Many colleges and universities are intensifying security measures to protect students, staff and visitors. The challenges for keeping a single campus safe are formidable. An even greater challenge exists when planning and establishing security at multiple locations.

College campuses often are thought of as contiguous, with defined boundaries. However, it is rare to find a college or university that is totally self-contained. Most institutions have buildings situated away from the campus core. These off-campus facilities may house professional schools, evening programs, research centers or economic-development engines such as research and development labs or business incubator facilities.

Many larger urban universities pressed for square footage will acquire additional space for academic or administrative functions. And, with parking spaces at a premium, some schools must use remote locations to provide parking for students, employees, contractors and visitors. The colleges may run shuttles to the core of campus for 16 hours or more each day. Some multi-location colleges, especially entrepreneurial for-profit institutions, have a business model based on maintaining satellite locations throughout the country. So, what are the challenges for an education institution that needs to protect multiple campuses?

Education administrators understand that a campus with a poor reputation for safety will not score high with retention, admissions, fund-raising initiatives or employment attractiveness to faculty and staff.

Working with professionals

Most larger higher-education institutions supplement their internal police or security workforce with privatized security.

What should a multi-location institution look for when hiring contract security? Consistency of security service across multiple locations is paramount, and colleges and universities are best served by one central resource. Hence, universities often look for a national contract security services company that has a single point of contact and that can scale up or down in services across multiple, diverse locations.

The questions to ask before making this contracting decision are significant. Can this security provider deliver consistent service across multiple locations? A company that has presence in New York, Boston and Los Angeles may not have the same capacity to manage and staff campuses in other parts of the country. A security company must be able to deliver in each region.

The security officer labor pool differs widely from market to market in level of experience, qualifications and salaries. Often, pressures to negotiate for a lower, national fee as a consideration for a volume discount are counterproductive; the cost of experienced officers in Manhattan, N.Y., differs greatly from salaries paid in Manhattan, Kan.

All-hazards support increasingly is factored into a security decision. Is a contract security firm able to handle emergency responses emanating from natural or manmade disasters? These emergency scenarios could range from a chemical leak in a research facility to on-campus violence and acts of nature, including earthquakes and tornadoes.