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How does your university security system compare to other campuses?

How does your university security system compare to other campuses?

In the competitive world of higher education, choosing the right university doesn’t just come down to course offerings, grade requirements and the prestige of the institution. The infrastructure and facilities of a campus – including updated security measures – are increasingly a deciding factor for prospective students.

The Times recently reported that safety at university is a deciding factor for many candidates, especially when considering the negative impact it can have on the student experience:

Feeling safe while studying is a top consideration for many prospective students when they start thinking about where to go to university. Enjoying a sense of security, comfort and happiness during your time at college can make the difference between staying on and getting a good degree or deciding to look elsewhere or even drop out altogether.

The Times included the results of their Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2018 of more than 20,000 students. This showcased the institutions which make their students feel safest, down to those where students don’t feel secure.

Each university sets their own individual safety policies, and there is plenty of advice available to students to help them stay safe on campus, but with university security being measured and reported to the public, affecting the choices future students make, can you afford to be working with outdated campus security systems?

Day-to-day security around campus 

Access control, such as doors opening and closing, should be logged and monitored as standard practice. However, it's also about alerting operators to exceptions, which include:

  • If a door is forced open
  • If a door is held for a sustained period of time.

These exceptions need to alert operators instantly. It’s not just about whether the university surveillance system is watching everything; it's about the value that you add using additional systems, such as Control Center, to offer even more intelligence. Suzanne Waugh, Regional Sales Manager for IndigoVision says:

It’s almost like giving the doors eyes... Whoever's in the control room can see doors opening and closing, but the cameras are also independently functional so nothing can get missed.

Increasingly, universities are choosing to run their security systems across IP networks. When your CCTV System is viewable over IP, you can see footage from your CCTV cameras securely on a PC, via a web browser or a mobile device. Suzanne explains how this changed security at the University of Dundee:

Their copper connections were old, and you could only view the cameras in one room – you couldn't view them anywhere else on campus. Whereas, when you're on an IP network, you have far greater flexibility and can react far more quickly to incidents.

Many universities have a centralized architecture which uses traditional video processing. In these older systems, there’s an extra “hop” where the video has to travel instead of working in a straight line, then the video has to be processed before being displayed to the operator. Legacy solutions don’t speak directly to the cameras, making everything far slower. Suzanne Waugh explains the disadvantages older solutions present to security teams:

If operators in the control room are following an individual or seeing some suspicious activity, they've got to use the system to move and call up new cameras... So it's not recording in real-time. When operators want to move the cameras, they have to tell the PC, which then has to tell the server, which then tells the camera. So you've got latency – there's a delay.

Contemporary solutions offer a direct connection to the camera from software such as Control Center. This means there is fast camera PTZ movement, with minimal lag when controlling or calling up cameras, and it is responsive by design for both live and playback video.

Emergency solutions when they’re needed

Emergency assistant points are a technology that is on the rise across universities; the University of Dundee recently installed them across campus. The user presses a button, a camera focuses on the area of campus that has been activated, then brings up the view for the operator. There will be an alert to say someone's activated the emergency assistance point and the operator can react according to their protocols.

While most universities use CCTV, many don’t yet offer assistant points with video and speaker intercom. Jenn Ciolfi, Head of Precinct Services at the university explains how this technology benefits their campus:

The assistance points around campus have a button which triggers the two-way audio with a security officer. The officer can then focus on who triggered the alert and speak with the person live. When the button is pressed, the nearest PTZ camera zooms into that assistance point so the officer gets an overhead view of the situation.

If something happens and the person is in danger, the university can use CCTV to see the surrounding area and to give the person in distress advice, reassurance or direction. Whether it’s day or night, there are systems in place to offer the same high level of service.

Bespoke facilities for students and staff

Creating a map of an entire area’s cameras is a hugely beneficial solution. Instead of hundreds of cameras appearing in a long list with limited context, they can be positioned on different maps, depending on their location. Multiple cameras can be viewed at the same time as alarms and their alarm state. There are so many things you can do with maps in software such as Control Center to offer a far more comprehensive overview of the entire campus.

This map of cameras offers the University of Dundee the ability to video escort staff or students from one location to another on campus. Jenn Ciolfi explains how this helps people feel less vulnerable:

When it’s dark, they'll [staff and students] call security, and then we use CCTV to give them a video escort across campus. They feel safer knowing that we're watching. We have cameras positioned strategically throughout campus so, where one ends, we can pick them up on the next one all the way to the car park.

The speed and accuracy of tracking is essential when performing services such as this; when you've got multiple sites, or a multi-campus setup, university security surveillance teams need to be responsive.

With a lot of systems, the cameras will record, but nobody's monitoring them live, and they're just recording until something happens; this is a reactive process. But when you have a campus situation, where people are watching it live for public safety, that's where the fastest and most accurate solutions always win.

The higher education sector is becoming an increasingly competitive market. If your university is slipping down rankings for things such as duty of care and student security, this will soon reflect in other areas, such as recruitment and retention. Jenn Ciolfi has noticed this growing focus amongst other campuses:

Universities have started to take security more and more seriously, especially as competition for recruitment becomes more intense… That's why you see an unprecedented amount of investment in new infrastructure and construction; these new features are to try and bring in the best student candidates. Security is becoming one of those factors, too.

Only by selecting up-to-date university campus security systems can higher education providers ensure they are protecting staff and students to the best of their abilities. If you think your university surveillance system could do with modernizing, and you’d like to find out more about whether your university campus is as secure as it could be, click the link below:

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