It’s a topic that has been taught to us for generations, yet isn’t talked about as much as it should be – safety.
Whether entering their first year or returning for a new semester, college students are leaving behind a sense of security at home and learning to live independently. During this difficult transition, parents and families place their trust in higher education institutions to safeguard their campuses and look out for the best interests of their students. In fact, campus security is often a significant factor that plays into the college enrollment process.
Although colleges and universities view security as an ongoing initiative, higher education institutions are obligated to report instances of crime on their respective campuses. With several institutions found non-compliant in years past, security has become a focal point for students and faculty to ensure that these incidents don’t happen again in the future. It’s clear – safety is an absolute must.
Disruption on Campus
Concern for student safety has been given close attention due to recent events and tragedies on campuses across the nation. The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show the following totals over the course of 2015:
Burglary Aggravated Assault Fires
On Campus: 12,609 On Campus: 2,414 Sector of Institution: 1,926
Residence Halls (included in on-campus): 6,677 Residence Halls (included in on-campus): 813
Despite each incident posing a unique threat to students and faculty, a lack of security procedures was a common catalyst in these situations. For the events mentioned above, approximately 53% of burglaries and 34% counts of aggravated assault occurred in residence halls. Fires and other environmental hazards were also reported in dorm rooms, classroom buildings and more.
The Need for Transparency
Despite ongoing instances of disruption, several measures have been put in place to protect the welfare of individuals on campus. The Clery Act, which was signed into law in 1990, aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics. The act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students every October 1st. This ASR must include statistics of campus crime for the preceding 3 calendar years, plus details about efforts taken to improve campus safety.* Compliance is closely monitored by the U.S. Department of Education:
“The Department of Education is committed to assisting schools in providing students nationwide a safe environment in which to learn and to keep students, parents and employees well informed about campus security. These goals were advanced by the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990. The Department is committed to ensuring that postsecondary institutions
are in full compliance with that Act, and enforcement of the Act is a priority of the Department.”
– The U.S. Department of Education
With rising statistics and the need to prioritize campus safety, colleges and universities are taking the necessary steps to protect students and faculty. Although the Clery Act requires higher education institutions to report their data, it does not provide security protocols. It is up to each institution to put these critical measures in place.
As part of the enrollment process, students and families are also keeping tabs on which colleges and universities are maintaining compliance and implementing security procedures. As mentioned above, this often plays a major role in the decision-making process for selecting a college or university.
The Importance of Security Systems
Security systems provide an essential layer of security to protect students, faculty and buildings across campus. Specific types of technology are installed on premise at various entry points, hallways, common areas, and more, with the intent to keep individuals protected 24/7. Although every institution is unique in its procedures and requirements, security systems can be customized to improve operational efficiencies, secure sensitive information and minimize the number of incidents.
Ask yourself the following questions when determining which security systems are the best fit for your institution:
1. Do we have control over who is entering and leaving our campus’ buildings?
Balancing safety with productivity, access control systems protect your residence halls and on-campus buildings without hindering day-to-day operations. Institutions have complete control over entrance ways, elevators, and more, with the ability to customize and assign access levels to students and faculty. Also, rooms that contain private or sensitive information such as science labs, bursars and professors’ offices are monitored and protected.
2. Can we see who is entering each building?
The very presence of video surveillance systems allows your institution to assess any situation before putting your students or faculty at risk. With planning and effective management, colleges and universities can leverage video recording, camera surveillance and intelligent video analytics to identify high-risk scenarios in real-time. Video surveillance systems monitor suspicious activity, allowing you to make informed decisions before the situation escalates.
3. Do we have systems and procedures in place for emergencies (such as fires) or evacuations?
A comprehensive fire and life safety program, for instance is scalable no matter the size of your institution, campus population or security needs. Every system follows strict codes and standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, Underwriter Laboratories (U.L.), and is in compliance with state and local jurisdictions. A fire and life safety program is paramount to protect your students and faculty, and alerts them to exit the building immediately.
4. Do we have complete visibility at all times?
24/7 visibility is paramount to manage incidents as they unfold. Alarm monitoring services enable colleges and universities to stay focused on running their operations, rather than watching over their security systems. Institutions also have ongoing access to expert security consultants to help guide them through the process and answer any questions they may have.
Expanding your Security Efforts
Both physical and digital protection are fully integrated with security systems to address the growing number of threats to your college or university. For instance, resources in the digital space allow institutions to manage multiple sources of incoming data from their existing devices. When alerts are triggered, notifications provide you with the type of activity encountered, location and criticality level.
Partnering with a managed security services provider (MSSP) not only deters instances of crime, accidents and environmental hazards, but it provides peace of mind for campus faculty who must look out for the safety of the campus population.
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