Using Audio to Improve School Security

Monitoring sound is a security option that is frequently overlooked. It not only can improve safety but also support the campus academic mission.

Imagine walking onto campus with noise cancelling headphones. You look around and everything appears normal – students are hurrying across the quad as usual. What you don’t realize is that there is an alarm sounding because of an emergency on campus. You don’t hear the security officers telling people to get to indoors, or hear the sirens of first responders arriving at the scene.

The reality is that living without audio is like living in a silent movie. You can’t fully understand a situation unless you can analyze all its elements. Audio greatly improves functionality of security systems.

Audio Systems Apply to Many Sectors

There are a number of audio solutions designed to meet varying security needs and purposes. In general, audio serves many different applications including education, law enforcement, retail, public safety, quick service restaurants, convenience stores, healthcare, transportation and utilities industries. These industries all rely on audio to complement their current security system.

In classrooms, audio products can enhance visitor management, emergency and life safety communications and even function as an educational tool. For example, a microphone can be mounted on a classroom ceiling and record lectures for students who were absent from class that day. The student would then have the means to listen to the lesson and catch up on the curriculum.

Loudspeakers, or one-way speakerphones, disseminate important messages in times of crisis, while intercoms, or two-way audio devices, are essential to allowing staff to speak with a visitor before granting them permission to enter the premises. 

RELATED: How to Use Audio to Address Bullying

School security officers also use audio as a means to alert them of any suspicious activity happening on campus. An integrator can install alarms that can be activated based on a specified decibel level. If someone enters a restricted area of campus after hours, the audio device will capture the sound, trigger an alarm and highlight the area in question with LED lights at the audio product’s base station located inside the control room. Loud events like glass breaking, tires squealing, or shouting and screaming will activate the alarm, while more quiet events like an animal in the trash will not. 

Combine It With Other Equipment

One of the defining benefits of audio is it’s compatibility with a wide range of other security devices, including cameras, recorders and software. If a two-way audio system is integrated with a video connected to a network, security staff can remotely interact with suspicious persons in real time. As a result, staff no longer needs to send a physical guard to the area, which ultimately saves the school time, money and resources.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the largest school system in Maryland, recently installed visitor control solutions and incorporated this audio over IP technology. MCPS looked to integrator Netcom Technologies Inc. to enhance campus security at its 202 schools, which serve 150,000 students.

The integrator and MCPS realized that the perimeter buildings at the system’s 132 elementary schools needed to be more secure. Previously, staff and visitors could enter and leave the school as they pleased because the entrances remained unlocked during the day. Unchecked entry left schools vulnerable to intrusion by unauthorized individuals.

Netcom designed and installed a solution that would lock down doors, establish regulated access for visitors, and give staff the ability to monitor and grant access to guests. For the visitor management system, Netcom used MCPS’ CCTV, access control and enhanced the IP camera technology by integrating a two-way audio monitoring product from Louroe Electronics, the AOP-SP-PB.

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