Campus safety has never been more important to educational institutions. A lot of vendors and technology companies are working with IT departments to install new technologies, such as surveillance systems, access control, or emergency notification systems to combat the ever-growing threats to student and faculty safety. But through our extensive work with K-20 organizations and their security strategies, we’ve noticed one major aspect of campus safety that most vendors and organizations miss: they don’t use a third-party assessment to begin the process. This is a huge campus security mistake!
Here’s the way a safety assessment typically works: a school district contacts a vendor and explains that they want to improve their campus safety. With that intangible goal, the vendor will come on site and recommend some technology to leadership. IT and decision-makers go ahead and install the technology without really determining what their goals are, how the technology contributes to those goals, how to measure success, or how to maintain the system over the coming years. This is a problem for several reasons, and can actually be more dangerous than not having the technology in the first place because it gives you a false sense of security.
Here are 3 issues with skipping the independent assessment for your campus safety plan:
1. It Doesn’t Involve Your Overall Strategy
Like every other technology, those that contribute to campus safety need to be a part of an overall strategy that includes measurable goals, key stakeholders, and plans for maintenance and sustainability. It’s very difficult to accomplish these goals if your vendor doesn’t address your strategy first. A good independent assessment will consider safety first, account for your goals and success criteria, then discuss how technology can help you get there.
While technology is certainly a key part of a comprehensive campus safety strategy, it should never be the entire strategy. This is important because there are many other factors to consider – factors that only an experienced facility and safety assessment team can identify. For example, let’s say you install access control on all of the doors in your organization. What if an active threat walks up to the door and can’t get in, but notices a huge glass panel right next to the door? One well-placed boot can erase the efficacy of your access control system in seconds. An experienced assessor will identify every area of vulnerability and give you recommendations to correct each one, whether or not they include the purchase of technology.3. It Doesn’t Come With a Plan
Let’s say you actually have a vendor that discusses your strategy and gives a few non-technology recommendations and also installs some effective technology solutions. Now what? Who is responsible for taking action in emergency events? Who is responsible for revoking key card access during staffing changes? How does your organization communicate with parents and safety and rescue officials during an active threat? Who trains regular and substitute teachers for emergency situations? Who will monitor and maintain your safety systems? These are all questions that need to be answered and put into effect before you can claim any level of success. These are also questions that most vendors will not even think about answering; the right campus safety assessor will.