The tragic murder of schoolteacher Ann Maguire has, once again, brought the subject of school security sharply into focus.
With many people calling for the installation of airport-style metal detectors at the school gates in a knee-jerk reaction, the time is right for school stakeholders to engage with security professionals to identify and evaluate risks to schools, teachers and pupils.
Equally, security must probe stakeholders to fully understand an organisation’s objectives – which in the case of a school is to provide a safe, calm and welcoming environment in which pupils can learn and teachers teach.
All educational establishments present some real and specific challenges from a security prospective.
During the day incidents generally revolve around the inappropriate behaviour of pupils, such as bullying, petty theft and vandalism, even serious assault, which can be alleged against teachers as well as pupils.
At night and during the long holidays schools are vulnerable to arson and criminal damage.
Add in the potential for drug dealing outside the school gates, gang warfare, abduction – god forbid – or the large amount of computing equipment stored in schools and the risks begin to stack up.
Obviously every school is different, in terms of geography, demographics, design, construction etc, so their risk profiles vary, so it’s up to teachers, governors, parent representatives, police and other stakeholders to engage in open and frank discussion with security advisors about potential threats and their implications for educational objectives. The security advisor can then work on security procedures and electronic protection systems that both match the threat level and mitigate risks.
Clearly, a converged approach to risk and risk mitigation that uses a blend of people, policies and operational procedures and technology should bridge security gaps and eradicate the silo mentality between protecting physical, information and intangible assets, all of which are essential components to the overall business of running a successful school.
Most schools have learned valuable lessons and implemented robust policies and procedures that mitigate some security threats. These can be as simple as locking school gates during break times to employing a police presence during the school day.
Technology can also play a major part. For example, we installed an access control system that not only controls pupil entry onto the premises but also automatically tallies a pupil to the school register. In reducing truancy the access control system has not only boosted school attendance but cut petty crime and vandalism too.
The growth in IP-enabled security devices and advances in video surveillance such as HD image quality and video analytics is broadening the scope of what’s possible – notably technical solutions that provide instant, relevant information that is easily accessible and readily shared with relevant parties, whether related to a break-in, trespass, health and safety infringement or operational process gone wrong.
In future facial recognition software will surely play a significant role, such as in access control as well as checking the ID of disruptive pupils or, thanks to the level of detail now discernible in a scene, undesirables hanging around school gates.
In addition, object detection software will alert staff to the disappearance of laptops or other equipment.
Analytics applications could count pupils and and quickly and accurately assess whether class numbers are correct.
Heat-mapping applications could identify a build-up of pupils, such as when a fight is brewing. Video analytics will alert teachers when someone encroaches into a prohibited area or is running when they should be walking – eg in the school corridors.
The pace of technological change has blurred boundaries between security, IT and facilities. Network infrastructures can be cross-utilised for surveillance, access control and physical protection monitoring.
Suddenly the IT person is security’s best friend. We should all be working far closer with IT and facilities departments to push the boundaries of our capabilities.
Clearly’ there are boardroom battles to win, but the evidence shows that converged systems can benefit all parties within an organisation. Not only will security and IT departments benefit from convergence, but facilities, operations and property managers can all be shown measurable cost and resource benefits and a quicker return on their investment too.
This has given us in the security world a fantastic chance to sell our services as these systems become more powerful and complex.
Growing more bespoke, intelligent and interconnected, they will provide an organisation like a school with real-time situational awareness and business intelligence from which to make informed decisions, whether related to security, environmental, health and safety or operational.
This article was first published on IFSEC Global at: http://www.ifsecglobal.com/future-converged-school-security/