Essential Steps for Developing a Unified Security Program on Campus

Leaders at colleges and universities have drastically increased their focus on security in the last decade. As incidents of crime and violence have made headlines, and cyber attacks now target schools (one report finds more than 500 schools were hit with ransomware in first nine months of 2019), institutions are exhibiting a growing emphasis on revamping campus safety and security systems. According to Market Research Future Analysis, the school and campus security market is expected to grow to $2.54 billion by the year 2023. 

With more campuses globally taking a hard look at holistic security programs, products and strategies, an upcoming session at ISC West, March 17-20 at Sands Expo in Las Vegas will examine the demand for more security. Titled Developing a Unified Physical Security Plan for Colleges and Universities, the session provides tips for how facility managers and public safety officials can tackle the challenge of disparate technology and create a foundation for the future of the organization’s security posture.

“Most colleges and universities, because of their size and structure have a collection of existing security technology that can be difficult to integrate into a unified program,” said Brad Konkle, director of integrated solutions with Stanley Security. “The university may not have an accurate inventory of the security assets that are deployed or have the staff to maintain it.  There may be a number of older buildings that were not built with security in mind that need to have improved security. You have to find ways to incorporate new technology that keeps student and faculty safe, while maintaining the original character of the buildings.”

Konkle will be speaking at ISC West alongside the University of Kentucky’s Chief of Police Joe Monroe on a program the two worked on recently to improve and standardize UK’s security on campus. While the initial plan was simply to add more surveillance cameras to the property, it instead turned into a larger-scale project, said Monroe.

“We went back to the drawing board to devise a comprehensive plan for campus,” said Monroe. “That included a holistic approach to everything from emergency alert to access control to ID cards to security cameras. We developed a campus security policy where everything had to be standardized into one system.”

UK was previously using disparate technology for security systems, and Monroe said he was fortunate that new administration at the university was focused on security. Having a champion for his efforts at the highest level of campus leadership made a difference in getting a standardization project off the ground quickly.

In some areas, the institution had significant modernizing to do. Faculty, staff and students were still using paper identification and one of the first initiatives was transferring everyone on to what Monroe calls a “one card solution” for everything from library privileges to access to buildings. 

Access control installation first launched in key locations, such as high occupancy buildings, like residence halls. Now, as part of ongoing efforts, every building that is built or renovated must have access control. 

“Every building that undergoes renovation has to meet our new security standards,” said Monroe. “That includes access control, early warning, and security cameras.”

Monroe also notes that choosing the right integrator to assist with large-scale security projects is key to success, as is being prepared to navigate the occasional political hurdle or personality clash. Working with Stanley, UK was able to create a program that fit their individual needs, both now and in the future.

“From a technology standpoint, we like to develop the plan in a way that allows the different security system components to integrate into a comprehensive solution that helps achieve better performance or improves the operational effectiveness of the campus safety team,” said Konkle. “The plan isn’t a snapshot in time, but rather a roadmap that should be periodically updated to make sure that it is relevant to the changing needs of the institution.”

Konkle and Monroe will outline other best practices for building a unified program at ISC West and offers these essential steps.

  • Identify key stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities
  • List key campus safety systems necessary to implement the master plan
  • Plan for when and how to expand or upgrade existing physical security systems
  • Develop a framework for how disparate systems will be integrated to improve operations and enhance the student and employee experience
  • Make a plan for ongoing maintenance and administration of the physical security systems

Article Written by Joan Goodchild | View all articles by Joan Goodchild