How to Improve Campus Safety and Security for the Upcoming Academic Year

Campus safety is a continuous challenge, but recently universities have begun to shift their stance to view campus safety as part of the student experience and as a means to differentiate themselves to both attract new students and improve retention rates with existing students.

Because many universities face budget shortfalls and a lack of resources, they’re turning to safeguarding technology and applications to offset these shortfalls. With new technology, it’s now possible to implement real solutions in a matter of weeks that enhance campus safety, provide insights and empower your organization to continuously improve.

Here is how to enhance your campus safety and empower your safety and security teams to take your performance to the next level in for the upcoming school year using technology, data and education.

Streamline Your View of All Campuses

Not only do you have hundreds of buildings scattered across campus, you have several different campuses and affiliated locations with your university located across the globe. Being able to see incidents and all of your safety and security resources across all properties is essential if you want to respond to incidents in an optimized manner.

There are two primary drivers to move in this direction:

  • Universities recognize their students and faculty expect a consistent user experience from one campus to another. So, whether it’s WiFi speed, the caliber of classrooms, or the quality of security, it needs to be delivered at the same high standard, regardless of the campus location.
  • University officials recognize they have a certain duty of care to protect staff and students and they understand any shortfalls in this area increase the institution’s risk for potential damage to their valuable brand.

University officials are no longer satisfied with the limitations and expensive fixed-point security solutions such as wired duress alarms and help phones.  They’re now turning to the availability of public safety applications which enable students and faculty to call for help in the case of an emergency or when they or a friend need medical assistance, regardless of location.

And it’s not just for students and faculty.  Most universities have both employees and contractors that operate as lone workers throughout the week.  Universities have a duty of care to provide safety aid if and when it’s needed and due to the large expanse of a campus, combined with the number of students and workers, this is a daunting task.  Equipping these workers with a personal safety app on a mobile phone is a scalable and affordable way to meet this duty of care.

Overall, establishing one comprehensive safety system across all of your campuses and making sure you have a common operating view to see incidents and resources in real time is essential for timely response and optimizing communications and resources.

Implement a Smart Notification System

Your team is probably already using a mass notification system, but there have been technological advancements in recent years that have made these systems smarter with more sophisticated capabilities.

Today, mass notification systems can segment real-time geo-locations. In other words, if an incident happens close to campus that could jeopardize students or staff, you can choose to message and provide different instructions based on their proximity to a given incident, whether on or off-campus.

Regardless, having the ability to do two-way messaging (which supports 1:1 and group communication) with those who need assistance is a game-changer vs. simple broadcast notifications. Also, the ability to control notifications and instructions in real time maximizes effectiveness and improves campus safety.

Include Communication Plans for Traveling Students & Staff

Every time a cohort of students ventures abroad to study, their safety is at risk. Between language barriers and a lack of familiarity with surroundings, it can be difficult for students (and staff) to contact your university during an emergency.

To fulfill your duty of care to all students, you need to be able to support them, even if they’re abroad. Having a clear communication plan is beneficial, and having the technology to support them is essential.

Ideally, you implement a technology solution that doesn’t require international data. Instead, one that can work with WiFi, mobile phones, smart watches, hotspots and even satellite phones to establish a line of communication regardless of location.

Implement Situational Awareness for Your Safety Team

Situational awareness is the ability for your safety and security team to “see” where their colleagues are in real time. Having this insight can help you analyze and optimize patrol patterns and better coordinate your response to emergencies in a smarter, unified way.  Furthermore, a common operating view enhances the wellbeing of your safety and security team since they can see where each other are in real-time.  These insights often inform the manner in which your team will approach a situation i.e. knowing back-up is imminent vs. having no colleagues near in the vicinity.

Situational awareness requires a security solution that simultaneously shares location data with a central command center and to each safety officer on patrol via a mobile phone application. While that technology is not commonly offered in the marketplace, it is now available.

Vehicle Tracking for Campus Transportation

If your campus has buses that transport students across campus or to another location, implement a vehicle tracking system where students can see the bus location and its projected arrival time on their smartphone.

This reduces the length of time that students wait alone in the dark, or in the rain, snow or extreme temperatures at bus stops across campus. Instead, they can wait safely inside a building and arrive at the stop just before the bus comes.

While traditional vehicle tracking solutions are expensive to implement, new technology has made the deployment of this capability much more affordable and quick to deploy.  This is also a sure-fire way to demonstrate value and improve the student experience across the university.

Improve Coverage of Non-Campus Zones

Students studying abroad will undoubtedly be off-campus and when they are, need an easy way to call for help that immediately relays their location so safety and security personnel are better equipped to provide assistance.  That sounds simple at first but consider that students may not: a) Speak the local language; b) Know exactly where they are when an emergency arises; c) Know the correct number to call for help (i.e. 911 vs. 999 vs. 000 vs. 120).

Furthermore, for many campuses, especially those in the United States, there may be a legal duty to secure public property immediately adjacent to or accessible from the campus.

For instances like these, providing students and staff with a personal safety app on their mobile phone enables them to call the correct number for help in the event of an emergency or first aid incident and even communicate via two-way text messaging.  Furthermore, this personal safety app can provide the safety and security team with visibility to when students or faculty were outside designated campus areas but needed to call for assistance, so your team can follow up to verify their wellbeing.

Give Students Safety Resources

Do your students have quick access to security team phone numbers and non-emergency police? During orientation and every year following, it’s important to communicate with students and professors about the resources and technology available to them. This includes displaying this information on your website and student portal, creating social media campaigns and videos, conducting outreach events.  Your overall aim should be to create a culture of safety and security into the DNA of the university, demonstrating value and close alignment to the core university business objectives.

However, keep in mind that students and staff may not enter your campus emergency phone numbers in their phone, so providing them with a personal safety app can be a great way to ensure they always know how to call for assistance.

The Leading Security Solution for Campus Safety

The campus safety capabilities and improvements mentioned in this article can all be accomplished with SafeZone®, an integrated security solution that has been adopted by dozens of prestigious universities and colleges across the globe.

Learn more about SafeZone’s university and campus applications and request a demo today.

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