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.
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.
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.