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How to Develop a Physical Security Plan for an Educational Campus

April 16, 2017

In recent years, violence on school campuses has become a growing trend throughout the United States, prompting schools of all sizes to reassess their security protocols. Educational institutions can be challenging to secure, due to their open, expansive nature, which means value-added resellers (VARs) must take extra care when developing a physical security plan for a school campus.

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, there are more than 140,000 educational institutions in the United States, a figure that includes public and private K-12 and higher education schools. Each of these campuses requires at least some level of physical security in order to protect students, faculty, staff and visitors from a wide range of threats—both large and small.

Today, campus security officials must prepare for a wide range of potential emergencies, including active shooters, severe weather, unruly crowds and more. Considering the dynamic nature of many educational campuses, VARs should keep the following tips in mind when working on a campus physical security plan:

1. Remember that each campuses’ needs will vary greatly.

Educational campuses all face their own set of threats and challenges, with different budgets, security protocols and legacy technologies that must also be taken into account. With all these factors combined, you can bet that each school’s physical security plan will be unique.

Of course, each individual school is slightly different, and the nature of K-12 schools is worlds apart from the college environment. K-12 schools tend to have smaller student populations and a more confined footprint, whereas universities are often large, sprawling campuses with multiple buildings and open spaces. Remember that many students also live on-campus, which adds another element to the security landscape.

At K-12 schools, comprehensive security might involve specialty door locks, an access control and visitor management system, and a few strategically-placed video cameras. On university campuses, the solution might also include emergency call boxes, a mass notification system, temporary surveillance towers and more.

2. Keep accessibility top-of-mind.

While security on school campuses is a top priority, it’s also important for students (and teachers) to feel safe and welcome at their school. Most colleges in particular have open, highly accessible campuses, and any security technology should preserve that spirit, rather than stifling it. Meanwhile, an abundance of security technology at K-12 schools might feel scary to younger children, so be sure to balance its use when possible.

3. Maximize ease-of-use.

Remember that aspects of this particular security system may be used by students. During an emergency situation, these young people must feel comfortable using the technology, even if it’s as simple as pushing an emergency call button. That’s why it’s important to make sure the system is highly user-friendly.

It’s also vital that any necessary training can be completed quickly. At both K-12 and college campuses, student turnover is high, and officials will want to ensure that new students can easily get up to speed on any security and emergency procedures.

4. Focus on access control and emergency notification.

For most campuses, physical security will revolve primarily around controlling access and improving emergency notification and response. These systems will help keep unauthorized individuals out of secure areas, and provide teachers and students a way to quickly communicate with security officials during an emergency.

5. Be prepared for a higher level of scrutiny.

There’s no denying that school security is in the national spotlight—even more so in the weeks following a violent event on a U.S. campus. When working in the education market, be prepared for a higher level of scrutiny around your work.

School officials will want to ensure that your physical security plan covers every aspect of their campus and takes each potential emergency into account. Be sure to do your due diligence and be ready to give an even greater amount of attention to these projects.

What other factors do you have to take into consideration when developing a physical security plan for an educational environment? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in the education market?