Completely securing a campus environment against every threat is impossible; however, just because someone can break a side window doesn't mean you don't lock your front door. Campuses throughout the nation are deploying security technology at an unprecedented pace as an important component of their security programs.

Modern security systems on campus require special attention to ensure that the equipment and systems function as intended, that they do not overburden staff and that they are maximized to their intended benefits. Individual technologies also must integrate seamlessly so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Straight talk

To help get maximum benefit from security systems, education institutions should review five common mistakes in campus security technology deployment, as well as tips for how to avoid them.

Straight talk

  • Mistake 1: Believing what you read and hear

    The security industry does not oversee or regulate what manufacturers print or say about their products. Finding unbiased information about products is difficult. Trying to learn a company's strategic vision for its products and a particular product line is harder. Forecasting which companies may purchase, absorb and otherwise eliminate products is impossible. The flood of proprietary specialty products amplifies the problems faced by decisionmakers.

    Schools are challenged for time and resources, and usually need to make decisions quickly. How do education institutions address this challenge? First, they should be skeptical of everything they read and hear. Focus less on technical data such as pixel counts and laboratory-controlled error rates, and more on head-to-head evaluations in real-world conditions. Seek unbiased and experienced evaluations and advice. Use associations or other peer networks to solicit feedback on what works and what doesn't. Before committing to any technology, conduct "proof of concept" testing at a facility to replicate how proposed technologies will perform and, more important, whether the technology meets real needs. This is different from "beta" testing, which allows a company to use a school as a guinea pig for its product development.

    Finally, leave an "out" if a particular technology falls flat. Depending on the technologies deployed, putting all security eggs in one basket may not be necessary. Anticipate and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Explore the ways, even with proprietary systems, to lessen the impacts should a change in course be necessary. Develop an infrastructure that can support multiple options.

  • Mistake 2: Thinking technology will solve security problems

    Every security technology is only as good as the operational and physical security program that supports it. History has demonstrated time and again that the simplest procedural breakdowns can render useless the most sophisticated systems. Remember, security technology is only one aspect of a security program and depends on the success of the other parts in order to be effective.

    Some technology proponents and suppliers might assert that video surveillance cameras can replace the need for campus personnel when, depending on the situation, more personnel ultimately might be needed to receive, assess and respond to alerts generated by advanced systems. It is important to keep expectations reasonable about technology's role in an overall security program and thoroughly understand exactly what the impacts will be from each proposed system. Ultimately, a security program's success may hinge on the perception of how effectively and appropriately security technologies have been deployed on campus.