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Kimberly Galloway

School Safety 101: Designing security solutions for education that pass with flying colors

Students can’t learn if they don’t feel safe, and attracting good faculty is only possible if schools can ensure a secure working environment. While extreme cases capture media headlines, schools and universities of all sizes around the world struggle to protect students and staff from bullying, fighting, assaults, accidents, weather emergencies, and more. They are also concerned with protecting school property from vandalism, arson, and theft—much of which occurs outside of regular school hours. From a liability perspective, schools and universities find themselves accountable to students, faculty and visitors to their campus.

With a long list of challenges, high student-to-staff ratios, and expansive areas to cover, it’s impossible for security teams to physically monitor all school locations at all times. Security solutions that consider all the variables and incorporate the right components are cost-effective answers for even the leanest security programs—granting better visibility, control, and communication throughout the learning environment.

Crash course: what solution providers need to remember about their education clients

The design and implementation of network-based security technology is usually a collaboration between many departments within a school. Administrators and physical security managers are focused on developing safety procedures and protocols, while the IT manager is tasked with ensuring a stable, compliant, and efficient IT infrastructure. They must meet in the middle, seeking technology that can deter and detect threats while seamlessly integrating with multiple systems or legacy equipment.

The next concern is making sure the solution is not vulnerable to cyber-attack. So, it’s important to ensure that IP-based educational security solutions conform to relevant cybersecurity standards and that all firmware upgrades and system patches are implemented on schedule.

A security system that works properly when danger is imminent is another top priority. The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) recommends that new, fully networked system installations for educational environments include IP cameras for surveillance, assessment, forensics, and/or risk mitigation. However, that is only the beginning of the capabilities of a security system. Other considerations for an integrated solution include access control solutions, network audio for paging and announcements, intelligent analytics that work for you, and a management system tying it all together.

Learning the basics: identifying areas of interest (AoI)

Once the basic security needs have been assessed, following a structured design methodology can simplify the process. Axis Communications specializes in network security solutions that enable a smarter and safer world and has identified a four-step, top-down approach to designing security solutions that takes the key areas of interest (AoI) into consideration. Understanding the AoIs will lead to a more robust design and fully customized security system.

1. Identify your AoIs and associated risks. Identify the key areas in the environment with known or implied security challenges. For example, does the school have a problem with bullying in the restrooms? Is it in an area where vandalism and after-hours break-ins are common?

2. Define the security objectives for each AoI. Create security objectives in response to the risks defined in the previous section. For example, do you want to deter an after-hours break-in or do you need to positively identify an individual or license plate?

3. Populate a “solutions matrix” from the objectives. A solutions matrix can connect security objectives to relevant solutions for a specific area. The matrix is an easy-to-read graphical document of all the security requirements, and it’s specific to the school’s needs.

4. Select solution components. Using the matrix, the individual solutions are mapped to specific products to build the final integrated security system.

Selecting technology that makes the grade

With an ever-changing technology landscape, schools can become overwhelmed with making the right decisions for security, and it can be even harder to know where to start. Educational institutions are looking to employ technologies that are the most impactful with the resources available. Since no two educational environments are the same, what works great for the neighborhood elementary school doesn’t necessarily make a passing grade for a university. By understanding the needs and choosing the right technologies, you can simplify the needs of your education customers—from mitigation, response, and recovery to improved operational efficiencies.

Click here to learn more about using the AoI methodology to design the most impactful security solutions for educational environments.

ScanSource sells security products from brands like Axis Communications that can help you provide the best security solutions for your education clients.


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