Private School Security: What Planners and Administrators Need to Know
The importance of school security cannot be understated in today’s dynamic landscape. As private school administrators, you shoulder a significant responsibility to not only educate students but keep them safe.
The significance of security in private schools extends far beyond the basic need for safety. A well-structured security plan promotes a conducive learning environment, boosts parents’ confidence and trust, and ultimately enhances the school’s reputation. It’s not just about reacting to incidents but proactively preventing them.
The vast differences across building types, budgetary constraints, and leadership philosophies can make it feel as if there is no clear path toward developing a plan for private school security. However, there are a number of free resources available that can help private schools strengthen their security. Moreover, many of the most essential steps for creating safer schools have little to no cost, as they involve your people and the security processes put in place.
With that in mind, private school administrators must ask themselves: can you afford to compromise on any aspect that could affect your school’s overall success?
Key factors to consider in planning private school security
When it comes to private school security planning, a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work. Each school has unique security needs that must be thoroughly assessed and addressed. Below are six critical steps to strengthen your private school security.
- Conduct a threat assessment
Identifying potential security threats is the starting point of any security plan. This involves studying the school’s surroundings, the socio-political climate, and specific risks related to your student population. For example, schools operating under religious organizations recognize they may face a different level of risk in their community that may drive a more stringent security approach. For help in conducting this assessment, private schools can use free guidelines and a supporting checklist from The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS). The Secret Service also offers a free guide on how to conduct threat assessments.
A threat assessment should investigate risks to not only your facility but also its property and adjacencies to that property. Adjacencies can be particularly challenging for private schools that may not have the acreage available to public schools to create a buffer against nearby properties. Problems at the industrial complex, commercial strip center, bank, or gas station next door could all spill over to your doorstep.
- Install physical security measures
Technology investments should never drive your private school security planning. Without an understanding of your facility’s unique risks, technology cannot be expected to solve a problem. That said, technology can help address specific risks. Solutions can be as simple as adding motion lights to deter late visitors to more sophisticated alarm systems. From advanced access control that secures entrances and exits to surveillance cameras, the latest technology advancements can bolster your school’s security.
Before installing a physical security measure, private schools operating within a leased property or co-located with other services should discuss these changes with their landlord. A leased facility may add constraints to your security planning, such as limiting the ability to add security fencing or surveillance cameras.
While security systems have become more affordable over the years – and a knowledgeable contractor can potentially integrate multiple systems to help lower costs – federal and other grants may be available to fund these resources.
- Contract with security personnel
Trained security personnel are the backbone of many schools’ security plans. School resource officers can not only deter potential threats but also respond effectively when incidents occur. Private schools may wish to consider the value of contracting either private security or off-duty police officers to provide this same level of support.
While some schools may see the presence of armed security on campus as a detriment to the learning environment, others find that well-trained school resource officers become a part of their community.
- Develop and train on an emergency response plan
An effective emergency response plan can mitigate the impact of any incident. This plan should include evacuation procedures, communication channels, and first aid measures and define the involvement of emergency responders. This plan helps ensure everyone in the school, as well as your first responders, understand the appropriate response to unforeseen events.
Unlike public schools, private schools are not required to have an emergency response plan. However, this essential planning can make a critical difference in safely supporting your students through a disaster. Moreover, many organizations provide free resources or templates for developing an emergency response plan, including FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the I Love U Guys Foundation. These documents are well-researched, well-written, and easy to implement. Your state Department of Education may also be able to provide guidance ranging from free plan templates to on-site support.
- Policies and procedures
While your emergency response plan prescribes action in the face of a security threat, your policies and procedures are essential for maintaining a secure environment every day. These policies can define processes like visitor management, access control, and cybersecurity. For example, a policy against tailgating – when an individual who has authorized access into the school holds the door open to let the person behind them in – or against allowing students or staff to let strangers in via side doors can be an essential security measure. To be effective, policies and procedures must be comprehensive and well-communicated within your school.
- Train repeatedly and build awareness
Regular training around security and awareness sessions for staff and students is essential. They ensure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Regular drills and frequent training can be essential in driving decisive action in the event of a crisis. Training ensures your policies and procedures are followed and your technology investment is not wasted.
Awareness of safety procedures is also important for parents. Private schools tend to have an advantage when it comes to parent engagement. Leverage this advantage by building a culture of safety and awareness that extends to your entire school community. This begins with frequent, open communication with parents about the value of your school security approach and how they can support it.
Private schools may also wish to borrow an awareness strategy from public schools and create a behavioral threat assessment team focused on students’ behavioral health needs. This is a dedicated team within your school that helps gauge whether a child is simply acting out or may be dealing with deeper issues that need to be addressed. This team often consists of the administrator, teachers at each grade level, a mental health professional (either a school counselor or contracted community partner), and in some cases clergy members as well.
Build a safer future for our children
It can be tempting for private schools to define school shootings and other tragedies as a public school problem. Data from the CATO Institute found that, as of 2018, 94 percent of school shootings occur in public schools compared to 6 in private schools. However, lower risk is not the same as zero risk.
Many parents are considering making a switch to private schools today specifically over concerns around their children’s safety. This makes it even more imperative to have strong processes, well-trained people, and appropriate security technology in your facility.
Private school security planning is a multifaceted process that requires a deep understanding of potential threats, effective strategies, and continuous learning. The question is, are you ready to take this challenge head-on and build a safer school for our children?
6 Factors to Consider in Evaluating Workplace Security Needs
If you’re ready to strengthen your workplace security, a security assessment is an excellent place to start. A strong security assessment can identify opportunities for improvement and lead you to the most impactful layers of intentional security design.
Below, we offer six questions a security consultant may ask to better understand your security posture and lead you to a safer operating environment.
1. How will your space be used?
The very first step of a workplace security assessment is to understand how workspaces are being used. Your security consultant would want to know if there will be around-the-clock traffic through the space or if it is accessible only during business hours. Will there be a need to account for special event usage, which may require a secondary security approach? Are there certain areas, where sensitive records or high-value assets are stored, that will require restricted access?
By exploring the function of the space, a security consultant can start to get an idea of the layers of protections that may be required. An industrial facility with shift work will require a different approach to security than an office only open during business hours, and both will be vastly different than a school building that occasionally hosts community or sporting events. All may require multiple approaches to access control.
2. Who is using this space?
Understanding who will need access to your space helps a security consultant gauge the usefulness of various visitor management strategies. For example, in a corporate or industrial environments, organizations may find it useful to have staff members wear credentials. Wearing a photo ID makes it instantly clear that an individual belongs in your operating environment, even if it’s their first day on the job. In addition, many of today’s access control systems can be connected to these credentials to ensure entry to your building and interior spaces are for people who belong there,
Organizations that expect to have visitors coming into their buildings may need to consider additional layers of security such as having a video intercom station at the designated entrance to vet an individual prior to granting access. Another example may include having a visitor management software solution to manage and monitor visitor’s access to the facility. This software can also be used to track who is in a building at any given time, a feature that is helpful in the event of an emergency to ensure everyone is accounted for.
3. Are special considerations needed for securing high-value assets?
Some facilities may require specialized solutions to further restrict access to certain materials. For example, pharmacies and neighborhood clinics may require layers of technology that secure controlled substances from theft. Industrial facility may wish to restrict access to certain chemicals or expensive materials. Many businesses need solutions for safely storing cash or even sensitive documents.
4. How are you currently managing access to your facility?
Whether you’re building new or updating an existing facility, it helps your security consultant to understand the types of physical workplace security measures you’re accustomed to using. This provides a starting point from which to build new layers of security. It may also identify friction points that could be eased by adopting new technologies or updating your security approach.
Among other things, your security consultant will want to know what types of locks you use in your existing facility or other properties, as well as any alarm systems, cameras, access barriers, lighting, or other solutions. Be sure to note whether there are systems you prefer to keep using or you might be open to updating or replacing.
5. Is there certain technology your prefer or are opposed to using?
There have been many exciting advancements in security technology in recent years, but not all facilities will welcome or benefit from these advanced solutions. For example, facilities with privacy concerns may consider cameras too intrusive to put in work spaces. These facilities may benefit from surveillance at entry points, but will need a balanced approach.
Organizations have increasingly been exploring solutions that can detect weapons, gunshots, and even aggression in a person’s voice. If you are considering these types of technologies, it’s important to discuss this with your security consultant to ensure you understand the benefits. For example, weapons and gunshot detection are often used interchangeably, but there are critical differences between the two. Weapons detection systems are proactive measures that can identify the presence of a potential weapon before it is used, whereas gunshot detection systems are reactive measures that indicate shots have already been fired. Both can add value, but may benefit from integration into different solutions.
6. What is your budget?
Today’s off-the-shelf workplace security solutions can achieve a vast range of functions for an effective price. However, the real secret to saving on an effective security approach is in the installation. While in the past it was necessary to install separate intrusion detection, access control, and video management systems, today’s multi-technology sensors can perform many of these functions with fewer devices. These sensors can use the same wiring and infrastructure to deliver a range of input to a central security dashboard.
This is where a security consultant can provide tremendous value. By looking at your project holistically, they can advise on the most impactful integrations to include. This could eliminate the need to install three separate systems and reduce the cost and complexity of managing them. When solutions work well and are easy to use, your building occupants are more likely to use those systems, ensuring a positive return on your investment.
Better still, these integrated solutions can strengthen your overall building security by working together to gather information about potential threats and drive an automated response.
If you’re ready to strengthen your workplace security, CRUX can help. Contact us to explore your options.
Changes to Texas School Safety Requirements from the 88th Texas Legislative Session
Wrapping up on May 29th, the 88th Texas Legislative session stands as a milestone, introducing legislative progress regarding school safety and security since the 86th session back in 2019. In response to a significant school tragedy in our State and incidents in other states, the Governor and other key State leaders dedicated considerable focus to enhancing school safety and security in the 88th Texas Legislative session.
This summary serves as a valuable reference guide to the comprehensive collection of bills and rule sections related to school safety and security. The goal of this summary is to assist school officials in understanding the vital information they need.
CRUX is here to help. Let our risk management and security professionals think through your options and develop a strategy that’s right for you.
Read the full report here: 88th Texas Legislative Session CRUX Summary
Healthcare Technology Design Strategies that Reduce Operational Risk
Few network systems are tasked with doing more with less than those systems found in modern healthcare facilities. In addition to basic demands for network connectivity, modern hospitals must integrate a range of more advanced solutions for patient monitoring, safety and security. These might range from safety and security applications, such as patient wandering and infant protection systems, to the essential infrastructure on which staff relies, from workstations to pneumatic tubes. Add to the critical systems that support patient care – from headwalls to radiology systems to surgical assistance robotics – and it’s easy to understand how healthcare network design can rapidly become overwhelming.
When healthcare technology designs are done well, high-performing hospitals can find ways to integrate some of these systems on the backend. However, the massive number of components that designers must account for makes it all too easy to overlook one or more of these elements in the design phase. By selecting a partner who holds expertise and experience in planning, coordinating, and designing advanced technology systems, healthcare facilities can trust they’ll gain more reliable systems at a reduced overall cost.
The risk of omission in healthcare technology design
The sheer range of systems going into hospitals today makes it essential for health systems to plan what will be included within their network before ever getting out of the design phase. Without this upfront planning and coordination around technology systems design, healthcare facilities risk incomplete design documents that can lead to costly change orders during construction and potential delays to opening day.
It’s unfortunately common for spaces to be designed too small to house all required technology components or power supplies unable to accommodate for future growth. A lack of coordination on healthcare technology design can also lead hospitals to leave out certain systems where needed – or overspend on technology in areas it’s not needed.
Worse yet, poorly integrated systems can lead to operational or maintenance issues. End users expect a new or updated facility to eliminate pain points, not add to them. Effective technology solutions should be integrated in such a way as to make it easier to maintain, update, operate, and secure needed data from systems.
Are your partners adding to your risk?
As network design becomes more complex, it becomes more important that architects and hospital stakeholders partner with a consultant that has specialized experience in technology system design. When this work instead falls upon traditional partners, a range of additional risks emerge:
- Electrical engineers: When hospitals lean on electrical engineers to design and implement technology systems, there’s a higher risk of system redundancy. For example, it’s not uncommon for electrical engineers to advise using category cable alongside passive optical or fiber networks. In addition, electrical engineers who lack specialized knowledge on how to integrate systems on the backend can add to complexity in operation. While occupancy sensors and security systems, for example, may be able to share hardware elements, electrical engineers may be less likely to identify these redundancies. As a result, owners are less likely to reap potential cost-saving and efficiency advantages.
- Internal teams: Hospital architecture, construction, and IT teams can provide a big-picture vision of what codes and end-user must-haves to include in network design. However, it’s unrealistic to expect these professionals to provide the specialized knowledge required to account for the hundred of technology components needed to make the building operational.
- Vendors: When it comes to designing and implementing more complex systems, it can be tempting to lean on technology system vendors for critical insight. The chief challenge here is that not all technology systems are designed to speak to one another. As a result, hospitals may find themselves investing in a range of systems delivered by a single vendor, making it more difficult to upgrade individual components in the future. Hospitals that aim to circumvent this by investing in a range of systems from different vendors will typically require the help of a technology consultant who can securely and effectively integrate systems.
How a network design partner can help
Working in the early design phase with an experience low voltage consultant that specializes in healthcare projects can ensure hospitals have all needed systems included in their design and integrated during construction. A technology consultant can achieve this through discussions with users within each healthcare department to uncover end users’ needs and pain points. Technology designers who are brand agnostic can also better recommend certain systems or functionalities.
A dedicated technology consultant can also take on the time-consuming task of building a bill of all materials that includes telephones, computers, printers, scanners, fax machines, and other technology end points, and countless other devices that it takes to run a hospital. This partner can also create healthcare technology design drawings and master schedules for ordering equipment, down to the individual part number.
Moreover, a technology design consultant ensures that the selected systems operate as intended. A hospital can’t afford a steep learning curve or nonoperational systems after handoff. Systems must work as expected to ensure patient safety and regulatory compliance.
To discover additional ways that a network design consultant can help your project outperform your expectation, contact CRUX Solutions.
Modern Strategies for Implementing Intrusion Detection Functionality
Intrusion detection systems (IDS) can be an excellent solution for protecting physical assets – or a frustrating cost center prone to false alarms. The difference isn’t in the system, but in how it is designed.
IDS are an established standard for protecting people and assets within a building. When the system is engaged, motion, opening doors and windows, sound and other preset factors can trigger an alert, notifying building owners or first responders of unauthorized entry into the secured area. However, these systems are prone to costly false alarms. In 1994, the Department of Justice found 98 percent of security alarms to be false alarms. Many short-staff police departments find that number to still be accurate today.
To prevent false alarms, many municipalities have begun to charge companies after a set of number of false alarms. Companies may find themselves spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to monitor systems and release alarms. As frustration mounts, organizations opt to turn off their alarms altogether.
There is a far more effective alternative. Today’s intelligent systems allow for integrations that can not only reduce the risk for false alarms, but also support a safer incident response.
The value of integrated systems
When an IDS can deliver more data, organizations understand when to increase efficiency in their response. That’s why many new-generation sensors use secondary systems that only trigger an alert based on a combination of factors. The use of multiple technologies (known as dual-tech or tri-tech in the security industry), including passive infrared and microwave sensors validates that there’s a problem before an alarm goes off. For example, a system that detected motion in combination with infrared heat signature can prevent a false alarm triggered by the sudden movement of paper when the air conditioner turns on.
These integrations aren’t just happening in IDS. By integrating intrusion detection with video surveillance or access control systems, organizations can verify an incident remotely and gather information that can guide an appropriate response.
For example, an integrated system might be designed so that motion activates a camera. By integrating intrusion detection with video surveillance, organizations gain instant visual verification that someone is in an unauthorized portion of the building. This eliminates the delay between getting the signal and going out to verify it. It may also provide valuable information about the threat, such as the number of individuals present. In some jurisdictions, video verification is a requirement to have officers dispatched to the scene – an excellent approach for ensuring the safety of the owner and first responders.
When integrated with access control, IDS can be automatically deactivated when a keycard is presented to a reader. This prevents the need for having employees memorize alarm codes, which can increase the risk of a false alarm. It also eliminates the maintenance of managing codes that is associated with employee turnover and growth.
System integration can also prove valuable in supporting incident response. When organizations use a sub-area approach, buildings or areas within a building can be wired in such a way that they act independently of one another. This means that when one alarm goes off, it provides a location for the device that triggered the alarm, giving an organization information about where a potential break-in has occurred. If devices in other zones subsequently report motion, now there is information about the direction the threat is traveling. When the IDS is integrated with access control, it becomes possible to lockdown one section of the building while leaving the other sections open to first responders.
Create a smarter intrusion detection system
Effectively integrating intrusion detection with other building systems requires advanced planning. If a building uses systems from different manufacturers, it may not be possible to integrate these systems at all. This hurdle can be avoided by integrating intrusion detection alarm devices into the existing access control system.
Another growing alternative is to use existing building sensors. Sensors are becoming ubiquitous, as codes increasingly require the use of occupancy sensors to reduce energy demand by automatically turning off lights when no one is in a room. These occupancy sensors perform a similar function as the motion detector installed as part of an IDS. Rather than having two similar sensors routing information to different systems, occupancy sensors can be programmed to do double-duty. Data collected by the sensors can then be funneled to separate systems.
As another example, many security installers find there’s no need to integrate a security system with a camera. Instead, today’s pan-tilt-zoom style cameras can be programmed to detect motion and track intruders until they leave an established perimeter or move out of the camera view range.
This level of integration requires advanced planning. However, integrated systems also still rely on the essentials of good placement. Motion sensors, in particular, must be placed in such a way as to avoid areas where motion is allowable even when the IDS has been armed.
The payoff of this planning is significant. That’s because this type of intelligent design provides alarm validation and access control, while eliminating the need for a costly secondary security investment.
Take a stronger stance on security
Today’s security systems are smarter than ever, but they’re at their smartest when able to work with the multitude of data being gathered by Internet of Things-enabled building sensors. With good security design and appropriate advanced planning, this information can be collected to serve multiple functions, creating a more complete picture of security risks, guiding a better response, and reducing the rate of costly false alarms.
To learn more about smart building integrating, watch our webinar, Taking Full Advantage of Smart Building Technology.
How Security Technology Advances Can Make for a Safer Workplace
Workplace violence is on the rise, yet few employers are prepared to prevent or respond to a violent incident. The National Safety Council’s Workplace Violence: Using Technology to Reduce Risk report found that nearly half of U.S. employers believe they are unprepared to prevent or respond to violent incidents. Yet in 2020 alone there were more than 37,000 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from intentional injury by another person, and 392 workplace homicides, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With appropriate security policies and response protocols in place, many of these potential threats can be deescalated. And with today’s security technology advancements, building owners and occupants gain access to powerful support tools and opportunities to alert personnel to threats far earlier to prevent major incidents.
Better visitor tracking
Risk prevention relies on sound policies, including proactive and frequent employee training, consistent recordkeeping that tracks incident trends and potential risks, and communication with employees about their understanding of risks can all help build a more safe and secure environment. Yet more eyes looking out for risks is always better, and this is where today’s technology advancements can provide greater help. Advancing security technology can make for safer facilities and more valuable real estate.
While visitor management systems are not new, today’s options provide a range of useful additional information as they vet and track anyone who enters your building. These systems are increasingly paired with advancements in physical identity access management that can help employers not only vet visitors but also audit security privileges. This technology can streamline the registration and check-in process while automatically screening visitors against watchlists or for contractor compliance requirements, among other factors. Emerging solutions are integration biometric features that further speed the check-in process while preventing tailgating, in which someone slips into the building behind an authorized visitor.
These systems can integrate a range of technology solutions to reduce risk and enhance your visitor’s experience. Controlling access to the building is a cornerstone of physical security. Access should only be allowed to persons who are authorized, and only during the days and times at which they have been given authorization. Visitor management systems integrated with access control make it easier to limit where visitors can go, reflecting information printed on their badge about areas for which they have been granted. Electronic access control can also be set up to lock down the building in the event of a hostile visitor as well as alert first responders of an emergency.
Of course, it’s now easier for employers to identify potential risks before visitors or employees ever step foot on their property. Before a violent attack, perpetrators often first speak out, often on social media. Software is available that can monitor and analyze social media posts about a specific company, brand, location, or keyword. These tools can be used proactively to help identify potential threats and keep workplaces safe.
Gain more watchful eyes and ears
Much like visitor management systems, other traditional security technologies are advancing to detect an issue and initiate a response. The resulting response may alleviate the impact of an incident. Cameras with Cloud-based computing and AI-driven analytics are increasingly being paired with thermal, radar, and audio technology to continuously monitor facilities in real time. The analytics technology can be programmed to identify specific actions and behaviors. If the action or behaviors are identified, the system can trigger an alert or a predetermined sequence of events.
Video analytics can monitor schemes in real time for specific objects, occupancy estimation, or to detect people in prohibited areas. AI-supported video analytics can watch cameras for suspicious behavior more consistently and thoroughly than a human. Similarly, a device equipped with audio analytics can trigger alerts based on a car alarm, gunshot, shouting, or other verbal forms of aggression.
Speed response with flexible duress systems
Given the increasing rates of workplace violence, more buildings are also installing duress systems that speed response from emergency responders. Any facility in which public interactions occur – from schools and healthcare facilities to malls and factories – can incorporate a duress system.
These systems no longer need to be hardwired into a specific location, as many offer virtual options. From smartphone apps to badge buttons, today’s wireless duress systems can be set up to lock doors, initiate an auto dialer, and direct authorities to the exact location of the individual requesting help.
3 security technology pitfalls to avoid
While advancing security technology can greatly support building security, it can also create a false sense of security. In fact, one of the biggest risks to effective workplace security is assuming that a technology investment on its own will keep people safe. Technology should only be used to support the existing policies and protocols that truly safeguard people. When implementing new solutions, it is critical to ensure it ties back into security policies, is routinely updated and maintained, and that there is adequate staff to perform maintenance and manage any necessary response.
Another potential risk can come through introducing new technology without updating protocols and training staff on how to use the installed systems on a regular basis. For example, one company faced a technology failure after an identified threat sought to gain entry into a building. When the assailant approached the building, an employee moved to lock the door with a key. However, the employee’s movements triggered the motion detector within the access control hardware that consequently unlocked the door and let the assailant enter. While a duress system may have helped automatically override the request to exit, a more comprehensive understanding of risks and response might have prevented the conflict between protocol and security.
Finally, one of the most serious risks to your building security is accepting the way things have always been done. “The way things have always been done” works until it doesn’t. Improvement should be an ongoing process of identifying potential gaps and new solutions. This includes evaluating and tightening the safety policies and procedures that drive incident prevention and response and support any technology investments.
Tribe & Technology: How Building Innovation is Supporting Tribal Citizens
Tribal architectural projects may vary widely in type, size, and priorities, but they generally share one common characteristic: every design decision is made with consideration of how it serves tribal citizens. Architects must keep this consideration in mind during conversations about integrating innovative technology solutions into their projects – because today’s leading-edge technology can absolutely create opportunities for tribes and their citizens.
Well-designed technology solutions can bring communities closer together, lessen facilities’ impact on the environment, and reduce long-term operational costs. Achieving these building innovation advantages requires upfront cost-to-benefit conversations and thoughtful, collaborative design. With greater awareness of how technology can support shared goals, project partners and tribal leaders can create more effective and efficient spaces.
Choctaw HQ leverages technology to support future flexibility
We’ve seen technology drive building innovation in projects large and small, in support of a range of operational objectives. Flexibility was the primary challenge for the design of the Choctaw Nation’s 500,000-square-foot headquarters facility. In pulling government services from offices at more than 30 locations into a single, easily accessible building, Choctaw Nation was well aware how unplanned growth could get out of hand. The Nation tasked FSB Architects + Engineers with designing a building that reflected the tribe’s heritage and achievement while also supporting future growth.
To accommodate this balancing act, FSB designed the five-story building with a raised floor system and movable walls throughout. Transforming today’s suite of enclosed offices into tomorrow’s conference room is an easier task due to technology quite literally embedded into the modular DIRTT walls. Floorplan changes can be made virtually overnight with minimal disruption by “unplugging” the wall systems and reconfiguring them where needed.
Much of the facility’s connectivity is supported by the use of digital electricity. This low voltage solution helps lower both upfront construction and long-term operational costs. It also delivers the plug-and-play capabilities needed to support the adaptable interior footprint.
To learn more about intelligent low-voltage lighting, download our free guide, The Path to Lower Lighting Costs and Greater System Flexibility.
The Cherokee Nation tests efficiency improvements for impact
The Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is the largest tribe in the nation, which gives it the responsibility to care for more 140,000 citizens within its tribal boundaries alone. That responsibility is why the tribe elected to explore technology-driven building innovation opportunities on a small test case first.
The tribal council authorized the construction of a $5 million public park, named after the late Chief Wilma P. Mankiller Cherokee, known for her activism. Covering roughly 6.25 acres, the park is meant as a gathering place, one that reflects elements of the Cherokee language, culture and traditions in its design and landscaping. However, the 3,000-square-foot community building at the center of the park presented an opportunity to test technology-driven energy efficient solutions on a safe scale.
Demonstrating the operational efficiencies possible on a test project makes it much more feasible to move advanced solutions forward on a larger facility, where the technology may command a larger part of the overall budget, and generate a far better ROI.
Guardrails for greater technology adoption
While project and community needs vary widely, we’ve seen a few common roadblocks to greater adoption of technology for tribal projects. With the following principles in mind, project partners and tribal leaders may be able to more effectively integrate technology into their building innovations.
- Ease of use and maintenance should be front of mind, especially for rural facilities. Even the most innovative technology requires regular maintenance. This can be a hurdle to innovation for smaller tribes or facilities located in more rural areas. These projects may be limited by the availability of on-site maintenance or IT expertise to service technology systems. If an advanced system requires specific maintenance knowledge, it may make the solutions impractical for some tribal facilities.
On the other hand, certain smart building solutions may provide advanced insight into maintenance needs or even offer opportunities for remote troubleshooting. Highlighting the ease of use and operation for integrated systems is an important value proposition.
- Sustainable design methods are a means to an end, not an end itself. By and large, Native American communities work to serve as stewards for the environment, which makes sustainable design features a priority for many tribal projects. However, few tribes are interested in pursuing green building certifications or sustainability for its own sake. Good, efficient design is simply seen as the right way to do things. To this end, it’s important to emphasize the adoption of technology as a solution for reducing energy usage, not for showcasing innovation.
- Any added upfront cost must demonstrate value to tribal citizens. Budget defines every construction project, but tribes are shaped by this constraint in unique ways. Census data reveals that approximately 27% of Native Americans live in poverty, compared to the average of 15% for the broader U.S. population. Tribal leaders take seriously their responsibility for investing only as much as necessary to achieve project goals, which in turn support their citizens’ wellbeing. Investments in hotels or casinos, for example, are made to attract guests who generate revenue, which is invested back into the community.
Technology investments must fit within this playbook. Any solutions must fit within the initial budget and/or demonstrate clear long-term operational savings. Solutions that can achieve both, in line with broader goals, are more likely to find their way into future projects. However, it’s important for architects to educate tribal stakeholders on these cost considerations as solutions become more cost competitive due to broader adoptions over time.
Conversations must focus on technology’s ability to support the tribe’s mission to care for its people and land. Today’s technology solutions very much support these goals. However, achieving these goals depends upon architects’ and engineers’ work to build awareness as innovation advances and costs fall.
6 Underutilized Security Technologies to Implement Today
People are the linchpin of any effective security approach, but today’s security technology is poised to provide powerful support. It can drive faster, more informed decision-making that can keep individuals safer. More importantly, modern security technology is poised to serve as a cost-effective force multiplier – in many cases using technology already installed in your building.
As we and our buildings become increasingly more connected, there’s a greater opportunity to have existing security solutions do more. Below are just a few underutilized security technology solutions that can be implemented today without breaking the bank.
1. Video Analytics
Within the last two to three years, cloud-based computing and AI-driven processes have helped video analytics become more affordable and reliable. Video analytics technology continually monitors large volumes of video. Thanks to machine learning and advanced algorithms, today’s sophisticated solutions can be tasked with carrying out specific processes and trigger an alert or notification if that action occurs. By monitoring your video feed, video analytics shifts video surveillance systems from a reactive forensic tool to a proactive security solution.
Video analytics can monitor scenes in real time for a range of reasons, from slip and fall to object detection, occupancy estimations, and detecting people in prohibited areas. Rather than relying on a human to watch cameras for suspicious behavior – or review footage for information around a qualifying event – AI-supported security technology can be used to identify specific behaviors or events that might trigger an alarm and drive human action.
Moving your organization from reactive to proactive monitoring drives a mindset shift that can be felt across an organization.
2. Audio analytics
As with video analytics, audio analytics technology has at last caught up to the hype. Today, the now-ubiquitous home assistant devices have sound detection functions that can trigger a programmed routine based on the sound of breaking glass, a smoke alarm, or a carbon monoxide alarm. These solutions are gaining ground in commercial applications where they can trigger alerts based on car alarms, gunshots, shouting, or other verbal forms of aggression. Audio analytics’ long-promised security potential is now ready.
3. Mobile credentials
Mobile credentials can replace badges as a cost-effective, frictionless solution for authentication and access control. While personnel gain a convenient, easy-to-remember access solution, building owners alleviate the cost of providing badges and time spend managing lost credentials. Bluetooth integration enhances security by ensuring the individual is physically present at the door, while the increasing use of biometric authentication means that the person unlocking the door is the credential holder. In some cases, commercial property owners are finding they can use that same biometric authentication technology as an even more seamless access control solution.
4. Remote mustering solutions
Another solution that can be integrated into an access control system is remote mustering technology. Remote mustering solutions range from smartphone apps to facial recognition solutions to wearable RFID tags and more. It’s used to track an individual’s location in the event of an evacuation. It can ensure employees or students all make it to a designated safe place or speed first responders to the right location.
While remote mustering has been used in industrial facilities, it’s still largely underutilized in workplaces and educational institutions. Yet existing access control systems may already have this capability ready to go.
5. AI-supported software integrations
Many of the security technologies listed above can work in alignment with one another. That’s where AI-driven integrations come in. Today’s AI technology can gather information across a range of devices or channels, identify potential patterns, and drive a more proactive response.
For example, if shots are fired across the street from your building, with an AI-supported security system, the 911 call driving action within the designated geofence could trigger the locking of your exterior doors and a notification sent to you and your security team.
We’re just starting to explore the types of functions that can be automated. Connecting with local partners may provide fresh opportunities to share information.
6. Security system lifecycle management
We all know that a security system’s biggest weakness is the people operating and responding to it. Too often, a bright and shiny security system is installed and then not touched again. But any software solution requires maintenance. With security system lifecycle management, security managers get proactive reminders about firmware updates, critical maintenance, or end-of-life notifications.
Create a more proactive approach to security
We expect our devices to perform a range of tasks in our personal lives. It’s time to expect more data-driven power from our security solutions. With the right approach, building owners will often find that an advanced security solution doesn’t have to break the bank.
If you’re ready to turn your missed opportunities into possibilities, contact CRUX today.
7 Questions to Ask in a Hybrid Workplace Technology Audit
A hybrid workplace, in which some or all workers operate remotely at least a few days out of the week, has become a reality for many companies in the past few years. One survey found 74% of U.S. companies are using or making plans for a hybrid work model.
As hybrid work becomes permanent for more companies, it is a good idea to audit your hybrid workplace technology to identify sticking points and opportunities to improve. Below are seven questions to ask your team as you audit your hybrid work experience.
1. Are we fully connected?
All-over connectivity is an expectation today. The emphasis on collaboration between your in-office and remote workers is only emphasizing the importance of being able to connect with colleagues anywhere. As a result, it’s important that collaboration spaces, cafeteria, and outdoor areas have reliable Wi-Fi. Hosting all files in the cloud further allows employees to work wherever they need to be today.
Some organizations are upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 capable access points and laptops, as this update can push more data across the wireless network. If your organization is facing network capacity issues, this is an area to examine.
2. Are we secure end-to-end?
The need for good cyber hygiene is nothing new, but there’s almost always opportunities here to improve. Any regular workplace technology audit should examine security from end to end. Are employees fully securing all devices with strong passwords? Are devices regularly being updated with the latest security patches? Do network accounts require multi-factor authentication? More important yet, does your organization have regular training or reminders to employees to comply with up-to-date cybersecurity practices?
3. Are there noise conflicts?
Noise can be an issue for remote workers and in-office personnel. A good starting place is to invest in high-quality webcams, speakers, headsets, and microphones. It’s also important that equipment is well positioned and adjusted so that it doesn’t magnify the sound of every pen drop or paper shuffle.
Remind employees, too, that there’s a responsibility to minimize disruption to neighbors while collaborating with remote colleagues. That may mean using headsets in open spaces or establishing distinct areas for hybrid collaboration. That may also help minimize distracting in-office chatter that makes it difficult for remote workers to hear the conversation.
4. Do we need to improve lighting?
There’s ample evidence out there that good lighting is conducive to a comfortable and productive work experience. The same is true of the hybrid work experience. Natural daylight is best for improving on-camera visibility. However, ring light solutions long used to support on-camera lighting are more readily available, and affordable, than ever.
5. Could it be easier to collaborate?
Content sharing can become unnecessarily complicated. Fortunately, there are a number of workplace technology solutions available today that make it easy for every person in the meeting to wirelessly share content with other participants. These meeting platform-agnostic solutions allow anyone in the meeting space to wirelessly share their device’s display on easy-to-see shared screens for an improved AV experience.
6. Are practices standardized?
When employees use a range of meeting platforms, project management tools, and collaboration spaces, you can’t present a cohesive front as an organization. It can lead to delays in downloading software updates when it’s time to connect or difficulty finding the right button or tool when using an unfamiliar platform.
While standardization is important, it’s also essential to know when to allow room for flexibility. For example, some team members may work best using collaboration solutions like Slack, while others prefer to connect via text or a quick call. Either way, it’s best to let employees know clearly when to standardize and when it’s okay to pick and choose their preferred workplace technology. If you haven’t done so already, expand your workplace policy to include guidelines around these and other hybrid work expectations.
7. How is the in-office experience?
In designing hybrid work considerations, it’s critical that the importance of the in-office experience not be overlooked. Whether you’re expecting all employees to return to the office or encouraging purpose-driven office time, your real estate should give employees a reason to be present. Comfortable chairs, sit-stand desks that encourage healthy movement, and attractive art are a good start. An audit can further help by ensuring those investments aren’t wasted because, for example, the comfortable new couch is nowhere near a power outlet or the inviting patio upgrade lacks Wi-Fi access.
Sort through the noise with a workplace experience audit
There are a lot more workplace technology solutions available today to support your hybrid environment. In fact, there are so many solutions that the noise can be overwhelming. An audit can help clearly identify your needs and guide you toward the right solutions. In some cases, your organization might be better served by having a third party come in and help identify gaps or opportunities. A third-party perspective is often helpful in identifying issues that as individuals we might be used to working around.
Have questions about how to improve your hybrid work experience? Let us know! Contact CRUX today.
What Architects and Administrators Need to Know about Building Safer Schools, Part 2: Human Behavior
As we discussed in Part 1 of our series on what architects and administrators need to know about building safer schools, good architectural design can be a useful strategy for mitigating the potential for violence at schools. However, many of the risks that schools face are the result of human behavior.
After all, schools can feature the most sophisticated design and advanced technology in the world, but without training on or adherence to response protocols, those investments are worse than worthless. A lack of clear protocols and consistent training can be downright dangerous.
Below are four key areas where human behavior can create safer school environments.
1. Reliance on security and emergency operations plans
An emergency operations plan (EOP) – also known as an emergency plan, emergency action plan, emergency response plan or crisis plan, – addresses threats and hazards specific to each school. It addresses safety needs before, during, and after an incident. And, in many states, it’s required by your school district.
However, even districts that do have an EOP in place don’t always update or train on this documentation regularly. When CRUX performs school security audits, we frequently find that staff does not know where to find their EOP binder. In other cases, those documents may no longer be applicable because they cite roles that no longer exist. Updating those EOPs on a regularly scheduled basis, and practicing what’s in it, is of paramount importance.
- Resources you can use: EOPs can be aligned with the national approach to preparedness efforts. Presidential Policy Directive (PPD)-8 defines preparedness around five mission areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery. Schools can take action on prevention, protection and mitigation activities before an incident occurs, although these three mission areas have ongoing activities that can occur throughout an incident. For more information about PPD-8, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Learn About Presidential Policy Directive-8 webpage.
2. Forming the right threat assessment team
A school threat assessment team analyzes communication and behaviors to determine whether a student, faculty or staff member, or other individual may pose a threat. The team should serve as a central convening body to ensure that warning signs observed by multiple people are reported and not dismissed as isolated incidents. This body can identify when these warning signs may represent escalating behavior that could present a serious concern. If a student is exhibiting a specific type of behavior, action can be taken ranging from counseling to a psychiatric follow-up outside of school.
Threat assessment team members should include school principals, counselors, employees, medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, and school resource officers (SROs), where applicable.
A particular challenge here is that not all schools or school districts have access to the mental health professionals who can support adolescents who may demonstrate these warning signs. It’s important to talk with your community partners and state Department of Education to identify resources in the event that action may be warranted.
- Resources you can use: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides a threat assessment document that can provide schools with useful guidance. The Secret Service provides an operational guide targeted towards conducting threat assessments in the school environment.
3. Consistent training for all staff on district and campus safety procedures
Training is critical for ensuring that best practices are followed. We see this training in action in the fire drills schools have been conducting for decades. More recently this has expanded, in accordance with more encompassing EOPs, to include action plans for various natural disasters as well as response to active shooters.
The challenge is that every school district faces its own specific threats, and may have its own way of responding to these threats. So, in areas with mobile populations of teachers and staff, people may bring familiar practices with them from other districts. These conflicting practices can send mixed signals to students and fellow staff members. Regular training on district- and school-specific safety protocols, as guided by the EOP, is critical for ensuring a timely, consistent response to any emerging threat.
- Resources you can use: The “I Love U Guys” foundation offers “standard response protocols” for a range of emergencies that can impact a school campus. Standard response protocols utilize standardized terminology to help everyone better understand the conditions and the appropriate response. Studies have shown that standard response protocols enable rapid response determination during unforeseen events.
This national organization has created a foundation for crisis response programs that is in use at more than 30,000 schools, districts, departments, agencies, organizations and communities around the world.
4. Ensuring systems and hardware work at all times
In June 2022, Texas’ Governor Abbott told the state’s education commissioner that school districts should conduct weekly checks of exterior doors to ensure they lock. This is an excellent practice for ensuring exterior doors are secured and functioning properly. However, this practice is only effective in the event that faulty hardware is reported and repaired in a timely manner.
Schools should evaluate their work order process and prioritize the requests. How quickly are repairs typically made? What sort of follow-up processes are in place to verify that repairs are made? Streamlining the work order process using an electronic submission process may be a good first step toward speeding these repairs, but it remains critical to have a verification process in place.
- Resource you can use: The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) offers free guidelines to help school administrators in assessing and prioritizing their school security needs. This includes guidance around door hardware. These guidelines are supported by a checklist that can help determine where security best practices may need to be implemented.
Put sound security practices in place
Schools can’t automate their way to a safer environment. As much as we may want to rely on cameras and card readers and other sophisticated solutions, technology alone can’t solve the problem. While technology can be an effective complement to school security policies, it’s critical to have people who are trained on how to do the right things, at the right time.
Fortunately, there are organizations just as committed to improving school safety as you are. In addition to the resources noted above, CRUX works hard to help create safer environments for our communities. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your school.