|Beyond the need to install new systems, often overlooked is how schools are going to pay for security upgrades|
Limited financial resources are a common pain point for primary/secondary schools looking to implement cutting-edge security technology. But security needs persist despite scarce resources.
All school administrators want to do everything in their power to secure their facilities against threats. More schools are recognising the benefits and, in some cases, requirement of upgrading systems to meet evolving threats. The solution is to find creative, cost-effective ways to support these installations.
Aiming maximum security amidst fund scarcity
Schools need maximum security and yet they have to work with limited budgets, says Andrew Schonzeit, CEO of integrator Idesco. “There certainly is a demand to enhance school safety, but to do so, schools have to look at the bigger picture and think in terms of solutions,” he adds. Integrators like Idesco can help by providing integrated security solutions that cover all their needs from ID cards to access systems and security cameras. “Many schools might think that they cannot afford such a solution, but with the latest technologies, they certainly can,” Schonzeit says. “I believe technology is being underutilised in primary/secondary schools because many schools feel intimidated by solutions. I think the security industry has come a very long way in development of apps for smart phones and iPad devices that are essentially one or two clicks. It is up to security integrators to provide powerful tools that customers feel very comfortable to use.”
Choosing the right technology
|IP access control brings costs down by eliminating panels, excess wiring, and third party electricity at each door|
The Department of Homeland Security makes grants and funds available to schools for security upgrades and to address school vulnerabilities, Schonzeit says. The primary/secondary education market should be taking advantage more of the technology that is available right now. Schools are starting to have a very strong network infrastructure backbone, which is a resource schools should be looking at to assist them in terms of implementing a solution. Schools should also try to maximise the use of mobile devices to control access to their premises and to intervene quickly in case of an emergency, Schonzeit says.
One way to use the network backbone is by adding IP access control, which brings costs down by eliminating panels, excess wiring, and third party electricity at each door. This means that more doors, in existing buildings, can be protected on a tight budget. Isonas, a provider of IP access control, has very close integration with both Video Insight and Milestone video management systems. Isonas feeds access control data to each of these video platforms, allowing them to be the command/control for both access control and video. “As budgets are tight, few districts can afford to put access control across an entire district at one time,” says Rob Mossman, CEO of Isonas. “The integration and the Pure IP structure means that a district can roll in access control school by school without having to manage two separate software packages during the expansion.”
Beyond the need to install new systems, often overlooked is how schools are going to pay for security upgrades. At times, it is a matter of school boards making the tough choice to place a higher priority on security measures than other worthwhile programs competing for funding, says John Mosebar, vice president, marketing, Aiphone Corp., a manufacturer of audio and video intercoms.
"I believe technology is being underutilised in primary/secondary schools because many schools feel intimidated by solutions. I think the security industry has come a very long way in development of apps for smart phones and iPad devices that are essentially one or two clicks"
Recognising government grants
Also, the federal government, most states, and private organisations offer many grants to pay for some portion of school security, Mosebar says. But often these grants are not well publicised, making it difficult especially for smaller districts without dedicated grant personnel to apply. This is an area where the security industry – through one of its organisations – could step up to research the various grant offerings and make them available through one website. “It would be a tremendous public service,” says Mosebar.
Prioritising security requirements
Partially in response to cost challenges, implementing electronic access control in phases is more common in schools than other environments. Schools and districts decide the most critical openings from a security and traffic flow perspective, and prioritise them first, according to Allegion. Priority lists vary among schools, but most start with the perimeter so they can lock down a facility and keep intruders out.
Some schools look at crime statistics and prioritise schools by location, starting first with those in the highest crime areas, adds Minu Youngkin, Allegion vertical marketing manager. Others look at traffic flow and determine which openings are most problematic, or put them at the greatest risk, and add access control to those first, says Youngkin.
Greater system functionality is another aspect of costs. A key opportunity for security technology in primary/secondary schools is creating more automated systems that lessen or eliminate human delay in response and notification, says Bruce Montgomery, Business Development Manager, Honeywell. Creating an automated “If this, then what?” protocol streamlines a school’s approach to violence and improves response time. A one-button approach – where only one action is required to notify teachers, students and police, trigger a lockdown and provide video surveillance and campus access to law enforcement – is ideal for managing the broad range of communication and logistical challenges in the event of an emergency.