How Turnstiles Can Protect Your Campus

Public safety experts from Arizona State, Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State have installed turnstiles to improve access control.
Published: July 7, 2011

Turnstiles can be an effective deterrent against unwanted guests in campus buildings. The most effective turnstile must allow for tailgate‐free responsiveness so they allow only authorized students and staff access to facilities; fast throughput; heavy‐duty usage; accurate monitoring; and non‐entrapment.

The turnstiles should also look good, fit in with the environment and not be intimidating. After all, a university is an institution of learning, not a prison.

A turnstile won’t stop everything bad from happening. But in thousands of little ways, turnstiles do prevent potential incidents from happening to college students every day. And they do it in ways we may never have considered. So, with turnstiles popping‐up — quite literally — around campuses everywhere, now is a good time to investigate how they’re being used, what makes a good one and the benefits that turnstiles offer.

I spoke with campus safety experts at three universities currently utilizing these solutions to learn more about their benefits.

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Choose Equipment that Detects Tailgating
Nate Fish, director of operations at Taylor Place, Arizona State University’s (ASU) residential community, offered interesting insight as to how to integrate turnstiles into an overall security system.

“Turnstiles are the first line of defense,” he says. “They aren’t a standalone solution. If someone wants to, they can just hop over them. However, if they do hop over, the guard is going to notice them right away and stop them before they gain access to the apartments.”

Fish firmly believes that his optical turnstiles help stop people from sneaking in. “They do deter people because, like with a car, if you’re going to break in, you choose the easiest target,” he says.

He chose Smarter Security Systems’ turnstiles, which detect tailgaters at a close distance. And with their accuracy, as he puts it, “If someone tries to tailgate with these, they probably should be married.”

In addition to being sturdy and reliable, turnstiles must be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Dax Kuykendall, assistant director of facilities at Florida Atlantic University’s recreation center explains, “Our center is very modern looking. The design is all about clean lines and stainless steel.”  According to Kuykendall, the turnstiles they chose “fit in perfectly with the architect’s vision of the overall facility.”

Turn Up the Volume With Alarms
When all is said and done, turnstiles are about security.  

“Universities will have to start locking‐down in order to protect their most important assets — students,” says Ken Murphy, director of security at Cleveland State University. “Parents are selecting schools based on safety and security.”

With three other universities in the Cleveland area, Cleveland State has a lot of competition. So, when planning for the construction of their new housing project — Euclid Commons — security was a top priority. The campus installed 80 cameras along with access control.

While turnstiles were not included in the building during the design phase, Murphy convinced university administration to invest in them because they offered a physical barrier (an impediment, not a trap). He says that while they used to have guards monitoring the entrance along with a sign‐in policy, they had their fair share of kids who would circumvent the process. The turnstiles have completely eliminated the possibility of getting through unaccounted for now.

Overall, Murphy is very happy with his turnstile. One of his only complaints, if you can call it that, is that the audible alarms weren’t “obnoxious enough.” They were too quiet, so Ken made them “scream” in order to make them clearly sound like alerts to the security officer posted near the entrance.

After all, each and every one of the professionals at the colleges I spoke with agreed that while turnstiles have greatly improved security in their buildings, there still is no substitute to manning entrances with security personnel. But at more and more campuses across the United States, optical turnstiles are becoming the first line of defense in protecting our kids.

Audit Trails Identify At-Risk Individuals

Another benefit of having turnstiles on campus is that they can be integrated with access control software. ASU’s Nate Fish points out that with monitoring software, the residential community can coordinate with ASU officials to determine whether or not a student is at‐risk.

“If a professor notices that a student hasn’t been to class recently, we can check and see when and if he’s been to his apartment,” says the director. “If he has been up there but not attending class, counselors can then contact the student to determine whether or not there’s something serious, emotionally or otherwise, going on with him. If he hasn’t been up to the room at all, we can alert the proper people.”

ASU uses what is commonly called an audit trail, and many universities are finding that turnstiles are invaluable in that regard. At Taylor Place, for instance, authorities know if an access card is swiped more than once every minute. This is an indication that a student is allowing more than himself into the restricted facility. If that’s the case, software can be reprogrammed to allow only one pass every two or three minutes per card.

This is not to say, however, that turnstiles shouldn’t be able to handle a lot of traffic. In fact, Taylor Place happens to be in the center of ASU’s downtown Phoenix location. So the students are always coming and going between classes. According to Fish, his turnstiles have almost non‐stop usage yet require minimal maintenance.

Beverly Chamberlain is a freelance writer.

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