There’s a wide range associated with campus safety technology. Access control – cards, keypads, or fobs to get into a particular space. Alarms – making sure the proper authorities are notified of an intrusion. Video – surveillance is a useful tool and analytics today are so powerful it can do its own monitoring and take the human error out of the equation. Finally, emergency notification – you have a duty and responsibility to the community to notify them when there’s an incident that may put them in harm’s way.
Reputation and Perception
We don’t want emergencies to occur, but they will. Being as prepared as possible will ease the financial fallout, and more importantly can save lives. That’s your return on investment – human lives and the cost that comes with failing to meet safety standards.
You need to focus on the reputation of your institution and the experience of the folks within that environment. The perception of the safety on a campus is a large factor in whether or not people want to be a part of your campus. You want a welcoming but secure environment, and through campus safety technology that is very possible.
If there is an incident on your campus there is going to be some sort of investigation determining whether or not you responded in a sufficient manner. This will have a large impact on the media – you’ll be scrutinized without question. You want to be sure you had the right tools in the right places to respond the best way you could have.
You need administration to buy into your emergency preparedness plan in order to get the most out of it. You also need buy-in from the community around you. You can put as many safety measures in place as possible, but if the community doesn’t buy in – if they are propping doors open or lending out access cards – the safety measures will do nothing.
Writing a Campus Safety Technology RFP
In order to make a campus safety technology system work well, you need to do your homework in advance. Then take your expectations and reduce it to writing.
What times do you want the installer to work? What does the community you’re working with look like? What is the size of the physical space? Where are the entrances and exits? Where are the restricted and unrestricted areas? What do people do in these areas? Will there be dangerous chemicals? Will there be proprietary or classified information in certain areas?
Who will the installers need to speak with? For example, a higher education campus will need the installer to meet with various deans and academic advisors and chancellors to make them familiar with the team that will be on campus. Who will they need to introduce themselves to at your campus? Who will they be reporting to? Who will they need to present plans to? Who will they need to convene with and when? Set the timeline for periodic meetings with these stakeholders.
Outline the timeline. When do you need certain systems in place? Who is going to be responsible for different aspects – for example, who is responsible for bringing power to the panels? Who are you using as an electrician or architect? When will their timeline allow for the installer to do their job?
Then you can get into the nitty gritty of the system. Where do you want cameras, keypads, etc.? What kind of voltage is required? Do you expect PoE or otherwise? What kind of lock hardware do you want? What camera specifications do you need? What type of sensors do you want? How do you want them to connect to alarms?
These are all things you need in your RFP. You need to anticipate anything and everything that could go wrong or could be misunderstood. Write it in a technical way. Ask difficult questions. You won’t create a campus safety technology RFP in a day – it’s a long, tedious process, but if it’s all laid out then everyone knows what’s expected. If someone drops the ball everyone involved will know exactly who and what screwed up. If you want to tell them what kind of screws to use to bolt maglocks to the doors to ensure they’re properly secured then tell them.
If you have a project management, construction, or facilities group, bring them on board and let them help you write that RFP. Let them ask questions. Let them write specifications. The RFP should be big. It should be involved. It should include as much information as you possibly can. You don’t want anyone assuming anything – you need them to know what you want.
Put in the RFP that you want to meet before proposals are sent in. That way you have a partner that can ask questions of you, and you can ask questions back. That’s a partner that is invested and wants to do their best for you.
Include the ongoing service you expect. What kind of service agreement do you want signed? What response time do you need? What devices are being used, and what kind of licensing do you need for these devices?
You need to make sure that whatever you’re putting in for access control, video cameras, emergency notification, and alarm systems share information.
If a fire alarm is activated to doors need to be unlocked or unlocked? Do fan systems need to be shut down? Do fume hoods need to be activated? Does video need to start recording? This comes into the coordination and integration of all of these systems, include building automation systems.
If you have all of this technology sending information, you may overwhelm a human monitoring it. You may want to invest in a Physical Security Information Management system (PSIM). PSIMs allow you to create protocol in advance so that, in the event of an incident, the system will automatically conduct these measures.
When creating an RFP for a PSIM system, make sure to include what your current suite looks like. What are you using for access control? Video surveillance? Emergency notification? Include manufacturer names, the age of the products, and any contracts that you might be tied into. If you’re really looking to bolster your suite you may want to purchase new equipment that works better with a PSIM system. Inform the installer what your scope and budget is so that they understand how complex of a system they should design.
The Implementation Process
A lot of times, lack of internal communication can be the greatest detriment to the implementation of campus safety technology. Conversations between the IT department, facilities personnel doing the monitoring, vendors, etc. are paramount. Make sure you have good project management in place.
Coordination meetings should be taking place consistently depending on what phase of installation you’re at. Have pre-construction and pre-installation meetings. Everybody needs to know who everyone else is. Everyone needs to understand the resources being brought to the table. Everyone needs to know what their own responsibilities are. Create a project management time chart that outlines timeframes, as well as the hierarchy of what’s critical and what’s not as critical.
Don’t leave anyone out. Not only those working on the project but those that interact with the campus as well. Involve the community in the conversation so they know what to expect. If buildings, hallways, electric systems, etc. are going to be shut down for a time, let the community know. You can lose their confidence easily by not being up front and open.
Finally, make sure you choose an installer that is going to be a partner down the line. What kind of assurances can they give you? What’s the life expectancy of the products they use, and what are the guarantees behind it? Your responsibility when writing an RFP isn’t the best price, it’s the best value. You want the best ROI. Use metrics to determine which depreciation value between one vendor and another is better or worse. You want to know 5-10 years from now you can rely on the system.
Information provided by Tom Komola of Siemens Industry