Dana Pruiette, Marketing Manager at Aiphone, speaks with us about the importance of layered security systems.

How have you seen security trends change in schools in the last three to five years?

Recent highly publicized school shootings have created greater awareness of campus security in the minds of administrators, politicians and parents. That’s led to larger security budgets for many districts. Successful security plans start with controlling access. Open schools are now rare. Campuses are being locked — including classroom doors. Active shooter drills are routine. Entry vestibules are more common as schools look to be extra careful in confirming the identity and intent of visitors.

What are some best practices that institutions can put in place to ensure safety?

Many campuses now designate a single public entry. Fencing and locks are used to prevent visitors from entering through other doors. Electronic security technology, such as cameras, access control and video intercoms, provide added protection, data and communication. Schools are creating written policies and procedures — along with practicing regular drills — so that faculty and staff members know immediately how to react in an emergency situation. 

What are layered security systems, and why are they important?

No single system provides total security. Layered systems integrate technologies to create a more effective solution. For example, if a locked door is pried open, an access control system creates an alarm and instructs surveillance cameras to pan to a location for real-time video of the site. And if the equipment is network compatible, data can be shared with local law enforcement officers, making it easier for them to determine the best response.

What can a video intercom system do for security measures?

Staff and faculty typically use access control cards or PINs for school entry. Video intercoms are valuable for visitors who require access. The units allow campus staff to see and speak with visitors before remotely unlocking the door. Video — and audio — intercoms also allow communication within the main school building or to remote classrooms and facilities.

On any given day in Colorado’s Littleton Public Schools district, more than 200 employees are using unified security technology to help keep students, teachers and staff safe. These employees — administrative assistants, before- and after-school care providers, health aides and coaches, to name a few — are not normally thought of as security professionals. But they still provide the critical human element needed for an effective school safety plan.

This human element is vital, but so is providing excellent, simple-to-use security tools that employees can implement in their daily routines. In Littleton, the district’s comprehensive security tools and technology are part of a unified system that consists of mechanical locks, access control, visitor management, video intercom, asset protection, duress, lockdown, mass notification, fire alarm, HVAC, refrigeration, video/audio analytics and weather stations. (It’s important to note that most of the security technology installed in the schools is powered by the internet. High-speed broadband is the nervous system of school security technology, which helps students concentrate on learning and teachers concentrate on teaching.) Empowering employees with these technologies allows them to do their jobs while assisting the school security staff in maintaining a safe learning environment. 

Importantly, employees are trained in these technologies. Mass notification, for example, is fully incorporated into the district’s emergency protocols, and all staff and students are trained in its uses and impact. Staff and students also regularly drill on weather hazards, outside-of-school  emergencies and active shooters.

There are also free tools available to help school officials install unified security systems. Littleton Public Schools used one of these resources, the Partner Alliance of Safer Schools (PASS) Guidelines, which include tiered security recommendations that can cater to schools’ unique needs. For funding, the district tapped the federal E-rate program to cover costs for 40 percent of the needed cabling and connections.

As school safety technology moves forward, it’s crucial for districts to embrace those technologies to help keep their students and staff protected.