Why Campus Environments Should Choose a Unified Security Solution

Campus environments experience many challenges when it comes to securing their facilities. University environments need to find the right balance between having an open environment and a secure environment. Students need to feel secure, but don’t want to feel like their residence hall is restrictive.

The many entry points on a campus mean lots of cameras and access readers. How do you prioritize and budget for a secure environment?

Healthcare campus environments are concerned with child abduction, aggressive patients and who has access to pharmaceutical closets. Maintaining a secure - yet open - environment is also challenging because people are coming and going at all hours of the day.

In commercial environments, managing visitors is essential. How do you know who is entering your building? Employees, visitors, contractors, delivery drivers, etc. all need access, and understanding the level of threat they bring is critical. 

What is the best way to tackle these challenges? The following five steps can guide you:

  • Perform a risk assessment to determine your security needs.
  • Develop a comprehensive security plan based on risk assessment results.
  • Identify technologies and security programs that will meet the needs of the campus, including meeting compliance requirements.
  • Consider how a unified security platform provides the best choice to mitigate risk, reduce cost and increase compliance.
  • Always plan for the future as you map out your security plan for today. 

Risk Assessment

Think about what you are trying to protect and what you want to protect it from. In a campus environment, this could mean protecting students or patients from active shooters. Work with a consultant, integrator or even a manufacturer to complete. They can help you identify the resources you want to protect, and how likely the resources will be exposed to risks.

Security Plan

Once you define what you are protecting, how will you protect it? What combination of technology, people and programs will be effective? Should other departments get involved in the plan? Risk and Compliance, HR, IT and security, plus other departments should have input at this stage to provide a holistic plan.

Identify Technologies

Your risk assessment will determine which technologies you need to properly secure your campus. A unified solution delivers a comprehensive solution where you work with one company. The following technologies offer the best solutions for a campus environment.

Identity Management. Do you know who is on your campus and why? Do they have access to the areas they should, and more importantly not have access to the areas they should not? Identity and access management systems can help you put procedures in place that grant access to specified areas for specified times. Break it down by identity, and get as detailed as possible. For example, only nurses and doctors should have access to the pharmaceutical closets while the custodial staff should not.

When a new employee is hired, many departments are involved in the onboarding process including HR, IT, and the security team, and they all have different procedures and need to communicate. Sending several emails and managing spreadsheets is cumbersome and inefficient. It also takes days to process one new employee. An identity management system streamlines that process using workflows that close gaps. All departments can log in, fill in their information and the employee is onboarded in minutes. 

A record is kept for auditing purposes. It’s reporting capabilities help healthcare institutions meet HIPAA compliance requirements. This saves time and money while mitigating risk, and improves business processes across the organization.

Visitor Management

How are visitors managed? Paper logbooks are ineffective and provide no useable data. Most often, security managers are concerned with employees, visitors and contractors, but in campus environments, add patients and students to that list. Who poses the biggest risk? Cloud-based visitor management systems engage faculty and employees and create a more secure environment. Visits are scheduled and temporary access cards can provide access to specified areas during the scheduled visit time only. 

Information is provided to the visitor in advance of their arrival. Important information about where to park, for example, can help make a visitor feel more welcome, providing a positive experience and creating a good first impression for your brand. 

Video Management

Once you’ve figured out what you need to protect, you can determine how many cameras you will need and how you want to manage your video system. See events in either real time or after the fact to investigate alarms and incidents. When integrated with an access control system, more information is provided to the security team so they can make better, more informed decisions about how to respond and you provide a safer environment to your patients, students and staff.

Access Control

The access control system is often the heart of the security system. Your risk assessment will determine where access is most needed. Budget usually drives this process, and often access control is completed in phases. The most critical doors receive card readers first, such as pharmaceutical closets, office areas and laboratories in healthcare facilities, and residence hall perimeter doors, research labs and professor offices on university campuses. Corporate campuses focus on perimeter and office doors.  

Phase two can start securing the next set of doors. There are always more doors that need access. Plan out the phases and budget accordingly. 

Incident Management

Security officers add another layer of security to any campus environment. Equipping security officers with the right tools helps mitigate risk. An incident and case management system can help security officers investigate, analyze and document incidents so companies can make informed decisions. Incidents happen every day, and proper tracking of them can help a company determine if maintenance is needed or if a certain employee always seems to be present during a slip and fall. 

In a campus environment, a lot of time and money are spent dispatching security officers or maintenance staff to investigate incidents: leaky roof, burned out lights, slip and falls, etc. Tracking incidents can help a company better allocate its resources, saving money. An incident and case management system can integrate with your access control system to mitigate risk and enforce compliance. 

In public environments, an incident management system can provide an efficient way to communicate among the security officers. Suspicious individuals can be flagged in the system and communicated to staff between shifts to be on the lookout.

Command and Control

While operating all these systems may seem like too much to manage, it’s not. Larger campuses should consider investing in a command and control software system to manage all systems. The software allows you to manage most systems from a single window. Rather than jumping from application to application to respond to an alarm, users can see everything from the one window. Manage not only the security functions, but HVAC, water, BMS, intrusion, etc. The security operator is more efficient, can respond faster and provide better security.  

Unified Security Platform

Choosing a unified system from one company provides many benefits. First, the systems are designed to work with each other, which helps mitigate risk. This also eliminates integration issues or “breaks” the different upgrades often produce. Security staff only needs to learn one operating system, which saves training time and money. 

Second, choosing a unified solution means going to one place for support. If you have a site support agreement with your manufacturer, that manufacturer should commit to providing technical support for your entire system, including any third party systems. This is a huge benefit for the customer. There is one number to call, one company to deal with and one relationship. Finger pointing between manufacturers is eliminated. And best of all, the customer only receives one bill. There is nothing worse than getting nickeled and dimed for support issues. This allows the customer to better budget their resources and save money.

Third, companies will also save money when they choose a unified solution because they are working with one company. It’s easier to negotiate better pricing when committing to one manufacturer for your unified system. They understand your overall security needs, goals and plans, and should have a vested interest in your success.

Overall, deploying and operating a unified system mitigates risk, saves money and helps an organization meet compliance.

Future Proof

Plan out your security system for 5-10+ years and phase in solutions as budget allows. Choose technologies that can grow and expand as your organization grows. Watch pricing structures and understand product road maps before committing to a 10+ year project. 

Select a manufacturer who wants to be a true partner. You are making a long term investment and commitment, therefore the relationship is important. Understand your manufacturer’s company culture and get to know who you will be working with on a daily basis.

G4S Academy Specialist


Kim Rahfaldt is the director of media relations for AMAG Technology. Kim has worked as a public relations professional in the security industry for 20 years.