Integrated with a VMS, cameras and speakers can be positioned together and allow staff to proactively intervene while staying at a safe distance.
- Intercoms placed in high-visibility enclosures throughout the campus provide a known location to receive assistance.
Integrating audio solutions via intercoms and speakers into campus safety and security systems and creating a “communication umbrella” offers a number of key benefits.
It means that your security solution is interactive. Security teams have the ability to communicate with students, visitors, and staff in real-time, in classrooms, dorms, libraries, and outdoors in parking lots. A clear voice and sound clarify the intent behind the images that are captured on a video camera and increase situational awareness.
When placed in emergency stanchions throughout campus, intercoms provide students, faculty, and visitors with a reliable and easily accessible way to contact security and receive assistance if they are lost or feel threatened.
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 individual gets to the building entrance and doors.
Video intercoms can allow a security officer to interact with an unknown person in a remote location—which, if they have ill intent, is where you want them to stay until your security team can arrive on scene. The audio and video recording of that interaction can be shared between security, police, emergency services, and more. Your security team can provide first responders with actionable data for a more effective response to the incident. Post-event, your team can use the recordings for training and re-training security personnel.
Overall, with the complexities involved in securing a college campus, this “communications umbrella” gives security teams the ability to clearly communicate with the people they are protecting in a variety of ways: one-to-one, one-to-many, and one-to-all.
Always Include Audio
With campus security and safety, the stakes are high, and security teams face tremendous challenges.
Individuals on college campuses need to feel safe. When they don’t, they need a way to use their voices to ask for help and to receive it via a voice on the other end. There’s nothing quite like the human voice in our daily lives. It’s our primary means of communication, and no one should be deprived of it.
In today’s risk environment for university and college campuses, a silent security system cannot be an effective security system. Today’s security systems for college campuses should always incorporate a “communications umbrella” with audio via intercoms and speakers to mitigate risk and to allow people to hear, be heard, and be understood in virtually any environment.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2022 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.