CCTV cameras are a fixture on nearly every university campus. But security departments are starting to evolve their thinking around situational awareness beyond just having video, and beyond video’s value solely as a deterrent or forensic tool.
“Video has always been a force multiplier but it’s not an absolute solution,” explained John Matherson, an independent information technology and physical security technology consultant specializing in higher education, local and state government. “Cameras don’t stop crime but they are a visual deterrent and they do augment the physical presence of the police department.”
This is in line with the findings of an IHS research report (“Vertical Insights: Video Surveillance & Security in Education”) which concludes that schools are looking to security technology to detect and manage incidents in real time. Accordingly, the security industry is moving toward cohesive solutions which provide better situational awareness and incident management capabilities.
Beyond VMS: Integration to other core campus safety/security systems
In addition to video, enhanced VMS can integrate other key security and safety systems that almost every campus uses: access control, intrusion, and fire detection. This means a security operator or campus police dispatcher can be alerted to a variety of incidents, view the incident location on a campus map, and automatically pull up the nearest video feeds. PSIM (also known as Situation Management) offers even more flexibility to integrate additional systems. According to Matherson, there’s another benefit to having all of the information presented to the operator on one screen. “The human mind can only consume so much information simultaneously. If an operator is looking at five or six screens, they’re going to miss something. If you can intelligently condense the presentation of information so the operator still has access to all those systems, but create a holistic view of the information, it helps enhance the quality of response.”
Integration: not just systems, but processes too
Beyond knowing what’s happening where, an operator also needs to know what to do in specific situations. A typical university police dispatch center could have dozens, even up to a hundred standard operating procedures for operators to follow depending on the number of systems the center monitors, and the types of situations it responds to. Process automation is another area where traditional VMS systems are lacking.
“Integration isn’t necessarily just about the ability to listen to another system or communicate with another system; an operator needs to be able to use the information coming from those systems to enhance his or her ability to respond to incidents,” said Dr. Bob Banerjee, Sr. Director of Training and Development for Qognify. Enhanced VMS and PSIM introduce the new concept of automated adaptive response plans. The operator is guided through a dynamic, on-screen, step-by-step response plan specific to each incident type. There’s no need to search through manuals or recall procedures from memory in a high pressure situation.
“The value of an integrated process flow is it improves consistency with respect to the quality of the response,” explained Matherson. “If you have the standard operating procedures and they pop up when an incident takes place then you have a greater chance that the response will be consistent no matter who is handling the call, because they’re all following the same procedure. You are less reliant on the capabilities of the individual staff member since the information is presented uniformly to all staff members who handle calls for service.”
Another key difference between traditional VMS and Enhanced VMS or PSIM, according to Banerjee, is that the latter approaches enables a two-way conversation between integrated systems. After following proper protocols, for example, an operator doesn’t have to touch two systems to initiate a campus lockdown through an access control system. It can be executed with a single keystroke or mouse click as part of a sequential process using Enhanced VMS or PSIM.
Solving the problem of multiple video systems
Another common problem on college campuses is a lack of standardization on one video system, which makes it impossible for university police or security departments to have a real-time campus-wide view of what’s going on.
“It’s fairly common on campuses to have many independent video systems that are not centrally controlled by one department,” said Matherson. “This can present a challenge to Public Safety when incidents take place because they have to go to those particular locations rather than being able to view video from their own workstations. In such environments, there’s no real-time access.”
From a technological perspective this problem is easily solved by either PSIM or Enhanced VMS. Both are capable of integrating different CCTV systems into a common interface for real-time viewing. Enhanced VMS can consolidate as many as three systems, and PSIM can integrate even more.
To learn more about what solution might be right for your college or university read more here.