The Ultimate Guide to School Security Opportunities
The K-12 and higher learning education market has become a heavy area of concentration for the electronic security industry. Get educated about key trends, compliance challenges, in-demand solutions and more.
Thorough Assessments Aid Process
Physical Security Consultant Paul Timm, vice president of Facility Engineering Associates (FEA), conducts in-depth school security assessments regularly. Timm explains that oftentimes when he does a walk-through of the building with administrators, it proves to be an educational process.
“They look at their facility with a new set of eyes and may realize for the first time that there’s no speaker in the boiler room, fo
r example,” he says. “A lot of things come to light and it allows them to prioritize what’s going to help the most and where.”
For dealers and integrators looking for assistance, Timm is an ideal kind of resource. “It often makes sense to team up,” he says. “Providers should and schools should, because no one has shoulders broad enough to do it all. It just doesn’t fit.”
Timm authored the book, “School Security: How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program,” which was published in 2014. Although he originally wrote it with administrators in mind, he says there are numerous takeaways for installing security contractors.
“In education, so much of the success relies on the relationships and it’s tough to knock on the door and make the sale. They want to know you’re going to be around,” he says. “The person who will win the bid is the one who’s educating the customer not just on the products, but is willing to be part of their safety team and offer their perspective.”
To that end, dealers and integrators should seek out training with key manufacturer partners to stay abreast of installation considerations for K-12, Shanes advises. “With changing code and legal requirements, as well as new manufacturing innovations, training with manufacturer partners can go a long way in making the evaluation and design process smoother.”
Education, Partnerships Fuel Success
Innovation is key, Antar adds, and installing security contractors need to be constantly educating schools on new technology and providing them with a roadmap for the future. “The best integrators have strong relationships with proven manufacturers, and can point schools to a track record of proven success with schools,” he says.
While education is so important for installing security contractors, Timm concurs, a great way to network is through associations that lend themselves to this sector. One great example is each state’s School Business Officials Association, as members often include business managers and finance people who hold the purse strings and delegate responsibilities to facilities people.
Volunteer, Timm says, to sit on their risk management board to hear all of what they’re looking for, as well as be put a position to say, “Here’s something we have to offer.”
Marcella echoes this advice. “If I were an integrator, I’d get intimately involved with the school in my community, learn how they go about funding projects and deciding on them,” he says. “Ask if they’ve done an effective school assessment, go to the school board meetings, immerse yourself. A lot of trade associations are directly involved with this topic, so they should branch out and get involved with those things.”
Zero In on In-Demand Technologies
Shanes is seeing a high interest level in video intercom systems, especially in the K-12 space. Visitor control is often the first security step considered; knowing who is coming in and out of the buildings.
“With budgets a constant concern, it is important to education end users that the product be reliable and durable. We also see a log of integration of various products with
Administrators are investing heavily in video surveillance, Marcella says. The systems play a crucial role and can be used in different ways, such as a deterrent and combined with audio.
“What schools use video for is assessment of an event, and from a forensics perspective, being able to adequately understand and, in some cases, get law enforcement or parents involved when they have clear video of an incident,” Marcella says.
He cites visitor management and secured vestibules also as big areas of interest, adding, “I wish I saw more access control, where teachers and staff and even students carry an ID card that allows them access to areas they’re credentialed to get into it.”
Antar believes that IP systems are paramount as they can be managed and controlled over the network. “Fully integrated solutions are important because they can bring individual systems such as IP surveillance, access control, visitor management, alarm management and others, into one common operating picture so that school personnel and law enforcement can have complete situational awareness in the event of an emergency.”
Funding & Compliance Challenges
Budgets are a challenge, Timm notes, and some grant programs are no longer available. But funds are being prioritized. “Schools now put a line item in their budgets for security which didn’t really exist before Columbine,” he says. “But nobody has as much as they’d want, so we try to help them come up with low cost solutions. If you have the right priorities you’ll likely have enough money. There are also some foundations and associations that offer school grants, so they look to find these funds.”
Shanes sheds light on the Clery Act, which states that universities are required by law to notify students of emergency situations and criminal activity on campus.
“The Clery Act also requires colleges and universities to outline specific policies and procedures related to disseminating timely warnings and emergency notifications,” he says. “Universities can utilize mass notification, outdoor broadcasting and two-way emergency communication to comply with the Clery Act.”
Does it behoove installing security contractors to hold state purchasing contracts, such as PEPPM for instance, which provide a means for easy procurement and guarantees schools the most competitive pricing available? Thurmond states an emphatic yes.
“It’s very important for integrators and manufacturers to hold state purchasing contracts, as many small and middle school districts have reduced their purchasing staffs and purchase exclusively from these contracts,” he says.
ERIN HARRINGTON has 20+ years of editorial, marketing and PR experience within the security industry. Contact her at email@example.com.
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