Securing a Lock on Safety

Security used to mean a security officer, a building alarm or a simple door lock on a residence-hall room. All of that has changed. Whether it is a card-access system or a call box, it has become clear that universities and colleges need a combination of security systems to keep people and facilities safe.

Campuses all over the country realize that they cannot rely on one system all of the time-there is too much room for error, particularly human error. Most systems work better when combined with another system-call boxes require officers to respond, card access requires monitors to make sure IDs belong to the people using them.

Reliability is just one of the many factors to consider when purchasing a security system. Cost also is a factor. But perhaps one of the most important aspects to consider when selecting a system is its expandability. The system needs to provide security for the long term, as well as integrate with other systems to guarantee both its effectiveness and longevity.

Gaining access Often the best way to keep people safe is to keep danger out-locked out. Card-access systems, in addition to serving a number of other functions, can limit entrance into campus buildings to only people with an authorized card. Ohio Dominican College, Columbus, uses several security systems to ensure the safety of its students, including building alarms, call boxes and a card-access system.

Brian Hurd, director of safety and security, says that Ohio Dominican chose its card-access system for two reasons. First, the system addressed the campus' goal of moving toward one card that would operate as a door key, a meal card, a copy card and a debit card for purchases from vending machines. Second, the system could be expanded and upgraded with minimal cost. Hurd says that the card-access system, which provides 24-hour security, is easier and more cost effective to maintain than keys.

"Before we had card access, we gave students keys. We had to change locks all the time because a lost key could wind up with the wrong person, or a student might take a long time to report a lost key," says Hurd. With the card-access system, however, a stolen or lost card can be deleted from the system with a few keystrokes.

Schools purchasing card-access systems should make sure the card reader is durable and able to withstand abuse. Also, consider a system with modular parts to ensure that it is relatively easy to maintain.

Becky Moyer, facilities manager at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., also is an avid proponent of card-access systems. Moyer says that when purchasing Purdue's current system, the university considered both cost and reliability. "You can spend all the money you want," she says, "but it doesn't matter if the system doesn't work. You can rely on a computer to lock everything down at the same time, but a person might miss a door or get sick. The computer is more reliable."

Moyer programs computers to lock buildings at a certain time, eliminating the chance for human error. Security personnel check the doors every two hours at night. A night monitor is stationed at residence-hall doors from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. to verify IDs. Another benefit of night monitors is the ability to eliminate tailgaters-people following students who have proper access into buildings-and to ensure that an ID card belongs to the individual using it.

Visible safety There is something to be said about visible security. Emergency phones or call boxes provide a sense of comfort, without lulling students into a false sense of complacency. When combined with officers, call boxes offer 24-hour indoor/outdoor protection and assistance.

Ohio Dominican uses two different call boxes throughout its campus. The older call boxes use phone lines, while the newer ones use the school's radio frequency, so they continue to work during power outages. The newer call boxes have a button, which when pressed sends a tone to a security officer, automatically indicating where the call is coming from and allowing an officer to respond immediately. Currently, the university is considering purchasing more of these newer call boxes.

Purdue also has call boxes throughout its campus. In addition, the university has officers on foot, as well as bicycles, patrolling the campus at night. Moyer suggests having officers alter routes so no one becomes too familiar with paths taken. Another must, she notes, is a good working relationship with the local police department.

One option, according to Neil Hetherington, director of public safety at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, is combining card access and cameras with uniformed officers and emergency phones.

"We use about everything and anything," says Hetherington. The institute has an open campus, but counts on the high visibility of its security officers. The campus is locked down at night, and students must use ID cards to get into buildings.

The institute has cameras strategically located throughout the campus. The cameras are placed in parking lots near emergency phones. Cameras also monitor people entering buildings after-hours and document unauthorized visitors. However, Hetherington points out that it is not wise to rely on video as the only means of security. "You can get anyone to sit in front of a bank of monitors," he says. "You need proactive security systems, not reactive ones. I would rather prevent crime."

As always, cost is a factor. If a school wants a certain system, administrators must be convinced the system is cost effective and secure.

"Money needs to be considered when purchasing a security system," says Hetherington. "It is always difficult to get money allocated to security. It is a responsibility on the manager's part to convince senior managers to spend the money."

Combining systems There is no one perfect system. There are systems that receive more notice, but none that guarantee complete safety. In addition to its card access and call boxes, Ohio Dominican has a number of building and hold-up alarms in such places as the bookstore and the treasurer's office. Hurd says they provide a traditional sense of security. The key is to be able to integrate a new security system with other ones on campus.

"That's what is being marketed now-an integration of systems," says Hurd. Systems may need to be combined because hardware selection often depends on the building. For instance, the New Jersey Institute of Technology uses CCTV after-hours in some of the buildings with an audio intercom. Hetherington says that if someone uses a card to get into a building they are not authorized to enter, there is an alarm indication and an officer can speak to the person from a central location to provide assistance or document unauthorized visitors. "It's a combination," says Hetherington, "you have to use whatever works. You can't rely on one system because that doesn't work."

When selecting security hardware, schools should look for systems that are compatible with life-safety systems and capable of filling in gaps left open by other systems. Purdue discovered that with card-access systems or PIN numbers, unauthorized visitors could follow students into residence halls, but the problem was corrected by using a night monitor.

There are a number of options when selecting security hardware and systems. Any one of these can be integrated with another system for more thorough protection.

*Access control-You do not always need a card to gain entrance to a building; some facilities use PIN numbers. *Building alarms/Motion detectors-These can be as simple as a house alarm or as complex as digital-tracing technology. *Building automation systems-A computer can be programmed to shut and lock all doors at the same time, and turn on/off an alarm that detects intruders. *Call boxes/security telephones-Call boxes can be wall-mounted or free-standing. By either pushing a button or taking the receiver off the hook, a tone is sent to a central area that notifies security where help is needed. These can operate on radio frequencies or phone lines. *Card-access control-Cards are used to verify authorization for entrance into a building. Many can be adapted to serve other functions. *Closed-circuit television (CCTV)-Cameras can be monitored from one central location. *Door levers/Locks-Some are made vandalproof so that when the door is locked, the lever rotates freely. *Metal detectors-They can either be handheld or the walk-through type commonly found at airports. Walk-throughs are more effective, but can cause a traffic jam. Neither are equipped to effectively search backpacks.

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