More than 90 percent of all school, university and hospital campuses are now equipped with video surveillance systems, and many of the remainder plan to purchase them in the near future, according to a recent survey by Campus Safety magazine.
Measured use of such physical security measures as cameras is to be applauded. Their biggest value is as a deterrent to theft and vandalism, and in helping to positively identify suspects in group fights and violent assaults. (Anecdotal evidence of their value, also from the same survey, can be found here.)
But they also have serious limitations (see here) and should not be misconstrued as making schools entirely safe on their own. As a recent spate of active shooter and other mass-casualty incidents around the world should remind us, cameras help primarily after the fact, as a forensic tool.
What’s needed is better prevention. A successful school district security program must take into account the urgent need have as much early warning as possible to get ahead of emerging threats. This requires a common operating picture and up-to-the-minute situational awareness shared by all authorized personnel within school administration, law enforcement and other agencies.
School safety stakeholders should look to secure, cloud-based platforms as ideal tools for their security operations. Solutions like our Haystax School Safety Center enable authorized users to see threats as they emerge, enabling them to get ahead of a crisis and not just respond to one. This type of system can store all campus facility and contact information in one place, giving first responders immediate access to critical data at a particular locale that can make all the difference when seconds count – as well as assessment tools to better understand their biggest threats and vulnerabilities in advance of a crisis. They also give early warning of threat ‘signals’ such as those found on social media – from bullying and gang fights to more serious attacks that threaten an entire campus.
Most importantly, cloud-based systems are available at any time, on any device. Crises don’t always happen during working hours; the tools professionals use to protect individuals, facilities and systems shouldn’t chain them to their desks, or even their operations centers.
In short, cameras are a valuable addition to campus security, but only as part of a broader integrated school security solution where they contribute just one signal out of many.
John Boatman is Director of Industry Solutions at Haystax Technology.