Schools Turning to Integrated Technology for More Proactive Security

How smarter security technology investments are helping schools improve safety on campus now, and prepare for future challenges.

Schools Turning to Integrated Technology for More Proactive Security

Security is important in every industry, but vital in schools and educational facilities. Safe learning environments are expected by parents, students, and faculty. However, spikes in cybersecurity attacks, school shootings, and gun violence in the US have raised concerns as students begin to head back to class. That’s in addition to common school security risks like theft, vandalism, and unlawful intrusion on school property. So what can schools do about it?

In addition to thorough security planning and emergency preparedness, the right technology can help administrations mitigate these risks, and take appropriate action when things do go wrong. The rise of cloud-based systems and IoT-connected devices shouldn’t only apply to offices and homes. Schools should be leveraging this technology to improve campus security, without compromising student and faculty experiences.

Smarter technology for schools

While campuses need to be open and welcoming for everyone, the most basic element of physical security is being able to keep unwanted individuals off the premises. School access control systems make this possible by requiring faculty to credential in, and restricting access to certain parts of the building. As a part of your school’s physical security strategy, access control systems provide the ability to:

  • Utilize schedules to automatically lock exterior doors after hours
  • Limit access to specific entries such as staff offices, storage closets, computer labs, libraries, and science laboratories
  • Remotely unlock the door, check access activity, and adjust permissions on the fly
  • Activate a school lockdown from a personal device such as a phone or laptop

Newer technology that leverages mobile devices and cloud software offers greater flexibility. Mobile-enabled access control systems, like Openpath, allow people to use their phone to unlock doors, which is both more secure and can be a completely touchless experience, too. Mobile access control technology is a great way to give faculty and staff access, without running the risk of constantly replacing lost key cards. Access control is great for limiting who can go where and monitoring entry activity. Plus, connected to other security systems and building platforms, you get a more complete picture of what’s happening on campus.

For example, many facilities have implemented school video surveillance systems to monitor activity throughout the campus. Having video footage of security incidents is essential for auditing after an incident, and identifying perpetrators or criminals. Today’s video management and school security camera systems have advanced features that can alert security teams to unusual behavior using infrared sensors and machine-learning capabilities. Remote monitoring keeps everything centralized in the cloud, rather than having to staff a desk 24 hours a day. When integrated with the school access control system and analytics tools, you can associate entries with video footage in real-time, and verify identities without even being on-site.

It’s crucial to know who is at the building at all times, especially if they are not a regular attendee or staff member. If your school is still using sign-in sheets to track visitors, you’re actually increasing the risk of an incident. Visitor management systems offer a more reliable, auditable way to record visitor activity, with ID scanning, automatic badge printing, or digital credentials, which work alongside the school access control system to control where guests have access and when. Plus, newer visitor systems allow administrators to upload watch lists to identify known criminals and predators. Because school events are also a target for potential security risks, the right access control and visitor management tools can help streamline event security, too.

Cybersecurity is equally important to keeping schools safe and secure. Social engineering, phishing, and ransomware attacks on school networks are becoming more common, in part due to the surge in personal devices in classrooms and online learning. Even with the best technology, cybersecurity failures are often due to human error and device misuse. Schools should encrypt device communication, limit administrative logins, and require multi-factor authentication, as well as monitor all networks for suspicious activity. For schools to protect privacy and keep their networks secure, following best practices and requiring cybersecurity training offer the most bang for your buck.

The impact of integrated school security systems

Security is often hard to measure until it’s too late. While there are many benefits to updating and integrating school security systems, the following examples are the most measurable and impactful for today’s administrations.

Emergency response

Emergencies are inevitable, and every school is already required to have evacuation plans and drills for certain events like fires and natural disasters. However, active shooters and school violence are harder to prepare for. And every second matters when there’s an emergency. With integrated school security systems, response times are faster and more accurate.

For example, an alarm or gunshot sensor triggers an automated alert for on-premise security and administrative personnel. Depending on the rules set, the system can trigger a school lockdown, or an authorized individual could activate the lockdown on their smartphone. That action automatically sends live video feeds to emergency responders, and keeps administrators informed throughout the emergency. Administrators could also set a rule to send a notification to all teachers and faculty to activate classroom door lockdown devices, and another batch action once the lockdown is lifted and it’s safe to evacuate.

Proactive security operations

For schools with multiple buildings, sites, or campuses, the ability to scale security practices is key to successful implementation. In higher education facilities especially, where people tend to come and go at all hours, 24/7 security is paramount. However, monitoring multiple sites is expensive and time consuming. Proactive security measures utilize technology including AI, machine learning, and smart edge devices to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place, and help teams prioritize what matters most. Smart alerting, custom dashboards, and automated processes keep attention on high-risk areas, and help teams identify potential cyber and physical security threats.

6 steps to future-proofing school security systems

Identifying and preventing incidents is only effective if security technology can detect the latest threats. A future-proof school security system quickly and effortlessly adapts to new situations with minimal disruption to daily operations. In addition, a future-proof platform means the technology won’t be obsolete in a few years. Although school security needs vary by district and location, there are a few key steps administrations can take to improve their security systems:

  1. Evaluate current systems and physical security guidelines to find gaps or vulnerabilities. If the current technology cannot mitigate those risks, upgrade to newer systems.
  2. Add access control to spaces that need additional security. In K-12 schools, this includes staff offices, storage rooms, and computer labs. For universities where students need more flexible access, mobile-based access control or encrypted access badges allow 24/7 access to libraries, research laboratories, and event spaces.
  3. Integrate school security camera systems with access control, alarm systems, and sensors to automate emergency response procedures and security operations.
  4. Reduce cybersecurity risks by securing communication across school networks, limiting IP access, and requiring MFA for all logins to school systems.
  5. Create scalable processes through IoT automation and system integrations. Identify redundancies, processes that take time away from vital tasks, and trends from aggregated data streams to inform decision making.
  6. Establish new best practices for cybersecurity, communication, incident response, and training.

Choosing the right school security system and technology is one of the fastest ways to proactively monitor, audit, and prevent incidents on campus. Yet budget constraints and worries over disrupted learning often get in the way. However, making smart investments now means administrators won’t need to update their systems again in a few years.

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