Safe havens for students

Steve Wright rounds up the latest advice and technology to help keep campuses safe and secure

From fire safety to anti-terrorism strategies, campus-wide security systems to data-protection solutions, today’s university campuses have to be primed as never before against threats to the safety and security of their students and staff. The good news, though, is that the technology is available to help universities retain their protection against all dangers great and small.

Theft and burglary are a major risk area. It is estimated that a third of the UK’s student body becomes a victim of crime, and theft and burglary between them make up the majority of these incidents. Students with expensive equipment – such as laptops, mobile phones and bicycles – are seen as rich pickings by petty criminals, who know that many students take little care of their belongings. Freshers, busy partying in their first few weeks at university and not yet streetwise about the local area, are also easy targets: some 20% of student robberies occur in the first six weeks of the academic year.

Incidence rates in university cities and towns are highly variable. According to the Complete University Guide’s 2017 survey, incidences of robbery and burglary varied for that calendar year from 2.4 (Falmouth University) to 24.9 per 1,000 residents (The University of Manchester). 

With this in mind, not to mention larger threats such as terrorist incidents, security is a major concern for all universities – especially those with city-centre locations. One key factor in campus security is integration, as Vicky Brewin at security solutions providers Gallagher Security advises. “Universities should ask themselves: Does our current security system integrate our CCTV, enrolment software, alarm systems, access control and more? 

The protection of a university’s students, employees, buildings and assets can all be achieved with a robust security system, providing a safe and secure environment for staff and students to live and work in.” 

An access control system is a key component of this integrated security strategy. King’s College London (KCL) know only too well about the importance of securing their campus. Based in the heart of London, the threat of physical and cyber terrorism has become a concern for the university, especially in more recent times where previous attacks have taken place extremely close to KCL buildings. With thousands of students and employees to protect, adoption of the latest security features is essential to keep all areas of the university secure – in particular, student accommodation and high-security labs and research facilities. Gallagher’s Command Centre, a robust and continually updated security system, has allowed KCL to protect against the changing threat landscape.

A powerful access and control solution that comes with its own accommodation management system, Gallagher’s Command Centre allows staff to check on the wellbeing of students by monitoring the use of their access card. Fully configurable to suit the needs of each site, Command Centre allows users to define, manage and report on all aspects of your system. Everything that happens on-site is relayed to the university’s Command Centre operators in real time, enabling a swift and appropriate response to security threats.

In many cases the access card and student/staff identity card are one and the same, making it less likely to be mislaid. However, if the card is lost or stolen, students can contact student services and have it cancelled immediately, thus preventing anyone from entering their accommodation. “Providing a safe and secure environment to live and work in can be simple providing you are using the right system,” explains Vicky Brewin at Gallagher. “Having the ability to integrate with multiple security solutions opens up a number of features, which in turn offers more than simple access control.”

Essentials for protecting your data, from Dormakaba
AccessIs there a full audit trail to see who has access, when and where? 
Power supplyDoes a power cut interfere with the server security? 
HardwareIf the server fails, is the data still secure? 
Fire protectionAre server rooms sealed and protected from fire outbreaks? 
Data privacyIs the data stored under the correct regulations? 
BackupIs your data backed up and can it be recovered?

The University of Birmingham also uses Gallagher’s Command Centre. Birmingham houses some students under the age of 18, increasing the need to be able to monitor students’ whereabouts on a daily basis. Timothy Owen, the University’s General Manager of Student Accommodation, says: “This level of vigilance can be difficult to achieve with many students to track, but our Command Centre can easily confirm the time and location of our residents’ last door access, providing peace of mind that students who may be uncontactable are, in fact, on site.”

Security and access solutions providers Dormakaba echo the need for an integrated security system. “Today’s schools and universities can be the targets of both physical threats and cyber attacks,” says Dormakaba’s Lucy Childs. “Disconnected and disparate systems can cause compatibility issues and add a layer of complexity to manage. Confidence and trust in systems and infrastructure is essential and must be verified.”

Lucy outlines the major risk areas universities face today as (see also boxout) theft, tailgating, data, student safety, fire safety, and valuable and sensitive information. Solutions to these threats include an up-to-date, fit-for-purpose access control solution, correctly programmed to reflect who has access, where and at what times; installing the correct entrance systems and security doors for all types of buildings; backing up security with an integrated mechanical key system; and connecting the entire campus, so that halls of residence, lecture halls and libraries are all working under one integrated system. Elsewhere, universities should also ensure that all door systems are fire-compliant, and service and maintain these systems regularly.

When it comes to cyber security, says Lucy, the key is to protect server rooms and data centres. “University data centres hold not only information from the university itself, but also external partner information. The physical security of a data centre plays a large role in ensuring that data is kept safe. Access to the site is generally restricted to selected personnel. A secure data centre requires round-the-clock surveillance with permanent security personnel always present. The most advanced data centres use fingerprint, voice or DNA authentication through biometric access control systems as well as interior and exterior high-resolution cameras.” See the boxout below for a checklist of data-security measures.

Dormakaba’s basic security checklist
TheftAre your premises safe from theft?
Tailgating. Can you ensure the right people are entering your buildings?
DataIs your data storage secure?
Student safety. Are your students safe?
Fire safetyAre your premises compliant?
Valuable informationCan you ensure that all valuable information is guarded?

Fire safety is another major safety concern for universities. “University estates managers need to be sure that their fire doors, and the hardware and ironmongery fitted to them, meet the necessary fire regulations, and carry certification to ensure the products fitted are compliant and will perform as expected in the event of a fire,” Lucy explains. “In addition to checking the integrity of their fire doors, both the physical door and its certification, they are also required to have a robust door-maintenance schedule in place. 

“Under the Regulatory Reform Act 2005 and BS8214 fire doors – and any other equipment provided in connection with firefighting, fire detection and warning as well as emergency routes and exits – should have a maintenance schedule and be examined every six months by a competent person. This will ensure system reliability in an event of a fire – and will keep the building safe.”

A 2015 review undertaken by inspectors certified by the Fire Door Inspection Scheme revealed the extent of fire door failures being seen on site. Over 61% of fire doors inspected had problems with fire or smoke seals; more than a third had incorrect signage, and more than 20% had unsuitable hinges. Automatic doors, meanwhile, require an annual check and records to be kept. 

Lucy explains: “Automatic doors are regulated by BS EN 16005:2012, Power Operated Pedestrian Doorsets – Safety in Use. This means that automatic doors, including their protective devices, sensors and safety systems, have to be regularly maintained according to the manufacturer’s specification by a qualified engineer at least once a year. Maintenance records must also be kept in order to meet legal responsibilities. Failure to regularly service automatic doors could put the health and safety of building users at risk, and, if systems fail, can cause closure and downtime.”

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