Here, Iain Entwistle, Product Marketing Manager at Meesons A.I. Ltd, looks at the steps that can be taken to create a safe and secure campus
Going away to university is an exciting time for students, but also a worrying one for parents. Being in a new city, meeting new people are all the things that you expect, whilst at the same time reminding them that everyone needs to be vigilant against thieves and other criminal activity. Ensuring safety is always going to be the main priority for each year’s new intake, which is why more universities are investing in campus security.
With hundreds or even thousands of students on campus the challenge of keeping everyone safe can appear daunting. However, greater choice when it comes to physical security barriers means it is possible to choose a range of solutions; lower security for manned areas, through to higher security for laboratories, data centres and 24/7 unmanned areas.
Security Revolving Doors
Student accommodation buildings are a good place to begin deploying physical security barriers. Most students now own a laptop, phone and tablet, which are always going to attract the attention of thieves. Stopping them gaining access into the building is the aim here and Security Revolving Doors at the entrances are highly effective at doing this. Mind you, criminals are prepared to use physical force to get inside and so the Security Revolving Door needs to meet Document Q and Secured by Design. These are widely recognised standards, for example, Document Q forms part of the building regulations for England covering the security of dwellings and SBD is a police force preferred specification and is regularly chosen by architects and specifiers. It is only relatively recently that revolving doors have achieved SBD status. Products that are accredited by Secured by Design can be found on the SBD website under the Accredited Product Search.
So why choose a revolving door? They are especially suited to buildings with high numbers of students because they facilitate a high throughput, so accommodation units or lecture theatres. That’s because people can traverse both ways through a revolving door at the same time, whereas with a swing door it is often necessary to wait while the other person passes through. Swing security doors also don’t have any tailgating prevention and with users unintentionally holding the door open, criminals can simply sneak their way in. So, when choosing a Security Revolving Door you need to verify that it meets SBD and Document Q as well as having being able to eliminate tailgating.
It’s useful to have a Secure Revolving Door that can be configured with modes for different times of the day, i.e. day or night modes. For example, student accommodation may have a staffed reception during the day with free flow revolving door, which is then switched to single person entry and exit using access control for out of hours with tailgating detection. That allows students to access the facility 24/7 even when the reception is unstaffed by presenting their biometric or ID tag. Another consideration is building aesthetics and the desire to have an architecturally appealing door solution for the façade – and here revolving doors are a good choice because they feature extensive use of glass and minimal framework.
In other applications a Security Portal, which are also available to SBD standards, might be the preferred choice. They offer similar benefits to Security Revolving Doors in providing controlled access with configurable modes (day or night), incorporating tailgating detection with or without biometrics and/or linked to cameras to record activity. Biometric readers are a useful option because it avoids students being tempted to ‘lend out’ their access cards as well as losing them or having them stolen or cloned. Security Portals are mostly specified where there are fewer people traversing into and out of a facility, although they can be supplied as dual units or set up in multiple units to facilitate a higher level of throughput.
Another option is Speed Gates, and these are suited to medium secure areas with a very high throughput of people and where a fully enclosed solution such as a Revolving Door or Security Portal is not required. Typical applications include access to lecture buildings where there may be several hundred students wishing to enter or exit over a short space of time. Here, it is possible to have banks of Speed Gates to ensure rapid throughput of high numbers of people. Equally, Speed Gates can be installed in student accommodation buildings if there is a permanently staffed reception. We recently installed Speed Gates at Chapter Aldgate where the staffed reception guided the decision; Speed Gates are excellent at preventing people tailgating their way into a building whilst creating a low level, sleek, minimalistic aesthetic. Cabinet top lid alarms or increased height wings address the issue of people attempting to climb-over the barrier.
At Goldsmith’s University the brief was to provide a solution that created a link between the library book tagging system and the Speed Gates as well as controlling access in to the library. Students that had forgotten to check out their selection of books are prevented from leaving, dramatically reducing the number of unaccounted books!
Once the principles of choosing a physical barrier for the level of security needed and the throughput of people are understood it becomes a relatively straightforward process of deploying an appropriate solution for each requirement on campus. For instance, datacentres and research labs on campuses, because they usually have a low throughput of people, might choose an SBD Security Portal because it provides single person controlled access. Likewise, Security Portals are also a good choice for gyms to ensure the safety of legitimate users and again these can be set up to operate 24/7 unmanned. We recently supplied Liverpool University with Security Portals to control access into the gym on an unmanned basis, with staff only present for a set number of hours per day. We recommended a C4 double entry Security Portal, a robust solution that ensured only students and paying members of the public could access the facilities when staff were not present.
Another interesting application for Speed Gates can be seen at Halesowen College. Banks of Speed Gates have been installed at the entrance to the campus estate, well before users reach the building entry point. The university took this approach to secure the campus as a whole, rather than just the buildings. This has created a much more free-moving environment for legitimate users once they had traversed the Speed Gates. The Speed Gates are fully weather proof and provide compliant access for wheelchair users.
Better by degrees
The need for a secure campus is as relevant today as it always has been. Universities are exploring new ways to improve security against a background of greater student numbers and a more diverse range of threats. Campus security goes far beyond teaching spaces to where students live and relax. Each term there are alarming reports of violence against students, theft, criminals accessing halls and more.
Thankfully, there are solutions available that not only provide an effective barrier to criminals but ones that don’t inconvenience legitimate campus users. In many cases, as we have seen at Goldsmith University, they can be integrated into existing campus networks, in this case, the book tagging system. Whether its Security Revolving Doors, Security Portals or Speed Gates, we have discussed some of the guiding principles around which to choose. We should bear in mind, too, that criminals are adept at finding a system’s weak point, and that is why biometric access control is growing in importance. It overcomes the problems of stolen or cloned access cards.
A safe, secure campus is always going to attract more students. Parents, too, know that a college that places the safety of its students above all else is going to be a good choice.