High priority placed on security to protect students, staff and visitors
- By Craig Matsumoto
- December 01, 2021
Keeping our nation’s college and university population safe and secure requires the partnership of college administrators, law enforcement and security professionals. Colleges place a high priority on ensuring that their students, staff and visitors are safe and that their reputation as a safe and secure place of study remains intact.
Protecting Human, System and Physical Assets
Effective security designed for campuses should protect three major areas including Human Assets: students, staff, employees, visitors; System Assets: counting proprietary and confidential assets such as research and development material; and Physical Assets: buildings, computers, and any tangible physical asset that the college deems valuable.
Every campus has its own character and when building a campus security plan, it is important to conduct a comprehensive security assessment first that reviews human, system and physical assets to identify security gaps and determine how to amend those gaps. Unfortunately, many colleges and universities fail to conduct a baseline security assessment and instead plug in on-the-fly solutions as security problems arise.
Everyone in the campus population needs to be actively involved in the security practices and protocol. It is vitally important that the population knows what the proper practice and protocol is for security practices in the event of an incident. By way of example, consider a graduate student whose notebook computer is missing. There are confidential R&D documents on the computer, and, as such, should report the theft to campus security, which should notify general counsel and IT.
The mass notification system on campus needs to be up-to-date and the campus population needs to be educated on the campus emergency response plan. When there is a critical incident, such as a workplace violence situation or a hurricane warning, the population should not be wondering what to do, but should be following the plan and heading to safety.
All security technology on campus, from access control to alarm systems, needs to be regularly tested. It is not uncommon for a college to learn that they have banks of alarms on walk ways, for example, that have not been tested and that are not functioning properly. Consider a student or teacher who feels threatened and pulls the alarm to notify security staff only to learn it does not work.
Campus security plays a pivotal and evolving role in community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and in trade and vocational schools. Campus security staff need to train continually and understand exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. Institutions need to work with their campus security team to conduct "tabletop" drills on their timely warning and emergency notifications procedures and processes to test effectiveness and for process improvement. Important documented results and that all findings lead to improved processes.
Information Security on Campus
Colleges and universities should maintain an information security policy to provide a security framework that ensures the protection of campus information from unauthorized access, loss or damage while supporting the open, information-sharing needs of an academic culture. Classifying information is important; dictating what level of security is placed on that information and establishing whether the information is internal, restricted or public.
The email system design needs to include auditing and logging control for quick and inappropriate use to support an investigation. Built-in trigger warnings, such as certain attachments should not be delivered outside of internal distribution.
Information systems must be rigorously maintained, and with updated software systems to prevent malware attacks, phishing and ransomware.
Consider a security warning about a predator on campus that is generated from a crowd-based risk intelligence and safety system, which is shared with a physical security team who can act and ensure that a threat doesn’t become a tragedy. Telemetry gleaned from cameras, which alert to suspicious activity which empowers on-the-ground security professionals to take action?
While college campuses are statistically safer than the at-large community, a major reason is the deployment of dedicated and highly visible security resources committed to keeping campuses safer. Campus security must find the right balance between creating an open and free environment and upholding the duty to protect people and property. The solution includes a mix of staff, technology, facility design, and crime prevention education to develop a program that is effective and affordable.
Keeping campuses safer requires preparing for and responding to many possible threats. Is the campus doing what they need to effectively balance their risks with a tight budget? Key questions for campus administrators to ask to ensure they are building an effective security program include:
1. Are you spending appropriately given the risks your campus uniquely faces?
2. Do you have the right mix of sworn and non-sworn officers?
3. Are your public safety officers equipped and trained?
4. Have you thoroughly evaluated the implications of using students in any quasi-security roles? What are the overtime implications for understaffing?
5. Do you have the ability to surge to meet seasonal and emergency demands without taxing your staff?
There are many different risks connected with various types of institutions and each campus has a unique profile given its urban nature, types of programs, hours of operation, and building mix. Stakeholder expectations are rising with serious legal and liability implications if a campus is not providing security in light of industry best practices. Ultimately evaluating the elements of an effective campus security program comes down to measuring the risk tolerance of your stakeholders and balancing a series of sound investments in your security program. What potential liability could your campus face from cutting security corners?
The ideal campus safety program should include a thoughtful balance of in-house or municipal law enforcement, professional security staff, facility design, crime prevention programs and technology that is in line with the assessment of risk at a specific location. Practical decisions need to be made by colleges that address and answer their individual security assessments.
Why does a college or university outsource contract security and why do they decide to add additional officers? Contracted security officers are not meant to replace specially trained law enforcement officers. They are intended to supplement police by offloading routine security tasks that are necessary to ensure everyone’s peace of mind. While leaving complex law-enforcement situations to qualified and extensively trained campus police, contracted security officers, are trained to effectively handle everyday security tasks on campus. The suite of services and solutions offered by contract security focuses on helping protect people and property. The very presence of security officers also acts as a visual deterrent.
When making a decision to outsource or to expand the program, the college or university should expect that their security partner is highly experienced and is recommending strategies that, when implemented, truly multiply the efforts of the in-house team.
Training is critical to ensuring that security officers are prepared to handle emergency situations. When measuring the value of contract security, it is important to have affirmative answers to the following questions. Have all of the officers completed their required training? Have inspections verified they understand their post orders that outline their responsibilities to respond to all hazards? Has each officer participated with campus law enforcement and local emergency agencies in exercises to practice their response? Do the security officers understand and respect the campus culture?
Monitoring these tangible measures throughout the delivery process, along with other measurable key performance indicators, help guarantee compliance, lower the campus’ risk, and provide the school with peace of mind that their contract security force is operating as expected.
Getting reliable information that confirms compliance with contractual commitments that is supported by the assurance that the officers understand and follow their orders and responded appropriately to a security or safety incident is paramount when building a program dedicated to lowering the overall cost of security operations.
Compliance information that includes complete, accurate and timely reporting of all measures of contract security service (including complete and accurate incident reports, daily logs, tour completeness, payroll accuracy and training compliance) must be at the heart of a contract provider’s program.
Today’s security officers may be the front-line of an academic institution’s brand, interacting with campus community members while serving as the eyes and ears to help keep the campus safe. With new expectations and growing responsibilities, the campus security officer continues to evolve.
Effective campus security finds the right balance between creating an open and free environment and upholding the duty to protect people. This starts with the acknowledgement that security must be part of the campus’ evolution. The right solution balances expenditures between personnel, technology, facility design and crime prevention education to develop a program that is efficient and affordable.
This article originally appeared in the November / December 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.