Schools today are charged to provide an environment that is both safe and conducive to learning, which can be difficult considering the range of security incidents and challenges they face, including bullying, fights, graffiti, theft and more.

In addition to working within often tight budgetary constraints, a main challenge is to provide the highest level of security in an aesthetically pleasing way that doesn’t make students feel as if they are in prison.

While these two needs may seem mutually exclusive to some degree, that doesn’t have to be the case. School security can be achieved without building 20-foot walls or putting barbed wire around the perimeter.

The key to balancing the security and learning environment can be found in the four pillars of a good school security strategy, namely people, practices, technology and physical environment.

A mobile app or text notification system could be used to alert students and staff of potential problems

Situational Awareness

One of the most effective measures to take is to educate staff and even students to learn to be aware about their surroundings and adopt the 'If you see something, say something' mentality.

In an emergency, time is of the essence, so the speed of response becomes critical. Educating staff and students to recognize potential problems and report them is a good first step. Augmenting this with mobile apps and/or texting capabilities, for example, that allow someone to send a photo to school security or law enforcement for quick assessment and evaluation, can speed response even more.

A mobile app or text notification system could also be used to alert students and staff of potential problems and provide instructions on what steps to take in order to remain safe.

By providing real-time situational awareness about potential responses, these types of technologies can reduce the number of armed guards or resource officers needed to patrol a school or campus, which also makes students more comfortable and able to learn in a non-prison-like environment.

Security Best Practices

Every school should establish a set of security policies and procedures and ensure that staff and students understand what to do if they suspect a problem or if an incident should unfold at the school. However, too often, schools may not know where to start when seeking out best practices. And once these policies are in place, there may be confusion about how to audit them to ensure people are properly educated.

The NFPA has begun work on a school security standard that would address a range of issues schools face on a daily basis

A number of organizations are available to aid with this process, such as the Partner Alliance for School Safety a group founded in cooperation with SIA (Security Industry Association), which provides resources and tools to help schools and security professionals evaluate and establish the best security protection for their buildings.

These guidelines and best practices are designed to help schools spend their often limited funds on the right security solutions. Safe and Sound Schools provides downloadable school security toolkits, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has recently released the NFPA 3000 Active shooter response guidelines and has begun work on a school security standard that would address a range of issues schools face on a daily basis.

The key takeaway is that the information is out there, and the organisations mentioned above are excellent resources for helping schools create safe, secure and learning-conducive environments.

Technology In School Security

The second thing that needs to be considered is how technology can be brought to bear to contribute to school security. Video surveillance with video analytics can be deployed to monitor areas at certain times of day. For example, once school starts, there shouldn’t be a lot of activity in the parking lot or in particular areas around the school.

For these situations, intelligent cameras with video analytics can be used to detect activity in those areas of interest to alert school security that something may need their attention. This might be a vehicle entering a lot or driving against the normal traffic flow, which may simply be a parent arriving to pick their child up early, or it could be something worth following up on.

It’s been shown that using lighting at night can deter crime
Radar detection is ideal for perimeters, where a device can be set up unobtrusively to alert when someone enters a particular area

In any case, this is something that should be brought to the attention of someone who can quickly assess the situation and determine what, if any, response is needed. Because the goal in a potentially dangerous situation is speed response times. The faster you’re able to detect something using technology, the faster you’re able to respond.

Therefore, being able to identify something happening in a parking lot and alert school resource officers could provide 30 seconds or a minute head start for response, which can get the school into a lockdown situation and get first responders on site more quickly.Facial recognition systems and providing access through smartphones could help create a more welcoming and secure environment for students, staff and parents

After-Hour Monitoring Solutions

Monitoring buildings and facilities after hours presents a different set of challenges. For sporting events, the National Center for Spectator Sports and Security (NCS4) at the University of Southern Mississippi provides best practice guidance for sporting facilities and events not only just for universities but even including those at high schools.

It’s been shown that using lighting at night can deter crime. However, it can be expensive to keep a building and grounds illuminated all night, every night. To mitigate these concerns and potential costs, there are video cameras available with extreme low-light capability that allows them to see in near-dark or in some cases complete darkness. This allows a school to save money by turning lights off while achieving a level of surveillance performance similar to daytime deployments.

Radar Detection

Another technology for effective school security, both during and after school hours, is radar detection. This is ideal for perimeters, where a device can be set up unobtrusively to alert when someone enters a particular area.

Radar can be deployed with a single PTZ camera, which can track whatever has been detected to provide real-time situational awareness for a school resource officer or law enforcement to investigate to determine the potential threat, if any, related to the perimeter breach.Following the four pillars of school security can ease the process while improving the effectiveness and efficiency of securing educational facilities

More often than not, schools are faced with issues that are not necessarily the worst-case scenario everyone fears, such as how to identify parents and others who are authorized to pick a child up from school early. In this instance, facial recognition systems and providing access through smartphones could help create a more welcoming and secure environment for students, staff and parents.

Lighting And Landscaping

In addition to technology, one of the things that can contribute to a safer school environment is environmental design. CPTED provides four basic principles, one of which is natural surveillance, which follows a 'see and be seen' philosophy. In other words, when people know they can be seen, they are less likely to commit a crime.

The main points in this general principle are lighting and landscaping. For example, a school doesn’t want to block potentially vulnerable areas with landscaping, so the height and thickness of any potential landscaping elements should be carefully considered. In general, openness and visibility should be the guiding factors.

Securing Physical Environment

Another aspect of the physical environment is maintenance. If a window gets broken but isn’t fixed right away, that tends to invite vandalism. These are just two of the guidelines CPTED offers for creating a more secure environment that doesn’t feel like a prison.

In general, finding the right mix between maintaining security and providing a welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and learning-conducive environment can seem like a difficult – if not impossible – task. Following the four pillars of school security can ease the process while improving the effectiveness and efficiency of securing educational facilities.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Scott Dunn Senior Director of Business Development, Axis Communications

In case you missed it

Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities
Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities

Growth is accelerating in the smart cities market, which will quadruple in the next four years based on 2020 numbers. Top priorities are resilient energy and infrastructure projects, followed by data-driven public safety and intelligent transportation. Innovation in smart cities will come from the continual maturation of relevant technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) and edge-to-cloud networking. AI and computer vision (video analytics) are driving challenges in security and safety, in particular, with video management systems (VMSs) capturing video streams and exposing them to various AI analytics. Adoption of disruptive technologies “Cities are entering the critical part of the adoption curve,” said Kasia Hanson, Global Director, Partner Sales, IOT Video, Safe Cities, Intel Corp. “They are beginning to cross the chasm to realize their smart city vision. Cities are taking notice and have new incentives to push harder than before. They are in a better position to innovate.” “Safety and security were already important market drivers responsible for adoption of AI, computer vision and edge computing scenarios,” commented Hanson, in a presentation at the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) 2021. She added: “2020 was an inflection point when technology and the market were ripe for disruption. COVID has accelerated the adoption of disruptive technologies in ways we could not have predicted last year.” Challenges faced by cities Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018 Providing wide-ranging services is an expanding need in cities of all sizes. There are currently 33 megacities globally with populations over 10 million. There are also another 4,000 cities with populations over 100,000 inhabitants. Challenges for all cities include improving public health and safety, addressing environmental pressures, enabling mobility, improving quality of life, promoting economic competitiveness, and reducing costs. Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018. Other challenges include air quality – 80% of those living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits. Highlighting mobility concerns is an eye-opening statistic from Los Angeles in 2017: Residents spent an average of 102 hours sitting in traffic. Smart technology “The Smart City of Today can enable rich and diverse use cases,” says Hanson. Examples include AI-enabled traffic signals to help reduce air pollution, and machine learning for public safety such as real-time visualization and emergency response. Public safety use cases include smart and connected outdoor lighting, smart buildings, crime prevention, video wearables for field agents, smart kiosks, and detection of noise level, glass breaks, and gunshots. Smart technology will make indoor spaces safer by controlling access to a building with keyless and touchless entry. In the age of COVID, systems can also detect face mask compliance, screen for fever, and ensure physical distancing. 2020 was an inflection point when technology and the smart cities market were ripe for disruption, Kasia Hanson told the MIPS 2021 audience. Video solutions Video workloads will provide core capabilities as entertainment venues reopen after the pandemic. When audiences attend an event at a city stadium, deep learning and AI capabilities analyze customer behaviors to create new routes, pathways, signage and to optimize cleaning operations. Personalized digital experiences will add to the overall entertainment value. In the public safety arena, video enables core capabilities such as protection of people, assets, and property, emergency response, and real-time visualization, and increased situational awareness. Video also provides intelligent incident management, better operational efficiency, and faster information sharing and collaboration. Smart video strategy Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security Video at the edge is a key element in end-to-end solutions. Transforming data from various point solutions into insights is complicated, time-consuming, and costly. Cities and public venues are looking for hardware, software, and industry expertise to provide the right mix of performance, capabilities, and cost-effectiveness. Intel’s smart video strategy focuses around its OpenVINO toolkit. OpenVINO, which is short for Open Visual Inference and Neural network Optimization, enables customers to build and deploy high-performing computer vision and deep learning inference applications. Intel and Milestone partnership – Video solutions “Our customers are asking for choice and flexibility at the edge, on-premises and in the cloud,” said Hansen in her presentation at the virtual conference. “They want the choice to integrate with large-scale software packages to speed deployment and ensure consistency over time. They need to be able to scale computer vision. Resolutions are increasing alongside growth in sensor installations themselves. They have to be able to accommodate that volume, no matter what causes it to grow.” As partners, Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security. In effect, the partnership combines Intel’s portfolio of video, computer vision, inferencing, and AI capabilities with Milestone’s video management software and community of analytics partners. Given its complex needs, the smart cities market is particularly inviting for these technologies.

What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?
What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?

The emergence of smart cities provides real-world evidence of the vast capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Urban areas today can deploy a variety of IoT sensors to collect data that is then analyzed to provide insights to drive better decision-making and ultimately to make modern cities more livable. Safety and security are an important aspect of smart cities, and the capabilities that drive smarter cities also enable technologies that make them safer. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021
New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021

Organizations faced a number of unforeseen challenges in nearly every business sector throughout 2020 – and continuing into 2021. Until now, businesses have been on the defensive, reacting to the shifting workforce and economic conditions, however, COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans. This is now giving decision-makers the chance to take a proactive approach to mitigate current and post-pandemic risks. These long-term technology solutions can be used for today’s new world of social distancing and face mask policies and flexibly repurposed for tomorrow’s renewed focus on efficiency and business optimization. For many, this emphasis on optimization will likely be precipitated by not only the resulting economic impacts of the pandemic but also the growing sophistication and maturity of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), technologies that are coming of age just when they seem to be needed the most.COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans Combined with today’s cutting-edge computer vision capabilities, AI and ML have produced smart cameras that have enabled organizations to more easily implement and comply with new health and safety requirements. Smart cameras equipped with AI-enabled intelligent video analytic applications can also be used in a variety of use cases that take into account traditional security applications, as well as business or operational optimization, uses – all on a single camera. As the applications for video analytics become more and more mainstream - providing valuable insights to a variety of industries - 2021 will be a year to explore new areas of use for AI-powered cameras. Optimizing production workflows and product quality in agriculture Surveillance and monitoring technologies are offering value to industries such as agriculture by providing a cost-effective solution for monitoring of crops, business assets and optimizing production processes. As many in the agriculture sector seek to find new technologies to assist in reducing energy usage, as well as reduce the environmental strain of modern farming, they can find an unusual ally in smart surveillance. Some niche farming organizations are already implementing AI solutions to monitor crops for peak production freshness in order to reduce waste and increase product quality.  For users who face environmental threats, such as mold, parasites, or other insects, smart surveillance monitoring can assist in the early identification of these pests and notify proper personnel before damage has occurred. They can also monitor vast amounts of livestock in fields to ensure safety from predators or to identify if an animal is injured. Using video monitoring in the growing environment as well as along the supply chain can also prove valuable to large-scale agriculture production. Applications can track and manage inventory in real-time, improving knowledge of high-demand items and allowing for better supply chain planning, further reducing potential spoilage. Efficient monitoring in manufacturing and logistics New challenges have arisen in the transportation and logistics sector, with the industry experiencing global growth. While security and operational requirements are changing, smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye, but have a significant impact on the overall customer experience. Smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye. Video analytics can assist logistic service providers in successfully delivering the correct product to the right location and customer in its original condition, which normally requires the supply chain to be both secure and ultra-efficient. The latest camera technology and intelligent software algorithms can analyze footage directly on the camera – detecting a damaged package at the loading dock before it is loaded onto a truck for delivery. When shipments come in, smart cameras can also alert drivers of empty loading bays available for offloading or alert facility staff of potential blockages or hazards for incoming and outgoing vehicles that could delay delivery schedules planned down to the minute. For monitoring and detecting specific vehicles, computer vision in combination with video analysis enables security cameras to streamline access control measures with license plate recognition. Smart cameras equipped with this technology can identify incoming and outgoing trucks - ensuring that only authorized vehicles gain access to transfer points or warehouses. Enhance regulatory safety measures in industrial settings  Smart surveillance and AI-enabled applications can be used to ensure compliance with organizational or regulatory safety measures in industrial environments. Object detection apps can identify if employees are wearing proper safety gear, such as facial coverings, hard hats, or lifting belts. Similar to the prevention of break-ins and theft, cameras equipped with behavior detection can help to automatically recognize accidents at an early stage. For example, if a worker falls to the ground or is hit by a falling object, the system recognizes this as unusual behavior and reports it immediately. Going beyond employee safety is the ability to use this technology for vital preventative maintenance on machinery and structures. A camera can identify potential safety hazards, such as a loose cable causing sparks, potential wiring hazards, or even detect defects in raw materials. Other more subtle changes, such as gradual structural shifts/crack or increases in vibrations – ones that would take the human eye months or years to discover – are detectable by smart cameras trained to detect the first signs of mechanical deterioration that could potentially pose a physical safety risk to people or assets. Early recognition of fire and smoke is another use case where industrial decision-makers can find value. Conventional fire alarms are often difficult to properly mount in buildings or outdoor spaces and they require a lot of maintenance. Smart security cameras can be deployed in difficult or hard-to-reach areas. When equipped with fire detection applications, they can trigger notification far earlier than a conventional fire alarm – as well as reduce false alarms by distinguishing between smoke, fog, or other objects that trigger false alarms. By digitizing analog environments, whether a smoke detector or an analog pressure gauge, decision-makers will have access to a wealth of data for analysis that will enable them to optimize highly technical processes along different stages of manufacturing - as well as ensure employee safety and security of industrial assets and resources. Looking forward to the future of smart surveillance With the rise of automation in all three of these markets, from intelligent shelving systems in warehouses to autonomous-driving trucks, object detection for security threats, and the use of AI in monitoring agricultural crops and livestock, the overall demand for computer vision and video analytics will continue to grow. That is why now is the best time for decision-makers across a number of industries to examine their current infrastructure and determine if they are ready to make an investment in a sustainable, multi-use, and long-term security and business optimization solution.