How to Sell Security in Lean Times

Published: October 31, 2008

Because there has been so much focus on the economy and presidential election lately, you might not have heard about the following incidents that occurred in October:

  • Oct. 10: An 88-year-old man shot and killed his ailing wife at Community Medical Center, then turned the gun on himself


  • Oct. 21: A male student died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the boys’ restroom at Vasquez High School. Authorities suspect he had been a victim of bullying


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  • Oct. 22: Two neo-Nazis were arrested for allegedly plotting to shoot and decapitate black students and assassinate presidential candidate Barack Obama


  • Oct. 26: Two students at the University of Central Arkansas were shot and killed on campus. Another person was wounded


  • Oct. 27: A woman was shot in the chest while walking in Immanuel Medical Center’s parking lot. The gunman was attempting to take her purse


  • Oct. 31: An armed 55-year-old man held 11 Stockton Springs Elementary School fifth-graders hostage. All hostages were released unharmed, and the suspect was apprehended

Incidents like these remind us that, regardless of the state of the economy or political climate, campus security risks remain. In fact, the current fiscal uncertainty could lead to an increase in the number of major and minor incidents occurring at healthcare or educational institutions. Because of this, those individuals tasked with campus protection must find effective ways to remind other stakeholders why security is so important.

I recently spoke with William Nesbitt, CPP, president of Security Management Services Int’l regarding how hospital security executives can justify the continued need for security. We discussed the following approaches, which also apply to schools and universities:

    1. Remain involved with administrators and other departments in your institution, as well as external stakeholders. Don’t become isolated from key decision makers.

    2. Conduct a risk assessment to determine the nature of the campus crime environment.

    3. Measure if the solutions currently in place are effective, and provide metrics of the effectiveness of proposed solutions. “Ask yourself ‘What am I going to have to take to the CFO to justify that we need $350,000 for additional cameras,’” says Nesbitt. Will that system save the institution money via operational efficiencies or reduced liability exposure?

    4. Partner with risk management, particularly if other stakeholders are not convinced that a new measure is necessary. Risk managers can help police and security officials put a price tag on the consequences if a solution isn’t implemented.

    5. Work with other departments to share resources and repurpose solutions.

    6. Train non-security employees to recognize and report risks or breaches.

    7. Use metrics, not scare tactics to prove your point, and keep records of what you’ve recommended.

There’s no question that the next six months are going to be challenging for everyone. Still, campuses can’t afford to let security falter. It’s our job to make sure everyone remembers this.

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Keywords: funding, budget, money, risk management, active shooter

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety. She can be reached at


Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series