Colleges will optimize their investments in security systems if they have an idea of exactly where they need help with security, what they expect a system to accomplish and how to balance their goals with resource availability, says Steven Healy, a managing partner with Margolis Healy & Associates.
"You might have funds to buy and install 500 cameras, but do you have the human resources you'll need to monitor all of them effectively over time?" he asks. "You need to know the answers to those types of questions."
The security technology market offers a range of product and configuration options, so it's important for officials to consult with vendors and integrators and determine specific requirements before making a purchase or issuing a request for proposals, says Kyle Giles, director of security at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Ind.
Security needs to take the lead in determining what capabilities are required and where surveillance cameras should be placed, but IT must manage the network, determine power requirements and maintain back-end equipment.
"Both departments have to recognize each other's strengths, but I can tell you as a security person: If you don't have a good working relationship with your IT department, you're doomed to failure from the get-go," says Bob Driskill, director of campus safety at Lynchburg College in Virginia.
Beyond IT and security, other departments will be affected by any kind of new security system, including legal, human resources, student affairs and facilities maintenance.
"Make sure there is cross-campus buy-in to actually implement the system, and make sure you have a multidisciplinary team involved in making decisions (or at least advising the decision-makers) about how their constituents will be impacted," Healy says.
Understand who the primary users will be and what their technology skills are before choosing a system, and then develop appropriate and ongoing training, says Craig Jaccuzzo, chief of university police for Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.
"Try to utilize the most effective piece of technology with the most simplistic steps for operating it," Jaccuzzo says. "The more complex the system, the more chance there is that an error will be made — or worse, if it's too challenging to use, your users will shun it."
For best results, security system components should be integrated, Healy recommends. "If your access control system is integrated with your surveillance camera system, for example, then when you get an alarm on a door, you can pull up a camera to look at that door to get some indication of the situation before you dispatch an officer."
Healy also notes that schools should make sure that the new system integrates well with existing campus systems.
For more on how colleges are using video surveillance technology on campus, read "Digital Lockdown: How 3 Colleges Enhanced Campus Security."