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managing director, EMEA, CriticalArc

Author Bio ▼

Darren Chalmers-Stevens is managing director for the EMEA region at CriticalArc, a leading technology innovator, designing and developing the distributed command and control solution, SafeZone™.His professional career has focused particularly on security technology matters. He served as technology development manager for ADT Fire & Security, where he led UK and Ireland IP physical security strategy and business development. Before that, Darren held several senior positions for Computer Network Limited (CNL), including VP Professional Services. He also was Business Manager for Integrated Communications at IBM in the UK, where he managed global solution development and delivery.More recently he was Vice President for EMEA Operations at CSIM specialist VidSys.
November 13, 2015


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Safeguarding the 24/7 University Campus With Total Situational Awareness

criticalarc omniguard

Omniguard by CriticalArc

Keeping students, staff and visitors safe is central to any university’s duty of care.

Tuition fees are rising and so are expectations, with students becoming more discerning.

According to one study, up to one in three students become victims of crime. The impact of poor crime rankings and adverse publicity about any crimes that occur, can seriously jeopardise a university’s brand and ability to attract future applicants.

Universities therefore need to ensure that they are taking every possible step to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students, staff and visitors across the campus and beyond.

Global growth

Global growth in the education sector is being driven in part by the dramatic rise of students travelling overseas to study. In 2011 there were 4.3 million internationally mobile students in the global higher education sector, with the UK second only to the US as the most popular destination.

In 2011-12 half a million international students were studying at UK universities, spending an estimated £3.9bn in tuition fees and £6.3bn in living expenses. These figures are expected to rise by 3.7% per annum until 2020.

The learning revolution

The university learning experience is being fundamentally transformed. 24/7 digital communications and online access to taught content is disrupting traditional teaching models and putting pressure on every university to adapt fast to the demands of the new learning landscape.

In response, universities are having to reinvent themselves and find new ways to incentivise students to apply. Today’s cosmopolitan, tech-savvy students are looking for more than a recognised qualification – they also want a rich university experience.

university sign

Supporting 24/7 learning

Reflecting changing patterns of learning, students are shifting from face-to-face lectures to remote study, attending campus only for tutorials and group/practical work. Where once the campus was quiet at night, it is now being re-engineered for round-the-clock use, including catering to the night-time economy.

Students expect access to learning hubs, multimedia resources and computing zones where they can study, socialise and grab a coffee 24/7. Whether it’s the sports centre, a favourite meeting place or lab, students want to know that they can access the facilities they need around the clock.

But to take advantage of this flexibility, students have to be confident that their safety is assured at all times, both on and off campus.

Supporting this 24/7 learning culture is putting immense pressure on security team resources and compounding the challenges around incident reporting, especially for individuals that may be more vulnerable such as non-native speakers, lone workers, women feeling vulnerable accessing facilities and travelling to and from campus as well as students with health conditions.

Security challenges

Campuses are notoriously difficult to secure. From assaults and accidents to fire and flooding, the ability to protect higher education estates for every potential emergency is challenging.

Yet with funding under pressure, the frequent emergence of new threats and growing complexity of expanding multi-site campuses security budgets are being stretched ever further.criticalarc tracking

The status quo

Most universities have made significant investments over the past 20 years in electronic systems built around surveillance and access control. These systems are typically combined with manned guarding and remote monitoring as part of a centralised command and control approach.

This level of physical security involves major capital investment, significant building work, IT support and ongoing maintenance.

Security system limitations

While physical security systems have a key role to play to ensure resilience and business continuity, the established security model is primarily designed to protect properties rather than people, while lacking the flexibility to protect students and staff beyond campus boundaries.

One of the drawbacks is that once an alert has been raised, current command and control systems don’t provide a complete live situation overview or the ability to share vital information.

This can make it difficult to locate the nearest security team members and coordinate a fast, appropriate response.

In addition, the ability to geo-target mass communication across dispersed estates can be vital during more serious incident. Currently, few universities can communicate with very large groups and mobile SMS methods are costly and unreliable.

People-centred protection

A new generation of people-centred security solutions is emerging that can give all members of a security team 24/7 real-time visibility of any live incident so that they can prioritise resources, coordinate a rapid response and maximise the chances of a successful outcome.safezone by criticalarc app

Designed to support and extend existing physical security infrastructures and teams, this approach enables more effective use of security resources without extra capital investment.

These enterprise-risk management solutions use location intelligence to meet the needs of students and staff wherever and whenever they need help, both on and off campus.

Available as a secure cloud-based managed software service, it provides security and safety teams with a complete situational view by automatically sharing relevant data about each live incident.

A smartphone app puts a help point or panic alarm in the pocket of every student and staff member, enabling them to tap the app on their phone to raise an alert or report an incident easily, safe in the knowledge that the nearest security team member can receive their alert and respond quickly.

Everyone who downloads the app registers their basic personal detail
s. This ensures that if they raise an alert, the security team has the relevant information about the identity and needs of the person raising an alarm.
For example, if a student, staff member or small team is working alone late at night in faculty building, they can use the app to automatically check-in so that the security team are aware of their presence and know to check on them from time to time.

With campus environments becoming more complex and resources shrinking, SafeZone from CriticalArc is one such solution that is enabling universities to improve operational productivity, reduce the need for additional capital investment and run their security operations more efficiently, in turn creating wider value for the university.

Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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