May 08 2019

3 Ways Technology Can Elevate Campus Safety

Universities invest in digital alert systems, communication applications and security hardware to protect campus communities.

For university administrators, the number of physical threats to college campuses in 2018 demonstrated a dire need to keep safety and security a top priority. Technology can help close the gaps in physical campus security initiatives, streamlining current systems and helping to introduce new ones. 

As Kim Milford, executive director of the Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center at Indiana University, described to EdTech in an interview, the physical and cyber risks universities face have become increasingly intertwined. 

“Let’s say there’s a physical threat on campus, like a hurricane. Because of the physical, all sorts of cyber ramifications happen,” said Milford. “If there’s a really big cyber event, like a breach, there will be physical ramifications.”

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out these three ways universities can keep their data safe.

3 Digital Solutions for Higher Education Physical Security Risks

Just as the risks breach the divide between physical and digital, so too do risk management solutions. Here are a few best practices for universities to help ensure their campuses are safe. 

  1. Seamless alert systems: Whether there is a fire in the chemistry building or an active assailant on campus, it is imperative that all students, faculty and staff are alerted immediately to any present danger. Universities can approach emergency communication systems a few different ways. At the University of Illinois, administrators can push visual alerts through digital signage around campus. Meanwhile, universities such as Texas A&M University have strategically placed beacon technology around campus to send push notifications to all mobile phones, alerting users directly of any reported danger. 
  2. IP network cameras: For campus security officials, a keen eye on campus activity is crucial for maintaining safety. Unlike analog closed-circuit television cameras, these security cameras are controlled through a remote network and do not require a separate recording device. By controlling security cameras through a LAN, campus police monitor live feeds and review past video more quickly. At Virginia Commonwealth University, IT and security leaders partnered with Cisco to create web of security cameras connected to the campus network, EdScoop reports. At VCU, officers can see the feed from any camera from a centralized command center, giving them more flexibility to monitor the campus. 
  3. Communication applications for mobile devices: Alert systems are important lines of communication, but they are also one-sided. Students must have ways to report any suspicious activity or emergency to campus officials efficiently. At VCU, CIO Alex Henson implemented a way for students to contact campus police through a mobile app. When it comes to lines of open communication, says Henson, there can never be too many. When a hurricane hit campus, officials were able to connect with students and staff over seven communication channels, ensuring everyone on campus received a message and could contact security services as needed.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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