Integrated Campus Security

What if an intruder breaks into a residence hall on your campus? How quickly will campus police learn of the problem? How fast will they get to the scene? When they do get there, will they have sufficient information about the kind of problem they will confront?

What if a frightened student picks up the handset at a campus emergency call station and tells an officer that she is being followed? Does a nearby camera automatically swing around and show the scene to the officer? What happens next?

To ensure a fast, sure-handed response to potentially serious crimes, various security technologies must talk to each other and work together to provide responding police and security officers with a swift and crystal-clear understanding of the situation they will find at the scene.

This isn’t a criticism of your police and security officers. The point is that, today, the advanced capabilities of integrated security technology can help your officers respond faster, better, and more effectively. 

“By integrating these systems, your security people become more efficient,” says Paul Timm, PSP, president of Lemont, IL-based RETA Security, Inc., a security consulting firm specializing in educational issues.

“Integrating security systems is important in light of recent shootings and other events on campus,” adds Jeremy Morton, director of Sales for Indianapolis-based CNL Software. “When security data is locked into separate system silos, it slows the ability of police and security officers to react to emergencies.”

Starting With a Hodgepodge
Of course, integration is easier said than done. Security directors usually inherit a hodgepodge of proprietary security systems from different manufacturers.

What are the candidates for integration? “The technology I look at includes electronic access control, intrusion alarms, remote locking, video surveillance, and emergency communications such as call stations and mass notification systems,” says Jack Dowling, CPP, PSP, principal, and president of JD Security Consultants, LLC in Downingtown, PA.

In many cases, campus safety directors must also figure out how to tie together systems within the same technology category — access control systems or surveillance cameras from different manufacturers, for instance.

Integrating Access Control Systems From Different Manufacturers
About 20 miles northwest of Atlanta, Kennesaw State University is working through that kind of problem. The 24,100-student University accommodates about 5,000 students in residence halls on campus.

“We’ve hardwired an access control system to the perimeter doors of the residence halls, so that I can do a lockdown if necessary,” says Robert F. Lang, CPP, chief security officer and assistant vice president in the University’s Office of Strategic Security and Safety/Enterprise Risk Management.

But an older access control system controls the 1,200 interior doors. The system features standalone battery-operated card access locks like those used in hotels. Unlike hotel systems, however, campus security cannot rekey the locks remotely.  “To rekey a lock, we have to go to the door,” Lang says. “That also means that if we want to lockdown the residence halls entirely, we have to go to each door.”

Lang took the problem to Pittsford, NY-based Lenel, the company that provides the perimeter door system. Lenel has a wireless product that will tie all of the interior and perimeter doors together and enable Lang’s officers to rekey the interior doors remotely.

Queen’s University Belfast: A Total Integration
Ireland’s Queen’s University in Belfast serves 24,000 students with a faculty and staff of 4,000 on a 300-building campus. Over the years, the University built up a diverse list of security system suppliers.

Panasonic and DM Netvu provide video management systems. Panasonic also provides the video wall in the security center. Honeywell makes the intruder alarm system. Access control and the parking lot barrier arms with intercoms come from Hirsch. Trend BMS provides the panic alarms.

Queen’s University recently turned to Indianapolis, IN-based CNL Software to integrate those systems. CNL offers a middleware technology called IP Security Center, which can integrate all of these systems and provide the security tech with a browser screen — called a graphical user interface or GUI — that controls each.

Now if an intruder breaks into a residence hall at Queen’s University, the Honeywell intrusion alarms and the Hirsch access control system notify the appropriate video management system. The video management system automatically swings a camera toward the door and captures the intruder’s image. The management system also activates an alarm monitor on the Panasonic video wall in the security center.

“When the Honeywell and Hirsch alarms both activate at the same time, the system guides the operator through key procedures by printing questions on the monitor screen,” says CNL Software’s Morton. “Depending upon the answers, the system will direct the operator through a tried and true process for managing the response to a break-in.”

The procedures might include calling or dispatching police, sending browser links to video so responding officers can see what lies in wait, activating a mass notification system, summoning an ambulance, and other emergency response actions.

University officials, in a written statement, say that the middleware software system extended the life of legacy security systems, enhanced productivity by enabling existing personnel to manage more locations, laid out a security growth path for the school’s expansion plans, and integrated security policies across the campus.

Perhaps most importantly, the integration provides what every campus security and police officer needs when responding to an alarm: advanced situational awareness.

An integrated system such as this provides help after an event as well. The middleware software system records events in their entirety and provides an audit trail of what happened, at what time, and what responders did at what time. Such a record enables security and police officials to evaluate their response and to ferret out weak links. If responders were slow to act or made errors, the audit will show that, and the team can organize drills to improve the response. In some cases, the audit will show flaws in the procedures, enabling the team to develop new procedures that will improve the response the next time around.

In recent years, using middleware or software that connects diverse software and hardware systems together into a single overall system has come to be called physical security information management, or PSIM. Learn more about it at

In a PSIM system, says Morton, middleware applications create the integrated connections and handle the complexities of each subsystem — access control, emergency call stations, intrusion alarms, video analytics and cameras, and so on — behind the scenes. Users deal with a simple, intuitive GUI.

The Final Integration: People
“Coordinating the response that people make to an event ahead of time is important, too,” says Brian H. Reich, CPP, president of The Reich Group, a security consultant based in Bergen County, NJ.

“I’m talking about everyone, not just security people,” continues Reich, who chairs the ASIS International Law Enforcement Liaison Council. “Security is everyone’s job. You can monitor who comes in and out of buildings with video and access control, but if people aren’t communicating, it’s a problem.”

If a student sees a mugging or a dispute escalating into a fight, he or she should notify campus police and not assume that the cameras will take care of it. Likewise, security officers must respond quickly to alarms, even if there are a lot of them. Take video analytics, for instance. Even when properly used, they alarm regularly. Security needs to take those alarms seriously, check them out, and make a judgment about whether or not the issue warrants a response.

With students, faculty, staff, security officers, and campus police officers integrated into a campus security effort, well-integrated security technology will work faster, better, and more effectively.