Campus safety and security of the future — beyond a duty of care

08/21/2013  |  By ROBB MONKMAN
School Security

Successful institutions have survived and sometimes thrived by anticipating, navigating and mitigating a myriad of hazards, risks and emergencies over multiple generations. Brand reputation perception, and risk outcomes, arguably including quality of education, may be traditionally linked to a safe and secure campus. Personal physical safety and logical security hazards increasingly influence perceptions of learning and working environments for students, teachers and staff. Effective institutional risk and uncertainty management performance often offers peace of mind for all stakeholders including parents and host communities.

Minimum stakeholder expectations include the school’s “Duty to Protect.” This inherent duty includes the protection of people, assets and brand reputation while ensuring physical, logical and fiscal outcomes. Our current fluid global risk environment, constrained resources and expanded educational experiences beyond traditional campus life offer a few complexities. Francis D’Addario, author of, “Not a Moment to Lose... Influencing Global Security One Community at a Time,” claims, “Future institutional success will depend on layered and integrated security for protection in depth. All stakeholders will have a role for both self and community protection. Cultures that care are judged by risk mitigation performance over the long term. Protection-in-depth must feature a more strategic and cross-functional approach to incremental and continuous safety and security improvement, from all-hazards awareness and situational risk detection to more effective reporting and response.”

The Need to Continuously Improve Campus Security

Nothing has reminded us more about the necessity of school security than the events of recent history. The shocking and terrifying incidents at Columbine, Penn State, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech have elevated the need for better protection. These situations have put student safety at the forefront of school priorities in 2013. One of the primary concerns of all parents is the safety of their children and, now more than ever, they are looking at what schools are doing to enhance the security of their children.

Beyond terror events, there is a constant concern about student bullying, sexual assault, drinking and drug use and medical or fire emergencies. Bullying can have a significant impact on children and teenagers. A bullied student will often avoid school, have lower grades, and become socially isolated. Over 160,000 students miss school each day for fear of being bullied and 280,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month. At least one in four college women will become a victim of sexual assault during their academic career.  Over 1,825 students between 18-24 die each year as a result of unintentional alcohol related injuries, including drunk driving. Given these statistics, protecting and securing the safety of students and faculty must remain a top priority for educators. In order for students to thrive in a positive learning environment, they must first feel safe.

What Steps Are Currently Being Taken To Improve Campus Security?

In 1990, The Clery Act was signed, requiring institutions to give timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees and also requiring federal financial aid participating schools to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses. 

Actions that are being taken include implementation or improvement of all-hazards risk awareness, access control, emergency communication, mass notification, and the installation of additional lighting. Many institutions today have a dedicated professional police or campus security staff, whom are critical to ensuring the safety of students and faculty. States are also taking steps to ensure that our schools are safe.

In Washington, a new measure was recently signed by, Governor Jay Inslee, that requires school districts to work with local law enforcement to develop an enhanced emergency response system. When security is a priority concern, schools look to continuously improve people, processes and technology in an effort to reduce risk and improve accountability at their institutions.

New Technologies That Empower Students and Faculty To Take Action

While much is being done to improve student safety, schools have yet to truly take advantage of easy to adopt, cost effective technologies that exist today. Smart technologies for all-hazards risk awareness training and two-way situational risk reporting now feature wireless long distance capabilities that promise to protect, at lower cost per person, with higher returns on investment. Traditional access control for people and vehicles, for example, may now be augmented with analytics including facial and plate recognition. Man-down and package left behind anomaly reporting along with glass-break, gun-shot and scream detection are within reach for integrated and automated event reporting. With new technology, people are becoming more empowered.

Real-time situational risk reporting is now available via Smartphone applications. Conceived as an extension of blue light emergency phones, students and staff can now simultaneous alert police, security, peers or loved ones to peril while providing more exact GPS location information on or off campus for emergency responders. Some mobile applications give students the ability to report incidents with a link to their location so that they can report incidents of bullying, illegal activity and medical emergencies. Taking advantage of current smartphone technology can help to extend the safety of your employees and students beyond the perimeter of your campus and engage students and employees in protecting their community.

With more than 70 percent of students and staff already using Smartphones, the “just-in-time” reporting speed and response time that Smartphones provide mitigates consequences and may be a game changer for community safety. Mobile applications that enhance student and faculty safety are a cost effective and easy to implement layer of protection.

Some institutions can also take their mass notification capabilities beyond e-mail and SMS. Current technology allows alerts and important information to be shared to signage, monitors and TVs throughout campus. Spreading an alert message via multiple modes of communication (e-mail, SMS, and signage) ensures a faster response time and broadens the reach of an alert to a wider audience.

Looking to the future, schools will soon be able to benefit from in-building GPS capabilities that will provide enhanced situational awareness of physical assets in the event of an emergency. Apple recently announced its acquisition of WiFi Slam, which has developed ways for mobile application to detect a phone user’s location in a building using Wi-Fi signals.

Schools need to not only be aware of new technologies, but should move to adopt the solutions that make the most sense with their budgets and current security plans. Many new technologies provide ways for schools with limited budgets to deliver enhanced layers of security for their students and faculty.

Robb Monkman is the CEO of React Mobile a personal safety app iPhone and Android targeting schools. His background is in emergency communications. For more information visit
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