How Intercoms Can Improve Health and Safety on Campus

Combining intercom technology with video surveillance can help organizations do a better job of managing visitors, occupancy and security.

How Intercoms Can Improve Health and Safety on Campus

Photo courtesy Aiphone

In the past year, organizations and communities across the globe have had to adapt their way of life in many ways, not in the least being our educational facilities. Schools and universities have spent the past 12 months working to mitigate health risks associated with COVID-19.

As they reopen doors and implement new technologies and policies, many K-12 campuses and institutions of higher education have been searching for a way to leverage existing security infrastructure. The simple intercom has been a security staple for many years, but now in a pandemic-centric world, these devices provide a new set of much-needed capabilities.

Intercoms, once thought to be a basic security tool, can now be combined with video, offering users the ability to solve multiple pain points associated with COVID-19.

Enhanced Visitor Management Is Now Critical

Even before the days of COVID-19, many educational institutions were focused on enhancing visitor management. Today, the threat to health safety is more difficult to contain. For years educational facilities have utilized intercoms to manage access, but now, it’s more important than ever to ensure the safety of students and staff by thoroughly vetting all those who enter a campus.

As security technology overall has become more sophisticated, so have intercom capabilities, which have extended far beyond what they used to be. Beyond a simple intercom, when used in conjunction with an IP-based video system, intercoms can provide visual verification that the person requesting access into a school building does indeed belong there.

Whether they are a student, parent, or staff member, verifying a person’s identity and ensuring that individual has the proper credentials is key. Pairing an intercom with a camera allows for this important, real-time visual communication between the front office and those requesting access.

For campuses that plan to utilize new thermographic technology, IP intercom systems can be used in tandem, allowing operators to communicate specific safety protocols to staff or students before they are granted access.

For example, if a parent is dropping off a student at a school that requires temperature checks before admittance, the parent and student can approach the intercom located at the campus entrance where they can communicate with the security director or front office staff. The designated staff member can then talk to the parent and student through proper protocols, such as using a touchless temperature screen device and wearing a mask, and ensure the student has the proper temperature to be granted access.

Video Intercoms Manage Occupancy in Dorms, Classrooms

In today’s world, it’s not enough to simply hear a person, campus security and staff should always visually confirm identity and ensure the person wanting to enter are following campus guidelines on proper facial protection, as well as adhering to occupancy limits and social distancing requirements.

As many schools and universities seek to limit occupancy, this capability will offer great value. For campus staff, it’s critical to see how many people are requesting access at the door, as well as who’s at the door.

For example, if a person is requesting access into a science laboratory where only limited occupancy is allowed, a video intercom provides a safe way to confirm there are not too many people entering at once. This is also of great importance in college dormitories where visitor access might be limited, or not allowed at all. Through a video intercom, lobby staff will be able to confirm the identity of the student, as well as confirm that the student does in fact reside in that specific dormitory. This reduces the chance that another student could be requesting access with a key card that isn’t his own.

For common areas where students might gather, such as lobbies, gyms and other recreational facilities, additional social distancing and occupancy management might be necessary,  enabling security staff to further leverage the capabilities of an IP-based intercom system.

Touchless Systems Help Slow the Spread of COVID

Another area of interest has been how to leverage touchless security technology to minimize the spread of germs. Intercoms can integrate with touchless sensors that can detect motion within a preset range or can activate with the simple gesture of a hand wave. When a student or staff member approaches the sensor field, it triggers a signal for two-way intercom and video communication. The individual isn’t required to touch any part of the device. To reduce unwanted activations, the sensor range and sensitivity can be adjusted.

This solution has myriad benefits for access points into main campus buildings, shared facilities, such as dining halls and recreational buildings, and dormitories where a large number of visitors need to be screened. Touch-free functionality is also a bonus for vendors making deliveries or students who might have their hands full.

Campuses Use Apps for Remote Security Management

Another area where IP-based video intercoms can assist in minimizing the spread of germs and unnecessary human-to-human interaction is the ability to manage all these capabilities remotely from a mobile app. There’s an increased flexibility when working from a mobile app, especially for security directors or officers on educational campuses.

For example, if a campus is not able to staff a lobby of a building or a dormitory, they can remotely manage access from a mobile device. This enables security personnel to access video feeds and directly communicate with the student or staff member requesting access to a building. This is also an efficient and safe way for campus deliveries to be made, as staff members might not be able to be onsite.

If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that it’s no longer enough to only manage access to main entry points and exits of any educational facility. Campuses must now manage occupancy levels in classrooms, living facilities, common areas and recreational buildings.

End-users will find value in a video intercom solution that enables them to directly communicate instructions to those requesting access, ensure identity and proper credentialing and help them maintain the overall health and safety of all those who pass through their doors.


Paul Hefty is a technical sales and support engineer for Aiphone.

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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

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